A Jamaica Farewell at Momofuku Seiobo

Man, lockdowns suck. Obviously. At best, an inconvenience; at worst, tragic. Of course, whining about being denied dining is tad tactless all things considered, but while the small violin plays to commiserate the graveyard of cancelled bookings, the impact on the other side of the fence is very real: the revenue crash; staff stand-downs/layoffs; produce wastage; and all the other nasty stuff that we’re all now unfortunately too used to hearing whenever a stay-at-home order takes effect.

Momofuku Seiobo got away lucky – Paul Carmichael’s temple to Caribbean Creole cuisine was always scheduled to wrap up this week (a sad fact in and of itself). That said, one can’t help but feel a special kind of suck when they were denied the opportunity to host their final farewell service on 26 June. No, this didn’t affect me personally – my last visit (and the pics in this post) was 3 weeks prior – but I’d still like to pour a figurative one for Carmichael et al (as well as the diners that drew the short straw). After all, the Momofuku team has accomplished the rare feat of persisting an offering at a  fine dining level that it’s not cliché for once to say is ‘genuinely different to the mainstream’: something that can’t be placed under the typical fine dining monarchs of Italian, Modern Australian, or (obviously) Japanese. Far, far from it.

When was the last time you’ve had ducana? A sweet potato dumpling repped by more Caribbean islands than you can shake Johnny Depp at, Momofuku’s version is given the fine dining treatment with banana leaf foam, salt cod XO sauce & banana leaf oil. You might think you know what that tastes like, but you probably don’t, but chances are you’ll still like it. What about Seiobo’s ever-popular Jamaican pattie, with its bright-yellow turmeric-laminated pastry and succulent bone marrow & abalone filling? Or even simply that ridiculous high tea style platter filled with all the fruits of the sea? Yeah, it’s basically a seafood platter, but colour me surprised if the flavour profiles are like any you’ve had elsewhere: spicy, sweet, allspicy, funky, hot. Suffice to say, it’s pretty obvious I dig the place – even if the pricetag is a bit high relative to the portioning (I must admit, a second dinner was THIS close to happening).

My only disappointment was that Seiobo dropped the chuletas – Puerto Rican pan-fried pork chops (see here). As I mentioned in a previous post, this is probably the best pork dish I had in 2020, and may well be the case this year too. Sure, the replacement was a very competent jerk style Blackmore wagyu but damn, you just can’t fight the crunch.

But sheesh, I sure am waffling on about a restaurant that you won’t even be able to visit anymore, so I’ll leave it at that: thanks for keeping Sydney’s high-end scene interesting, showing that you don’t have to fit the mold to make it at the big end of town. With Momofuku’s departure, Sydney’s high-end food scene is now a lot less vibrant – however, looking forward to whatever may come next. Obviously. (visit date 9 June 2021)

This post is based on an independently-paid visit to Momofuku Seiobo

Date Last Visited: 9 June 2021 (two visits, first visit here)
Address: The Star Sydney
Price Guide (approx): $215pp

Ups:

  • Truly original, high-concept cooking inspired by the islands (and maybe the pirates?) of the Caribbean

Downs:

  • Can be pricey relative to what you get – not always filling
  • Polarising flavours means it’s not for everyone

Pro-Tip:

  • If you haven’t visited…pay attention so you don’t miss the next one!

Return factor: if Carmicheal & team ever reopen in some way, shape or form, I’m there.

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