Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Birthday cosmetic facial at ICCM (24th October 2012)

I've had cosmetic facials done at ICCM earlier this year and recently received a birthday email from them with a special birthday offer for either their cellulite treatment or one of their cosmetic facials. Hmm, it has been awhile since I've had a facial done professionally and for less than half the normal price, why not? I booked in my appointment a few weeks ago but today was the first available slot that fitted in with my schedule and their staff availability - a bit late to look good in time for my actual birthday but a treat for me nonetheless!

On arrival, I was received by the beauty therapist who would be taking care of me today. I was shown to the therapy room where I was given some time to get ready and comfortable under the sheets on the bed. The place hasn't changed much from memory, its rooms more similar to those in a medical centre - there was music playing in the background but the room just felt too white and brightly lit thus didn't give the relaxed and soothing feel of a beauty spa. My therapist entered the room shortly and provided a quick brief of what we were doing today and what to expect (sensation on skin etc.) - she was friendly and jovial which was really nice after I've had a stressful day in the office. She started off by removing my makeup followed by preparing my skin for the Primary Pumpkin Peel - there was the option of either the Blueberry Smoothie or Primary Pumpkin Peel but like the previous therapist who did my facial, this one too decided I would benefit more from the latter given my skin condition (the pumpkin peel exfoliates dead skin cells and increase hydration).

Cough, cough...cough...I took a breath in as the therapist was applying alcohol on my face in preparation for the peel and that got me into a spurt of coughs. The pumpkin peel mixture was then applied onto my face with a brush - I can smell pumpkin! "Feeling any heat?" she asked as she dabbed the mixture all over my face. The peel mixture was cool when first applied to the skin but very quickly I felt the tingling and mild burning sensation, some parts of the face more than others, and the only relief I got was the poor therapist fanning my face with a cardboard in hand for the 5-10 minute duration the peel was left on.

To maximise the results, ICCM recommends performing an Omnilux Light Therapy immediately after the peel which was included as part of the birthday offer. ICCM offers 3 different wavelengths on the  Omnilux and this time, I was given the Omnilux Revive (red light), a precise wavelength of visible red light that penetrates deep into the skin to rejuvenate and repair the skin as well as boost the production of collagen. I was given protective eyewear as usual (mini goggles that sit on the face sufficient to just cover the eyes). "Now this is going to be very bright," warned the therapist. Yes, I recall it being quite bright previously but when the therapist turned on the Omnilux, it was nothing like I remembered. The therapist first set the brightness to 50% and immediately I felt blinded by the sudden blast of reddish light (imagine looking directly into the sun). And when she cranked it up to full beam, I was slightly freaked out - despite my eyes shut tight and wearing goggles, I was still 'seeing' red. A part of my brain went "Is this what hell is like?" and "I wonder if this is what being burnt alive or blind feels like?". Okay...I've obviously been reading too much Game of Thrones...I was quite glad that the therapist had a reassuring hand on my shoulder at the start and it took about 4 minutes before my eyes adjusted to the brightness (it was still bright though less blinding discomfort to the eyes). The light therapy lasted a total of 20 minutes - the therapist left the room with the door open in case I needed to call for help. Still feeling somewhat nervous about the red light and the radiating warm heat coming from it, I dared not move an inch (I wasn't relaxed at all) and concentrated on my slow and deep breathing to calm myself. It felt like an eternity before the therapist turned the Omnilux off - I was seeing stars when the light went away and felt a bit lightheaded too.

Overall, though the Omnilux experience was a bit of a shock to the system, I do like the cleansed feeling post facial. Cost me $49 for the peel and light therapy (normally $120). To see results, one would require a series of these sessions before seeing the benefits and changes to the skin. Hmm, perhaps I should invest in a block of sessions to get my skin in shape for the upcoming wedding...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park North, Sydney (11th October 2012)

As spring comes upon us, Sydney kicks off a whole series of annual festivals and for the month of October, the city is all about food with Crave Sydney International Food Festival, presented by Citibank hosting from fine-dining to free events all over Sydney and the NSW region. One of the festival highlights is the Night Noodle Markets where Hyde Park North is turned into an Asian hawker-style market on weeknights from 5pm - 10pm from the 1st - 19th October. Jono and I totally missed out on the Night Noodle Markets last year (was put off by the huge crowd) but were determined to give it a go this time. I have a master plan: to go just when the market opens for the evening in hope to beat the mass of festival-goers. At 5.30pm, there were quite a few diners lining up to buy food or eating their purchases at the public dining areas set up in the park but it was not particularly crowded, a clear sign that my strategy worked :) 

Entering one of the gates into the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park North

Lines leading up to food stalls serving Asian cuisine

We started off at the food stalls in section A (there were 4 sections in total), me heading off to buy the food while Jono went to secure us a table nearby. Hmm, what should we have? The Malaysian in me could not help but automatically veer towards the Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine food stall and got got us a Roti Canai (1 piece + meat dip) and Otak-Otak (grilled spicy fish paste in banana leaf) to share. I was given a chit with a number and waited around till my number was called. Service was speedy though looking my order, the servings were rather small (more of an entree serving). I collected the hot food, plastic cutlery and some serviettes then headed in search for Jono at our table. Time to eat! 

At our first food stall Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine to sample their Malaysian food

Roti Canai (1 pc + Meat Dip) ($8.50)

Otak-Otak ($4.50)

Sadly, neither the roti not the otak-otak were very good - the curry that came with the roti was more similar to peanut sauce with a few pieces of chicken in it, and both dishes weren't spicy enough. A rather disappointing start but never mind - there are many more stalls to try!

Jono left me to guard our table and picked up a Mix of 6 Dumplings from Dim Sum Station for $10 - a mixed plate of prawn, chives, vegetarian, mushroom and chicken dim sums. We found the dim sum skin made too thick and didn't have sufficient filling. Some were quite tasty though I didn't like the one with egg as it tasted rather peculiar...

Mix of 6 Dumplings ($10) from Dim Sum Station

As the evening progressed, more and more people arrived at the night market. We witnessed an older Chinese couple who were sitting a few tables away being approached by a security guard - they have managed to sneak in several bottles of beer in their bags. I'm not sure how they managed to get through the bag checks at the entrances to the market in the first place since BYO alcohol is not permitted at the festival. The security guard was nice enough to let the man finish his opened bottle on the spot while the rest of his beers were confiscated.

Still feeling peckish, I went back to the food stalls in section A, this time getting in line at the popular Japancake Okonomiyaki to purchase a Spicy Beef and Cheese Okonomiyaki (cost $12). Frankly, I have no idea what an okonomiyaki was until the friendly Japanese staff behind the counter explained it to me. An okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake made from a layer of batter mixed with cabbage on the top as base, the middle filled with your choice of filling (given the options available, I was told their best-selling was the Spicy Beef and Cheese) and served with okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, shredded seaweed and bonito shaving. There was a short 10-minute wait for the pancake to be prepared and cooked. Mmm, the okonomiyaki was by far the yummiest food we've had at the market this evening! At first taste, it was a bit strange - the mix of batter, cooked cabbage, mince, melted cheese combined with the fishiness from the bonito shavings and seaweed - but the flavour does grows on me with subsequent bites. 

Back in the line, this time to check out what Japancake Okonomiyaki has to offer

Spicy beef and cheese okonomiyaki ($12)

I was starting to fill up after finishing my share of the pancake. An Asian family already had their eye on our table and was crowding nearby, eventually asking us if we could share the table. Sure, we were almost done anyway so cleared the table and within seconds, our seats were snapped up. Gee, some serious competition for tables here! 

We did a full lap of the market checking out what else was on offer - more food stalls and dining areas, several bars and live entertainment including a roaming troupe of Chinese lions. The ever-popular Mamak stall has a very long queue (yes, even here in the markets!), most other stalls now have hungry patrons gathered around 4-5 rows deep and there were hardly any available seats at tables in the dining areas. I'm SO glad we decided to come early to beat the crowd! :)

Open air dining area in Hyde Park

The ever-popular Mamak - even the food stall at the market has such a long queue!

Witness amazing roti tossing skills at Mamak Village's stall

Jono and I agreed to get one more savoury item before looking for dessert and opted for the Steamed Pork Belly Bun from New Shanghai. Ever since dining at Momofuku Seiobo, steamed pork belly bun has become my new favourite Chinese dish (surprisingly, I never liked it growing up in Malaysia). "You think New Shanghai's will be as good as the one from Momofuku?" teased Jono. I highly doubt it but I'm still keen to try them! We joined in the queue and got us 2 buns for $9 which was served in a fast food burger box. Eek, the warm buns were totally sticking to the cardboard...The New Shanghai buns were delicious but nothing beats the mouth-watering ones from Momofuku - just thinking about it makes me drool!

Kitchen staff at New Shanghai busily making dumplings

Steamed Pork Belly Bun ($9)

To top it all off, we got ourselves Caramel and Chocolate Pancakes from Mini Pancakes (cost $10) and took our plate of mini pancake puffs drizzled with caramel + chocolate sauce and dusted with icing sugar into the Citibank VIP area which has its own dining area and bar for use exclusively by Citibank customers. All we had to do was flash our Citibank card and we were given wristbands and welcomed in. Ooo, this is nice - no need to compete with others for a table or even sharing one, and the fairy lights illuminating the place makes it a welcoming alfresco dining area. Definitely made me feel like a VIP :) We got ourselves a Coopers Pale Ale and Rekorderling Pear Cider for $16.50 from the bar - mmm, pear cider, delicious and refreshing. Yum!

Caramel and Chocolate Pancakes ($10) from Mini Pancakes

Reserved seating and a dedicated bar in the VIP area for Citibank customers only

As night falls, Hyde Park North was buzzing - sounds from the live entertainment mixed in with the clanking of ladles on woks and excited festival-goers chatting away happily as they drank and dined. No doubt popular with people of all ages, even families with young children. And because everything is served entree size, you can sample a wide variety of food from the various Asian cuisine offered. It may have the Asian hawker-style food market setting, however, as most dishes cost an average of $10, dining at the Night Noodle Markets can make your night out a rather expensive one (we spent almost $70 tonight). Make sure you carry sufficient cash with you (the food stalls take cash only) else you will have to join in the long line to withdraw cash from the ATM machines available on site.

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Pie Tin, Newtown & Go/No-Go gig (5th October 2012)

A few of Jono's workmates play in bands and tonight we had the opportunity to check out Dan's band Go/No-Go playing their gig supporting Sons of Lee Marvin from Melbourne and Handsome Young Strangers at The Lansdowne in Chippendale. I've not heard of Go/No-Go myself but Jono tells me they are an indie-electronic band - not the usual genre I would listen to but I'm always open to new types of music (obviously, since I have been to all sorts of music events in Sydney regardless whether they were my cup of tea or not and still enjoyed them) and even more so to support Dan who plays the guitar in the band.

The gig wasn't till 8ish so Jono and I headed into Newtown around 6pm to The Pie Tin for dinner. This was the first time we've dined in and for a Friday evening, the place wasn't too packed. There was something I like about the diner - it had a nice chilled-out vibe and reminded me of the cafes back in Wellington. Unpretentious yet serves excellent food. We found ourselves a table for two by the window - the diner offers no table service so Jono went to order the food while I stacked claim on our table. More and more people started coming in, some buying pies to go and others filling up the rest of the seats available. This time, I went for the BBQ beef & peppercorn sauce pie with a side of kumera chips while Jono had the Mex chicken with sour cream & kidney beans pie with 2 salads (a leaf salad and coleslaw). Cost us $38 including a beer each. Jono came back to the table with a number for our order  - it was actually an old pie tin with a number written on it hehe ;)

I went to collect our food when our number was called. The pies with the sides were served onto small flat plates (same material to the pie tin) leaving little space for me to hold the plates - I had to be careful not to accidentally drop our dinner as I walked from the counter back to our table. At The Pie Tin, customers are encouraged to enjoy their pies with their hands - the nearest thing to a knife and fork you will get is a spork (spoon + fork merged into one). Be prepared to be messy, I'll say! I made quite a mess eating with hands and spork, bits of salad strewn onto the table and hot gravy from my pie oozing onto my fingers with each bite. Hmm, my BBQ beef & peppercorn sauce pie was delicious :) I reckon it was better and tastier than the Slow roasted shredded pork with apple & BBQ sauce pie I had previously. Had a bite of Jono's Mex chicken with sour cream & kidney beans pie - was nice but I guessed since we had Mexican for dinner last night, I didn't really like it as much.

"Let's get a dessert pie," suggested Jono. Really?? I was feeling rather full but gave in to temptation and shared a Brown butter pecan pie with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream with Jono (cost $8.50) - there was no way would I be able to finish the dessert pie on my own. The pie was good though I much preferred their Sour cherry pie. 

At The Pie Tin for dinner

BBQ beef & green peppercorn sauce pie with kumera chips

Mex chicken with sour cream & kidney beans pie
with leaf salad and coleslaw

Brown butter pecan pie with vanilla ice cream ($8.50)

The Pie Tin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Urgh, now I'm totally stuffed! We decided to walk to The Lansdowne instead of taking the bus (to help with digestion) and arrived around 8pm. The Lansdowne is an old pub that has live bands playing almost every night of the week - popular with students who live near the university, its $10 meals and happy hour deals also makes it one of the more frequented pubs in the area. We went to say hi to Dan who was in the middle of setting up his equipment on stage. "I think I've had too much caffeine today," said Dan excitedly. Well, he was a lot more enthusiastic than usual and seemed really pumped and restless. Not sure if that was a good thing but I bet Dan knows what he was doing - after all, he has been in the music business for quite some time now.

We caught up with Amanda and Matt who were dining upstairs and together found ourselves front row seats at a table near the stage where we chatted over drinks. Two other Googlers came to join our table and like us (me and Jono) have never seen the band play live before. The gig didn't start till 9pm - we sat through 15 minutes of agonising sound check and still the sound engineer didn't get the balance right when the band started playing. For a small venue like The Lansdowne, there was no need to set the volume so loud and we could hardly hear Dan's guitar :/

As mentioned earlier, Go/No-Go is an indie-electronic/new wave band and is made up of 4 members: Steve Claxton (Vocals, Guitar, Keys), Daniel Arena (Guitar, Keys), Tarek Darwish (Bass) and Steve Allison (Drums). Most of the numbers were fast with one or two slow hits - the songs makes you want to get up on your feet to dance and I reckon the gig would have been awesome if held in stand up venues such as the Hi-Fi with the crowd jumping up and down to the tunes. Instead, I found myself bobbing my head to the tunes while seated on a bar stool which I felt didn't do the songs much justice, and analysing the body language of the band members - the bass player had a fixed emotion of disinterest as if just going through the motions while the others not portraying much emotion as all; the lead vocalist Steve was the only one who really displayed energy and enthusiasm on stage. Looking around, the band seemed to have a small following as well, mostly aged late 20s and above. As the gig continued, several guys in the crowd decided to hit the dance floor to show off their drunken dance skills (think chicken dance and cheesy moves) - hilarious!

The band played non-stop for the 30-minute set - wish we had more! Really enjoyed the gig though the sound could have been better. Will have to check out their album on iTunes when we get home... 

Go/No-Go gig at The Lansdowne

Amanda and Matt left after the band finished while Jono and I stuck around for a bit to check out the next band Handsome Young Strangers that kicked off at 10pm. I'm not sure what to make of the band - most of the band members weren't young (nor particularly handsome) but a bunch of beer-gutted older men mixed with a few younger chaps. The music they played was a combination of country/folk and blues rock (they used instruments including the mandolin, harmonica and lagerphone), the type of music which makes me think of men having several pints and doing a jolly (and drunkenly) sing-along with the band in an Irish pub. The lead vocalist in the band was wearing flip-flops! The sound engineer totally sucked - he did a crap job for the previous band but now we couldn't even hear the vocals sung by Handsome Young Strangers because everything else was set too loud. Sheesh! Jono and I left after the second song and caught the bus home.

The members of Handsome Young Strangers filling up the stage

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Malay-Chinese Takeaway, Sydney (4th October 2012)

I caught up with Su Wei for lunch today and she suggested we head over to Malay-Chinese Takeaway this time. We met around 12pm outside our usual meeting place (Wynyard train station exit on George St) and walked a block and a half down to the restaurant located on Hunter St. This was my second visit to Malay-Chinese Takeaway - I was here sometime in June for their Hainanese chicken rice which wasn't as good as what some local food blogs suggested though almost every blog I've read did mention that this place serves the best laksa in Sydney. Guess what I'll be having today? Yep, the laksa!

The place was fully packed with customers both dining in and getting takeaways though despite the crowd, service was fairly prompt and fast. Most dine-in customers were seen enjoying their hot bowls of laksa and several had the chicken rice. Hmm, their Char Kway Teow looked pretty good too but it'll have to be next time - I need to know if the laksa here is indeed the best in town. The restaurant has a large laksa menu (same soup base but with different ingredients) and I decided to go for their most popular laksa dish, the Chicken Laksa which cost $8.70. "Angelica - what a lovely name," said the lady behind the counter who took my payment and name for the order. Hehe, well, I have my parents to thank for that :)

After placing our orders, Su Wei and I went to find ourselves seats in the canteen-like dining area, sharing the long table with other customers. My name was called in about 5 minutes and I went to the collection counter to pick up my steaming hot Chicken Laksa. Mmm, smells good and the reddish hue suggests that it has the right level of spice but I added a dollop of sambal on the side (available from the condiments area) anyway, just in case it wasn't spicy enough for my Malaysian tastebud ;) Can't wait to get back to my seat to try the laksa!

I started off slurping a spoonful of the hot soup - oh, this is fantastic! The mild curry coconut based soup has the right consistency AND level of spice. Unlike most places that serve laksa, the restaurants tend to reduce the spice level to cater for the local palate but Malay-Chinese Takeaway has obviously decided to keep it the way it should be. This is THE best laksa I've had to date and I have no doubts that it's probably the best in Sydney. My Chicken Laksa came with a generous serving of rice vermicelli, a few pieces of fried bean curd and slices of boneless steamed chicken with skin on (I would probably have the skinless chicken option next time round - I'm not a big fan of steamed chicken skin). The laksa was actually quite a large serving but it was so good that I finished the whole thing!

Chicken Laksa ($8.70)

It gets very crowded in Malay-Chinese Takeaway during lunchtime

Malay Chinese Takeaway Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Momofuku Seiobo, Pyrmont (2nd October 2012)

I have THE most amazing fiance ever - for my birthday this year, Jono surprised me with dinner at Momofuku Seiobo in The Star! I've often thought of checking out the restaurant but with only tasting menus at over $150 per person (they do not do a la carte), any thoughts whatsoever just fizzled out - way too expensive! I didn't expect Jono to take me seriously when I mentioned the restaurant to him in passing one day but I totally love him for it :)

Momofuku Seiobo is the first Momofuku restaurant located outside of New York city and the only one in the southern hemisphere owned by chef-founder David Chang. Seiobo is the Japanese goddess of the West and her sign is the peach tree while Momofuku itself in Japanese means 'lucky peach' (though I must admit, it does sound rather similar to 'motherf*&ker'). Opened in October 2011, the restaurant has already received significant accolades including Three Hats from The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and named Best New Restaurant.

According to Jono, reserving our spot for dinner was slightly tricky and a tad annoying. Bookings can only be done online and only 10 days in advance (which was why dinner was today instead of on my birthday a week ago) - he had to hop online right on the dot at 10am when the reservations were open to book us in. The venue has a 30-40 people dining area and the maximum party you can have in your reservation is four. As mentioned earlier, Momofuku Seiobo does not do a la carte service but serves a constantly changing daily tasting menu and is inspired by the wealth of local produce Australia has to offer - this also means we have no idea what we would be eating until the day which was mysterious and quite exciting, and for those who find it hard to make up their mind on what to eat when given a menu, the stress of having to choose is taken away from you. The dinner tasting menu is approximately 13 courses at $175 per person (there's a lunch option of 8 courses for $100 per person) and diners have been advised to allow at least 2 hours for the sitting. There are some rules when dining at Momofuku Seiobo as outlined in the email confirmation Jono printed out for me - no flash photography and diners are not allowed phone calls (reason given was 'due to the size and out of respect for other customers').

Jono had us booked for the last sitting of the day which starts at 8pm - we met up outside The Star beforehand and walked along Level G following the signs to the restaurant. "Where's the main entrance?" I asked Jono as we walked around looking for the door. I can definitely see the restaurant from between the gaps of the screen created by its panelled walls but there was no obvious entrance in sight. Huh, it turned out that the entrance was part of the wall, its heavy door indicated only by a set of silver panels and their signature peach icon. The inside extrudes elegance and class the moment you step in, the 5-seat bar on the left and dining area to the right. We were immediately received by the friendly host and showed to our seats, high seats right in the middle at the bar surrounding the open kitchen - we got to see everything that was happening in the kitchen, watching the chefs donned in caps and uniforms meticulously preparing our food. Awesome! I was giddy and excited like a little girl - this is going to be so much fun AND I get to share the experience with Jono making it even better :) Music from across the decades with a guitar accompaniment played in the background - not quite what I expect though it adds a bit of funkiness and brings out the fun factor, and of course, ties in with those black-and-white photos of famous guitarists seen on its walls. The place was actually not very big and was full yet the smart layout made it feel nicely spaced out - no one was sitting shoulder to shoulder. I guess the staggered dining start times too helps. Most guests were couples and almost everyone had a camera or some gadget to take photos (us included). Now I totally get why flash photography is not allowed - can you imagine how annoying it would be to have flashes of light every 5 minutes from a different person?

Seats at the dining area surrounding the kitchen

We decided to share a beverage pairing with tonight's menu - cost $95 which includes a selection of wine, sake and cider (there's also a juice pairing for $55 if you do not wish to have alcoholic drinks). To start, we were given warm towels to clean our hands and shortly after, the first of our drinks arrived, brought to our table by the sommelier who poured the sake and showed us the bottle as well as give us a short brief about the drink. You would think that a menu would be provided on the day but no, we did not have a menu of the food tasting or our drinks at all! The only thing the sous chef Clayton Wells did ask us before our food was served was if we had any allergies or certain food we would not eat - they were happy to accommodate to the dietary requirements (the restaurant did ask Jono beforehand but we got asked again anyway). We noticed one of the girls sitting next to me had slightly different dishes from others and it turned out she was vegetarian.

Our first course arrived shortly, a plate of snacks to share and to eat with our fingers - morsels of Nori chips, smoked eel, mochi with shiitake stuffing and blood chips. Specks of green Nori flew everywhere as I took a bite of the chip (I think some that went up my nose too as they were light as dust) and I had to checked with Jono twice that the brown chip was indeed a blood chip - the idea of pig's blood chip seemed somewhat yuck but there was no blood taste to the chip at all which was surprising. The mochi was chewy and soft with a delicious shiitake filling but the snack I liked best was the smoked eel that was topped with refreshing shaved apple. I love how the food was presented beautifully and the person serving would explain what they all were - being educated about what you were eating makes the experience more interesting and memorable, and reminded me much of our dining experience at Morimoto Restaurant in Napa, California, which was VERY expensive but definitely worth the experience. "This is the beginning of our bankruptcy," joked Jono and we cracked up laughing. Degustations and fine dining are costly and something like this would be more for a special occasion. "Like your birthday," added Jono with a smile. Hehe, yes :)

Snacks (from back l-r): smoked eel, blood chips, mochi with shiitake stuffing and nori chips

Sous chefs Clayton Wells and Chase Lovecky busy preparing our next dish in their immaculately clean and tidy kitchen

Course #2 was Momofuku's signature steamed pork buns. They were SO cute! Probably good for 2-3 bites, the buns were pillowy soft and filled with pork belly, sliced cucumber and hoisin sauce, served in individual small plates. A bottle of Sriracha sauce was provided - optional but a squirt of it adds a bit of kick to the bun. Mmm, yummy! Can I have another, pretty please?

David Chang's signature dish - steamed bun with pork belly, cucumber and hoisin sauce wrapped with a soft bun

"Ooo, now we get chopsticks!" I exclaimed when our plates were cleared and a pair of chopsticks on holders were placed on the table. One of the clever things about the bar is the high-gloss stainless steel that covers roof of the bar dining area. Instead of the waitstaff interrupting and asking if you've finished your food, all they have to do it look up and a reflection of your plate or bowl can easily be seen - everything just flows smoothly, no abrupt interruptions. We were given a Riesling next and was told it was for the next two courses. The drinks serve were sample size and with two of us sharing, we had to take small sips with the food. It wasn't much but good enough to sample an array of drinks. Mmm, nice Riesling...fruity...Given that the kitchen was always whipping up more dishes, astonishingly it was kept immaculately clean - the chefs were always wiping down the benches and kitchen utensils tidily put in its designated places. Impressive! Our third dish was thinly sliced pink snapper sashimi served with pickled celery and mustard oil, another delectable dish. A tasting menu of 13 dishes does sound rather daunting and too much but with the courses served in bite sizes like this, perhaps 13 is about right.

Pink snapper with pickled celery and mustard oil

Our plates and chopsticks were cleared when we finished our course and replaced with a teaspoon. What are we having next? The restaurant must do heaps of dishwashing - we get a change of plates and utensils with EVERY course. Dish #4 was Kangaroo Island scallops with dehydrated scallop roe and a rhubarb dressing. "Wow, the raw scallops taste so sweet," said Jono in amazement. I concur! It was fresh and light, contrasted by the richness of the roe - I could do with a second helping of this. Yum!

Kangaroo Island scallop with cured scallop roe and rhubarb

The sommelier returned with a new drink, this time a Savagnin made from a variety of white grapes with green-skinned berries. Smelled and tasted more like a sherry than wine and boy, it must be pretty alcohol-potent too - just a sniff was enough to make me feel wheeeeee! Haha, kidding. With a fork and spoon, we dived into course #5, potato confit cooked in beef fat served with quandong (Australian bush peach) and shaved bottarga (salty pressed fish roe) - a super cute dish with small round potato balls but so devilishly good because of the beef fat.

Potato balls cooked in beef fat, quandong and bottarga

Gone were our utensils, plates and wine glass and out came a sake with a red tinge (made from red rice) and a fork for the next dish. Hmm, the sake tasted more like a rosé. Frankly, I would have preferred if the sommelier stayed for a bit longer so I could actually jot down the names of the drinks we were served - most of the time I had to ask Jono to repeat the gist of what the sommelier said for he spoke at Jono's right (I sat on Jono's left) and I could hardly catch his words :/ Course #6 was a bowl of diced wagyu beef, thinly sliced radish, fermented black bean and grilled watermelon oil. By far the most delicate-looking dish served and you could taste the subtle hint of grilled watermelon oil which was really unique though I didn't like this course as much as some of the earlier ones (or the fact that it has too much radish, I'm not sure).

Wagyu beef with sliced radish, fermented black bean, drizzled with grilled watermelon oil

Diced Wagyu beef found underneath the bed of radish

9pm and we were only halfway through the tasting menu. Still loving it though I'm beginning to feel full...The sommelier came back, this time with a Vitovska, a dryish white wine that had a yellow colour due to the inclusion of the green-grape skins in the wine-making. Boneless pieces of roasted quail, zucchini and black garlic puree was course #7. Love the zucchini flower - a first for me! 

Roasted quail, zucchini and black garlic purée

Though Momofuku Seiobo doesn't serve a particular cuisine but tailors its menu to what fresh produce is in season, I do have to say they lean heavy on Asian flavours with course #8 a surprise and delight to me - congee! Who would have thought good old Chinese congee would make it to the table? I would say this was nothing traditional but a modern take to a very basic Chinese dish. The congee was served with bits of serrano ham, tiny fried doughnuts and a sheet of cured egg yolk. A cup of Earl Grey tea broth was poured into the bowl of congee in front of you. The whole set up was ingenious.  Taste-wise was good though a tad salty - the broth had the Earl Grey smell though tasted more like shoyu-based soup. Nice in a small serving but probably not so good as a main on its own. Pity the Vitovska didn't go well with the congee so we just had them separately.

Congee with ham, doughnuts and cured yolk sheet, drenched in an Earl Grey broth

Next, we had a daiginjo-shu sake brewed with very highly polished rice (to at least 50%). Ah, my kind of sake - light, complex and fragrant but most of all, easy to drink. Love :) We have several more courses to go and course #9 was roasted marron (a type of crayfish from Western Australia), chick peas and asparagus. The marron was lightly grilled so was still tender and moist though I felt quite sorry for the kitchen staff that prepared the dish - he had to flip the pieces of marron on the hot grill and hold one side with his bare fingers which I'm sure was very hot to the touch (he was flicking his hand in between flipping the pieces of marron and mumbling what looked like words of self-consolation as he worked on the grill). "I'm feeling very full and we haven't even had dessert yet," I said to Jono. Full as I may be, I must go on!

Grilled marron with chickpeas and asparagus

The sommelier brought the one and only red wine we were getting with our beverage pairing, a Cabernet Franc made with no sulphur dioxide during the wine-making or bottling. "Smell it," urged Jono, passing me the wine glass after he took the first sip. Hmm, smells like blackberry jam...Course #10 was deep fried short rib with eggplant and kombu (edible kelp) - I can definitely smell the kelp as the dish was plated up and served. Oh my god, the short rib was so tender (my stubby steak knife cuts through it easily) and you can taste the oil and fat with every bite (it was well marbled). I love my steak but at this point, I'm was really full and my body was screaming for something sweet. I was glad it wasn't a large chunk of meat though speaking of meat, I've been eyeing the huge chunk of gleaming roasted pork that was sitting on the bench and being kept warm by one the heater/light lamp (the sous chef can adjust the length of the retractable arm to suit). "That looks REALLY good but I don't think we will get to sample it since we're having dessert next," I said to Jono, slightly disappointed. 

Deep fried short rib, eggplant and kombu

Gleaming chunk of caramelised pork shoulder kept warm under the huge heater/light

Around 10.30pm, the first of our 3 desserts were served - the first was a cheese course. We each got a small bowl of Bruny Island C2 grated unpasteurised cow cheese with honey licorice, star anise and bee pollen tuille matched with a pear cider made from 14 varieties of pear (tasted like concentrated pear bubbly). The mix of savoury and sweet of this course was interesting to the tastebuds and really nice. The cheese course was followed by course #12, blueberry sorbet, caramelised white chocolate served inside a small passionfruit meringue shelter - absolutely divine.

C2 unpaterised cow cheese, honey licorice, star anise and bee pollen tuille paired with pear cider

Close up shot of the cheese dessert

Passion fruit meringue, caramelised white chocolate and blueberry sorbet

Mmm, blueberry sorbet...

Our final beverage of the pairing tonight was a Pedro Ximenez, an intensely dark, sweet and thick dessert sherry - it was like drinking syrup. Course #13 was potato ice cream, crispy potato and muntries (native Australian cranberries). I've never had potato ice cream before (the closest was taro/yam ice cream) - creamy, starchy and strangely a bit salty...

Potato ice cream, crispy potato and muntries

I'm SO full (Jono had already loosened his belt)! I thought once we hit 13, we were done. Well, not quite yet. "This is the bonus course - caramelised pork shoulder that has been slow-roasted for 8 hours," said the kitchen staff who placed the plate of pieces of stringy pork drenched in the sweet sauce in front of us and added that we were to enjoy the dish with our fingers (he also brought out warm towels for us). You've got to be kidding - a savoury dish after dessert? So wrong...but it was SO DAMN GOOD! We were full to bursting but just had to finish the pork - sweet, succulent, flavoursome and fatty, it was heaven (they should have served this as one of the earlier courses!) and it somehow worked post-dessert. Way too good to pass up :)

And the finale (bonus course), caramelised pork shoulder

We left Momofuku Seiobo at 11pm - our dinner took us 3 hours which was a lot longer than most dinners we've had together. With the bill was tonight's tasting menu for each guest and a postcard to take home - the bill was a horrific $445 but we already expected it. We were also given a packet of kimchi each before we left the table to settle the bill. Jono had to put it all on his bank card as the restaurant charges a surcharge if you use a debit/credit card. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the food, drink, service provided and dining experience at the restaurant and do encourage you to check it out sometime - splurge a little for a special occasion. You will not regret it!

Momofuku Seiōbo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Jono and I decided to taxi home - there was no way I could walk fast enough to catch the last train home with my full tummy. Argh, too much indulgence...