Dinner – Friday, April 29, 2016

The parallels are unavoidable – Korean-American chefs with fine-dining backgrounds opening tasting menu-only restaurants that blend culinary traditions. Mosu doesn’t quite have the buzz about it that Benu did when it opened. Sung Anh, the chef-owner, may not have the cachet (or Michelin stars) of Corey Lee, but his CV is nothing to sniff at – he’s been through the kitchens of Urasawa, The French Laundry, Benu, and was most recently chef-de-cuisine at Aziza. His restaurant seems like a labor of love – it’s a relative shoebox, with only 18 seats split across two narrow floors, and just 4-5 bodies in the kitchen cooking their hearts out.

Burdock, sansho, cultured butter
A sheet of burdock, marinated in mirin, then subjected to a few cycles of grilling and drying. Down the middle ran a stripe of cultured butter and fermented kombu, flecked with sansho berries. Delicious, and a hell of a way to exclaim “this is my cuisine!”

Shrimp chiffon cake, onion soubise, caviar d’escargot
A castella-style “tamagoyaki” lightened with mountain yam. The cake itself was moist and very well prepared – indeed, the other components (read: mushy, flavourless snail eggs) detracted from it.

Anago tempura, gingered carrot, lime zest
Sayori, kefir lime, vadouvan

Unagi, cucumber, umeboshi
Wagyu, yuba, powdered wagyu fat, rice cracker

The wagyu was notable – it had a delicate but lingering smokiness, from a brief time spent over some binchotan. The fattiness of the meat paired remarkably well with the creamy yuba and crisp rice cracker.

Goma tofu
Santa Barbara uni, Golden osetra caviar, green apple, cucumber blossom

The tofu sat in a shallow pool of bonito-infused tsuyu – a natural pairing. I really enjoyed the strong sesame flavour of the tofu, which was wrapped around a tongue of uni. The texture was also outstanding. The green apple granita was a rather unexpected touch – quite pleasant.

Toro, ankimo, yuzu
The ingredients above were wrapped in kombu and pickled daikon, served as a maki – great knifework here. The maki were served with a bud of myoga for refreshing the palate. The ginger was essential – the fish and liver were impressively rich.

Crab chawan mushi
Trout roe, sea grapes, okra, radish

Hokkaido scallop
Conpoy, kumquat, black bean juice, herbs

Sansho berry, bamboo, morels, lemon

I think this was the table-wide dish of the evening. The skin on the bird was so thin and crisp, and the meat so moist – probably one of the best quail preparations I’ve ever had. It was drizzled with a brown butter infused with citrus and sansho – a perfect blend.

15-day dry-aged lamb loin, ribs presse
Peas, asparagus, green olive

Sea moss and foie gras soup, served with rice
Grilled hotaru-ika
Like all good “Asian” meals, we ended with rice and soup, and a side of grilled firefly squid. The latter was polarizing, but I fell on the side of enjoying it.

Goji berry, lemongrass gelee, ginger, Thai basil

Toasted rice ice cream, black sesame, Grand Marnier
I am a huge fan of cereal milk in all its permutations (guilty pleasure!), so naturally I loved the ice cream, which tasted like Rice Krispies. It also did a good job tying the airy black sesame cake to the white chocolate mousse. The slight bitterness of the Grand Marnier streusel helped keep the sweetness in check.

When we visited Benu a few months after its opening, we found a kitchen still struggling to find its identity – clearly, they have flourished in the intervening years (and we are long overdue for a return). A similar situation is playing out here – not all attempts to fuse East and West were successful tonight, but some (like the quail) were spectacular. In a perfect world, I’d love to check in on them in a year. On the night we visited, Mosu served a total of 10 diners, so the real question we should be asking is: how long is their runway?

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