by Mei Leong
Awesome meal. Those are the two words that sum up Seiobo. Book your flights, pack your eating pants and make your way through the rather merciless online booking system as it’ll be worth it in the end. For weeknights it’s quite easy to get a reservation in advance but for Friday nights and weekends be prepared to battle it out with the quickest of mouse clicks. The online booking allows tables to be booked twenty days in advance at 10am and every time slot is up for grabs until the confirmation button is clicked on. However if it all works out you’ll be having dinner with your fellow combatants soon enough.
We’re seated at the kitchen bench, watching the well oiled crew pump out dishes seamlessly, with the first course presented within 10 minutes of being seated. Within seconds of being garnished, wiped down and a quick lookover by the head chef, each dish is presented to us usually by a chef, with every component described in detail. (Questions are encouraged.) Actually, the service is more than good – all the wait staff are amazingly knowledgeable, friendly and personable. Because of this, the restaurant feels young, brave and likeable.
First up, a cigar of smoked eel with an apple jelly. The cigar is a super thin, a delicate tuile with a brandade filling of creamed eel. It’s super smooth and has a soft smokiness that’s perked up by the clean, sweet apple-pie-like jelly.
Smoked eel cigar with apple puree.
The one and only Momofuku steamed pork belly bun.
Momofuku’s trademark pork bun, quickly appeared (to our glee and satisfaction). (The pork bun, along with a delicious looking lobster roll are also available as bar snacks for those who can’t squeeze in for dinner service.) Served with a cute mini bottle of sriracha this bun totally lives up to its hype.
However, its deliciousness is not in its slightly sweet and acidic taste, but its texture. The freshly steamed bun is pillowy and parts to reveal the slow roasted pork that’s still leaking juices between layers of fat and tender flesh. It’s seriously sexy and sadly, gone in one or two bites.
Potato, trout roe and parson’s nose (aka chicken arse).
The next course brought us into the bulkier courses of dinner. Balls of potato, cooked in beef fat were coated in sticky pan juices and sitting with parson’s noses. A sow’s ear will never become a silk purse, so keeping that in mind the chicken butts were more like crunchy fatty bits that well, really just tasted like chicken butt. However the potato balls with soft, mashy centres and slicked with sticky gravy were delicious with the salty bursts of trout roe.
If I had to pick my favourite dish it’d be the following mud crab and chickpea miso. Sweet flakes of picked crab meat sat on a bed of unctuous miso made in house from chickpeas. Topped with crunchy amaranth the dish was an elegant combination and made even more interesting with the fragrance of dill, funk of fermented legume and gritty grains.
Crab with chickpea miso.
Radish with wagyu beef and fermented black beans.
Cleverly presented, the radish salad had a dressing of burnt watermelon oil studded with cubes of grilled wagyu. The burnt watermelon oil was really quite weird (in the best way possible) in that it looked so much like squid ink but was incredibly earthy, almost meaty in flavour. Dried brittle black beans were sprinkled on top, completing the illusion of a peppery salad that revealing with each mouthful, a huge hit of umami.
I’ve always wondered how picky eaters fare at set menus, because a predilection for offal is pretty much assumed by the kitchen. However when sweetbreads are simply breaded and fried in such pure, fresh form, even offal haters can’t refuse. Fatty with a silky (and sometimes sinewy) texture, the sweetbreads were tempered with a chunky apple and star anise chutney. The dish also featured a long, golden shallot, roasted and burnished till sweet and caramelised, adding another note of sweetness.
Sweetbreads with shallot and star anise.
Roasted cauliflower with finger licking good mushroom sauce and smoked egg yolk.
Roasted al dente, the roasted cauliflower acted as a bland pillow,soaking up the heavily reduced, umami laden mushroom sauce. The smoked egg yolk gave a crumbly texture to the dish while the daikon added crunch, but nothing could compete with that sauce. We could have just licked it off the plate. Even off the screen right now.
The marron was quite undercooked (done on purpose, I think?) for what can only be described as the grapple effect. Tougher to chew on, it’s primal rawness faded away with foamed seaweed butter that just melted in the mouth. Salsify, which tastes somewhat like woody asparagus and parsnip, added to the likeable oddness of the plate.
A play on raw flavours. Marron with seaweed and salsify.
A funky trio of short rib, daikon puree and raw baby turnips.
Though short rib with turnip is not a new idea, deep fried short rib is certainly is (to me anyway). Its slow cooked concertina of fat and meat and then more fat, resulted in a velvety cross section but a stringy, jerky-like surface. With the funk of singed turnip (eaten raw, leaves and all) and served with a doubly funky daikon puree, as crazy as it sounds, it worked.
On that high note, we moved onto desserts, which were not as lively as the savouries – bar the very last course (you’ll see)…
First dessert course of curd, blackcurrant and mint.
First cab off the rank was goat curd, blackcurrant puree, mint oil and sourdough crumbs. The freshly pressed mint oil was crisp and intense, cutting through the very sheepish curd. I’m not a fan of mint (and it appears far too often on set menus, believe me!) so I welcomed the next course, a mandarin sorbet that was just fabulous.
The very essence of mandarin, that tartness with a touch of mineral, was captured in the golden sorbet. Crowned with shards of sugary meringue, shredded coconut and a nondescript vanilla cream, never was a tropical island dessert so succinct in flavour.
Mandarin, coconut and egg.
Third and last dessert course, the pear, Jerusalem artichoke and sunflower.
The last official dessert course of poached pear was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. The circular disks (someone in the kitchen has a love affair with the circle cutter) seemed to hover in mid air, revolving around roasted sunflower seeds and sunflower petals. The petals were literally plucked seconds before from bouquet of sunflowers sitting in the kitchen.
Beneath lay a heart of milk chocolate caramel, still soft from the heat and tender Jerusalem artichokes. The infamous tuber with its bitter, metallic tang held its own against the heavenly, chewy, milky caramel that could be pulled apart with a spoon. It was a divine dessert. I might have even liked it more than Peter Gilmore’s snow egg (shhh don’t tell anyone.).
Taken apart to reveal a milky, chewy caramel beneath. Divine stuff.
The shared dessert course of caramelised pork shoulder.
The bonus last course was quite peculiar, because we expected a dessert to end our meal. When the dessert chef presented it as pig trotters to be eaten by hand I was like.. what?
But through the loud 90s rock music I misheard him. It was pork shoulder (if you think that mishap was bad, K heard pork noodle and was like THAT AIN’T NO NOODLE). Coated in caramel sauce, the pork shoulder was quite sticky to be eaten with fingers, let alone communally. However it was so tender and sweet we did not mind one bit. Turning the meal on its head was indeed the unexpected turn, whimsy and disregard for the status quo that I had wanted from Seiobo, and we got it.
Fine dining prices in a casual setting with Guns and Roses blaring, Seiobo delivers true value and experience for money. If you’re heading to Sydney, it’s worth the time and effort. Opt for an early booking if you can, because even though the service didn’t drop significantly during the busy period, I they were much more at ease explaining the details of each course earlier on. Even though I don’t like Sydney as a destination that much, I loved Seiobo. Rock on.
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
T: (02) 9777 9000
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