It’s interesting to see how the cuisine at the one Michelin-starred Meta has morphed from Japanese-inspired when it first opened to what I thought was contemporary Korean last year to what is now perceived as modern Asian with French techniques. South Korea-born, Australia-trained chef-owner Sun Kim simply wants to cook with local flavours and those that he gleans from travels that inspire him. His latest summer tasting menu, priced at $58++ for lunch and $118++ for 5 courses and $158++ for 7 courses at dinner, will give you a peek into all these influences, local, Korean and otherwise.
Come hungry as your dinner opens with a parade of umami-packed snacks, amongst them a sago cracker topped with octopus, ikura, garlic aioli and seaweed powder; an ethereal tart of shiitake puree and charred broccolini buried in a riot of Parmesan floss; and cup of scallop chawanmushi topped with a morsel of Japanese clam that teems with oceanic savouriness, tamed by a refreshment of dill in the form of the herb itself, a pool of oil and a drizzle of cream.
Kim’s culinary training in Tetsuya’s Sydney is built on French techniques and naturally, he pays tribute to the French with a silky confection of foie gras parfait slathered over with a intense, sweet and magenta-rich puree of beetroot cooked-down in port wine.
New Zealand rack of lamb grilled over smoky binchotan is rich with meatiness, aptly counterpointed with the punchy, almost funky, umami of braised fermented blackbeans and matched with sprigs of sweet grilled garlic shoots. Kim is unabashed about his obsession with sauces and on the plate, he serves not just the lamb’s own jus but also a thick pool of creamy zucchini cream sauce.
If you opt for the bigger menu at dinner, you’d be rewarded with a whole carabinero prawn, its plump flesh briefly seared and then warmed under the salamander and its head first cooked in dashi and pan-roasted so that extracting its juice is no chore but sheer umami delight. Of note is the comforting side dish of charred brussels sprouts on a bed of Korean shortgrain rice topped with sambal, a strong contender for best dish of the night.
The dessert of “tropical summer” may look plain – in fact, it’s anything but, with an unusual assortment of coconut cream-laced sticky rice, burnt pineapple fibres, coconut granita and, surprise surprise, not so tropical kiwi sorbet that provides the much-needed sweet and tart flavours to make it a magnanimous whole. I use the word magnanimous because it is a very generous dessert indeed.
While Meta offers a tasting menu exclusively, there is a supplementary dish (from a choice of only two items) that I’d highly recommend that you order if it makes an appearance during your visit. The Irish Oyster ($10 each) is a variation of a similar oyster course that I had during my first trip to Meta. In addition to the appetite-piquing ginger-lemon dressing, it also comes with a drizzle of chive oil and a touch of gochujang sauce so that you get a riveting melange of sweet, tart and slightly spicy flavours unique to South Korea. It’s Kim’s subtle way of reminding you of his unique heritage.
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.