SPQR at Maum

Dinner – Wednesday, June 12, 2019

My first experience at Maum was two months ago, as part of a collaboration series (that dinner being with Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush from Senia in Honolulu). I enjoyed it quite a bit – enough to book a second dinner, this time with Matt Accarino of SPQR as guest chef. I am quite a fan of his pastas, and when I heard that Maum’s Michael and Meichih Kim used to work for Accarino in Los Angeles, my head swam with visions of Korean-Italian pasta (which were fulfilled, as you will see below).

Toro tartare, ikura, anchovy

Rolled “omelette”, egg yolk, bottarga

Oyster, apple, chojang

Hokkaido uni, proscuitto, porcini rice
I was skeptical, but this bite won me over. The warm koshihikari rice was nicely packed, and the “neta” of uni and proscuitto were a surprisingly good pairing – this was my favourite of the hors d’oeuvres.

Bone marrow bread pudding, wagyu, beet tartare

Caramelized onion panna cotta, ACCA caviar
Maum reserve caviar, corn-cheese foam

Two house-cured caviars, one from each restaurant, opened the meal. SPQR’s assertive version (left) was paired with a pungent onion panna cotta, and further adorned with crispy shallots and chives for texture. Maum’s subtler rendition (right) was accompanied by an airy foam. There was definitely a correct order to eat these two dishes in.

Perilla somyun
Gojuchang, mul kimchi ice, alliums

Thin, chewy wheat noodles were tossed in gojuchang and topped with a refreshing granita of mul kimchi. This dish was packed with flavour and perfect for the warm weather – one of my top courses of the evening.

Black garlic tortellini
Spring vegetables, roasted corn cob and white miso broth

Smoked cherry bark pasta rotolo, duck leg confit
Black truffle bechamel, verjus-poached cherries, pickled ramps

An involved dish with a lot of technique – it also showed off the integration of the two kitchens. First-of-the-season truffles from Australia were shaved tableside, and were quite good. The sliced cherries really made the dish for me, serving as a nod to the season and balancing the heaviness of the other components.

‘Gamjatang’, sweet rice pasta, perilla
Traditionally a pork bone stew, the gamjatang was reinvented here as a braised pork bolognese cooked with gojuchang, doenjang and gochugaru. This thick, warm, spicy mix was served with an al dente pasta made from sweet rice. Amazing – my dish of the night.

Kalbi lasagna, caramelized gojuchang, shishito

Accarino pecancino
Toasted almond sorbet, milk ice

Matt Accarino told a nice story about how he met Peter Jacobsen of the namesake farm – it culminated in him, many years later, making his own nocino from pecans (i.e. a pecancino) picked from the farm. Accarino’s version was a viscous, sweet, aromatic, herbal sip – a proper tribute. It was cleverly paired with an earthy almond sorbet and creamy milk ice from Maum’s Catherine Kim. Delicious.

‘Misugaru tiramisu’
Espresso genoise, white chocolate-misugaru mousse, coffee syrup

Three platters of mignardises ended our meal – my favourites being the simple selection of fresh fruit, a rocher made with makgeolli, and discs of ginger ice cream sandwiched between sesame seed crisps.

There was a celebratory atmosphere to the meal, as Maum had received its first Michelin star in the California guide the week prior – well deserved, I believe. Festivities aside, tonight’s was a strong and well-designed menu, showcasing the strengths of each kitchen equally. Some courses (e.g. the lasagna and tiramisu) would have benefited from more fine-tuning, but others (e.g. the somyun and gamjatang) hit very high notes. I still need to visit the restaurant for a “normal” dinner… if only they would fix their reservation policy to accommodate solo diners.


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