Five months into her tenure as the New York Times’ Australian critic, Besha Rodell takes on the Momofuku empire’s lone Southern hemisphere outlet: Momofuku Seiobo, located inside Sydney’s Star casino.
Seiobo opened in 2011 with British chef Ben Greeno at the helm, and lots has changed since then, both with the Momofuku group and at the restaurant itself. Seiobo was the first Momofuku restaurant outside New York (it now has four restaurants in Toronto and one in Las Vegas), and while its format has remained the same since opening — an $185 tasting menu — the food has shifted dramatically under chef Paul Carmichael, a Barbados native who took the helm in 2015.
Seiobo is something of a unicorn in the Momofuku empire — perhaps in part because its relatively far-flung location means it’s less under the culinary purview of head honcho David Chang. Rodell notes that while the restaurant’s website says “it draws inspiration from the bounty of Australian produce and suggests that it specializes in no particular cuisine...if you ask Mr. Carmichael, he is clear on the matter: Momofuku Seiobo is a Caribbean restaurant.”
Gone are Chang’s signature pork buns that appeared on the menu in the beginning; Rodell notes that Carmichael’s final thesis at the Culinary Institute of America was on Caribbean food, and he’s putting his studies to good use here with dishes like cou cou (“ often considered the national dish of Barbados”) dressed up with caviar and the Puerto Rican classic mofongo, “made more extreme by a squiggle of smoked rendered pork fat.”
Rodell concludes, “Mr. Carmichael is presenting a beautifully considered tribute to his birthplace, with all the thought and care and honor of fine dining, and all the fun of Momofuku...That this incarnation of Momofuku Seiobo exists in Australia makes us a lucky country indeed.” (Rodell’s reviews are not starred, but Seiobo is now denoted as a critic’s pick.)
Elsewhere in Chang’s empire, Má Pêche will shutter this summer after eight years in Midtown Manhattan; meanwhile on the West Coast, the recently opened Majordomo has been by all accounts a smash hit, with Eater’s own Bill Addison calling Chang’s first LA outpost “the most exhilarating restaurant opening of 2018 (so far).”