Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Momofuku Seiobo, Sydney.
Fancy restaurants doing bar menus - is there a more likable latter-day dining trend? You, the casual diner, get the chance to savour lobster congee at Rockpool, the killer burrata with shellfish oil at Automata, luxe yakitori at Sepia, and the mother of all cheese and charcuterie sandwiches at Bentley, all without having to lock yourself into a big spend or booking for the night. The restaurant, in turn, gets the chance to showcase its charms to a wider audience, and in doing so brings buzz and life into the dining room. It's win-win.
Habitués of Sydney's bar-eats scene have been bereft since Momofuku Seiobo took its bar menu offline for a few months to concentrate on the transition from outgoing chef Ben Greeno to newcomer Paul Carmichael, but as of this week it's back, and it's really something. It only takes a glance at the kitchen's shelves, which now house hands of plantain and jars of pickled chillies, to see that Carmichael, late of Má Pêche, a Momofuku restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, has brought with him a new set of flavours, drawing inspiration in no small part from his Barbadian heritage.
Gone are the Korean-style rice cakes, the pickles, the fried Brussels sprouts and (egad!) the signature pork-belly buns. In their place you'll find the likes of Waldorf salad, an omelette with vegetarian XO sauce, and some heftier dishes like the pieces of glazed oxtail. And when it's good, it's good.
A clever, brilliantly bright take on ceviche sees barely cured snapper festively plated with slivers of jalapeño on macadamia milk splashed with an oil of sawtooth coriander. Mud crab meat, on the other hand, is pressed between sheets of crisp chicken skin, and topped rather superfluously with grated cured egg yolk in odd finger sandwiches. They're densely savoury, heavy and do little to put the sweetness or flavour of the crab to the fore.
Expect to see a lot of Carmichael's chicken in your Instagram and Facebook feeds in the weeks to come - it's a swathe of fried bird nearly a foot wide, ruggedly nubbled with a crunchy coating spiced with habanero, admirably juicy within. Squeezed with lime, it sings.
The hero of the menu is unquestionably the pork chop (pictured). Charred, salty and jerk-spiced, it's also pretty damned juicy. It's sliced and served with the bone, in a cloud of lime fragrance conjured by a bed of kaffir lime leaves, a healthy scattering of lime zest on the meat and a clutch of thoroughly grilled lime wedges on the side. Summer on a plate, it's the perfect introduction to Carmichael's way of presenting flavours that are at once fresh and familiar.
I'm not really sure what to do with the staggeringly buttery "busted" roti, but using it to pick up pieces of the pork seems like a good place to start. It seems like a roti looking for something to mop.
Team all of this with engaging, zesty service from manager Kylie Javier Ashton and sommelier Ambrose Chiang, plus Chiang's smart new cocktails, and you've got some very good reasons to detour through the casino again very soon. The bar is back.
Momofuku Seiobo, The Star, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW. Open lunch Sat noon-2pm; dinner Mon-Thu 6.30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-10pm.
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