I’ve heard a lot of things about Momofuku ever since it opened in 2011. From the rave reviews, to their famous pork buns and notoriously difficult booking system, I was definitely excited to finally try their degustation. It looks like the hype has died down a bit since as the booking system isn’t that difficult anymore – bookings open 20 days in advance online only, but demand isn’t that high with spots available with less than a week in advance. I visited on a Friday night and not all the seats were taken, so rest assured you don’t need to camp out at your computer 20 days in advance.
Located at the entrance of The Star opposite Adriano Zumbo, the restaurant is blended into the walls with grey beams and it’s easy to miss. Once you find the door and enter, you’re welcomed by sleek dark interiors, with half the restaurant for tables and the other half for an open kitchen and bar stools. It’s a lot smaller than I imagined, probably seating a maximum of 50, creating quite the intimate setting.
Beetroot, Black Garlic
Sea Urchin, Furikake
Tonight we’re doing the degustation which will set you back a cool $185 pp. We have no idea how many courses there are as the waiters don’t provide us with a menu or tell us what we’re eating which creates some mystery to tonight. Once we’re settled in, the food starts coming straight out, and quite rapidly might I add (about 5-10 minutes in between each course). We start off with a variety of canapes all served in tiny pastry cups. Starting with the beetroot, they’ve salted it somehow and removed the sweetness; the crab is served with a bed of chickpea (tasting like hummus) and the sea urchin has a fishy taste. None of these are particularly remarkable or memorable.
Parson’s Nose, Roe
The next round of canapes consist of cep (porcino mushrooms) with hazelnut on toast which has a good variety of textures – fluffy on top and crispy on the bottom with nutty tones. The other canape is parson’s nose (chicken butt) which has been fried and served with fish roe. Strangely enough it’s crispy and tastes like pork crackling which isn’t what I expected (I thought it’d be like a chicken nugget). This round of canapes is better than the first but once again nothing outstanding.
Scallop, Kombu, Duck Broth
Onto the individual savoury dishes, the scallop wonton comes out next sitting on top of a small pile of ramen noodles in duck broth. The broth is very smoky which adds a nice depth to the dish and the smokiness is absorbed into the ramen noodles but the wonton is average at best, with tougher skin than what is usually presented in Asian cooking.
Beef, Radish, Fermented Black Bean
Next is a beef salad with shaved radish sitting delicately on top and a fermented black bean sauce underneath. We’re told to mix it but my colleague is not a fan of how salty the black bean sauce turns the entire dish. To be honest, it’s just a beautifully presented crunchy salad with diced beef and black bean sauce. I’m quite indifferent to this dish – I neither like or dislike it as it feels like just a filler item on the menu.
Marron, Pea, Pistachio
Onto some seafood, we’re served some marron with a pea and pistachio mix. The marron is cooked beautifully and is succulent, with a mild wasabi sauce drizzled on top. However the same can’t be said about that pea and pistachio mix; I find the flavour combinations confusing, bitter and not particularly pleasant or complementary to the marron.
John Dory, Asparagus, Smoked Roe
The next seafood we receive is a fillet of John Dory sprinkled with prawn dust, served with asparagus, smoked roe cream and a burnt butter sauce. The John Dory is tender, juicy and cooked really well, and the prawn dust and smoked roe cream adds a nice saltiness to it. I’m also a big fan of the burnt butter sauce which adds more flavour to the fish. The asparagus however doesn’t really have any flavour (until you dip it in something) and doesn’t seem to really have much purpose here other than to add some green to the plate.
Partridge, Truffle, Endive
After this are a few more proteins including partridge. It’s served with truffle which has a miso paste type consistency, and is quite salty so you only need a bit to add plenty of flavour to the partridge. The leafy endive served on the side was also very bitter and didn’t taste nice.
154 Day Dry Aged Beef, Rye, Swede
Next is another beef dish with a single slice of 154 day dry aged beef, served with some swede (a type of turnip). This was cooked really well and you could taste the high quality marbling and tenderness of the beef. It was well seasoned which helped add flavour to the swede, which was unfortunately tasteless.
Ewe’s Curd, Choux, Rose
I was still craving savoury dishes at this point but to my dismay the next couple of dishes were the desserts! The first one was a choux pastry (like a profiterole) containing ewe’s curd served with a rosewater syrup. I quite liked the lightness of the curd and the sweetness of the rosewater. One of my dining companions however really disliked the curd, so the table was divided on this dish.
Corn, Chervil, Anise
Next was a meringue served on a bed of sweet corn custard and chervil ice cream. Cracking the meringue was fun, creating bite-sized shards throughout the dish. The sweet corn custard and meringue were a decent pairing and I enjoyed the textures. The ice cream was strange though, tasting like avocado with a liquorice after taste. Nice textures in this dish, but overall the flavours were very strange.
Artichoke, Pear, Sunflower
Our second last dessert was a salted caramel chocolate mix topped with artichoke, sliced pear and sunflower seeds. The salted caramel chocolate hidden underneath was pleasant, but otherwise all the toppings were tasteless and disappointing. Personally, they acted as a pretty presentation but added nothing else.
Canelé covered in beeswax
Finishing the meal was a canelé covered in beeswax (not on the menu we were given afterwards). The beeswax is crunchy and is strange with the pastry. No one on the table finished it…
Overall, I was quite disappointed with my Momofuku experience. None of the dishes left us amazed, and between our table of four we rated the overall food a 4-5 out of 10. A lot of the dishes were either tasteless, confusing or just didn’t work in my opinion. On top of this, the music was really strange as well. Sometimes it would play hip hop (including non-censored profanity such as ‘mothereffer’) before changing to classic rock, and then to disco club music. Sounding like a mix between Triple M, Triple J and Edge 96.1, I have no idea what type of ambience they intended to convey but it definitely did not provide the type of environment you’d expect from a fine dining restaurant. And last but not least, WHERE WERE THE PORK BUNS?!?! I can’t believe they weren’t part of the degustation! I won’t be coming back here and will happily spend a fraction of my $185 elsewhere for way better tasting food. Tonight I paid an excessive amount to eat for sustenance, not for pleasure :(.
PS. Dave Franco was eating there as well. Seeing a celebrity was the highlight of the night!
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Ph: (02) 9777 9000