March 23, 2024

50 Best and then some day 3: collaborative stuffing

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I decided to sleep in this morning. Haokofu and I decided to take a long walk after dinner last night along Apgujeong-ro before returning to our hotels, and that was a lot of walking. So... I was still in bed when the Great One went for her breakfast soup with Vicky Cheng. I did get around to having a quick coffee with her at Coffee Jinsim Bakery (커피진심베이커리). As we were about to have a huge lunch, I decided not to get one of their cute-looking salt breads and just had myself a hazelnut cafe latte. I expected this to just have a shot of hazelnut liqueur inside, but was pleasantly surprised by the presence of crushed hazelnuts and pine nuts.

A bunch of us piled into a taxi and made our way north to Onjium (온지음). We are joining one of the events of the 50 Best Signature Series, which sees Onjium host the Chairman (大班樓) from Hong Kong and Seroja from Singapore for a "6 hands" collaboration.

Now, the reason why I came up 2 days ago was to visit restaurants before the "50 Best crowd" get into town, and try out the restaurants' own cuisine instead of all these "collaborations". So many of these 4-/6-/8-hands events are simply different chefs alternative dishes from their repertoire, and they don't feel like real collaborations. I had told PR8 point blank that I wasn't interested in any collaboration meals from his clients, and most of all, I didn't want to run into some of the people who somehow always show up at these sort of events.

But... this is different. Any of the Chairman's collaborative events is worth attending, because Danny and the team insist on it being true collaborations - where many dishes actually combine elements from all participating parties. This requires actual thought and effort in planning ahead, and indeed, the teams for today actually got together multiple times to work on the menu. So... I'm always willing to make an exception for the Chairman's events.

Today's seating plan saw the same foursome that had sat through this dinner last October placed at the same table. I saw a few familiar faces around the dining space, but it was all good.

Amuse-bouche - we began with this platter featuring nibbles from all three restaurants.

Tangerine rice cake, by Onjium - kinda chewy and a little dry.

Fish roll with spring vegetables, by Onjium - why, YES! That IS a thin layer of fish on the outside of the roll! With all the multi-colored julienned vegetables inside, the flavors were very well-balanced.

Crispy fish floss with raita and mint, by Seroja - the floss was made with mackerel. A thin layer of mint jelly on top, and really nice cumin flavors from the raita. The flavors were very much Indian, and very good.

Tartlette of fatty tuna with ginger kerabu and oscietre caviar, by Seroja - not sure what the marinade was but there was definitely some soy sauce, and the marinade tasted awfully Japanese to me... Good fruity acidity from the kerabu, and much to my surprise, the caviar worked well with everything. BUT OF COURSE this had to be the best bite because of the GOLD on top!

Black chicken skin with Sichuan pepper, by The Chairman - covered in a sweet and sticky glaze. Pretty nice.

Dried abalone, by The Chairman - the abalone was dried by Chef Park Sungbae (박성배) and cooked in a soy sauce and abalone broth to maximize the flavors. This was definitely a little heavier than usual, and the flavors of the abalone definitely came out more intense.

Krug Grande Cuvée, 171ème Édition, ID 322035 - crisp acidity on the palate, with lots of lemon and a small dose of brioche on the nose.

Tropical herb noodle - buckwheat noodles with a sauce of tropical herbs and vegetables, including betel leaves.

This was really nice, with lots of green flavors which left a wonderful fragrance in the mouth. We also had diced winged beans and abalone, the latter of which was so tender I initially thought it was oyster mushroom! What a fantastically refreshing dish!

This was meant to be some tom yum drink traditionally paired with the noodles at Seroja, with a tomato base, and cucumber, coriander, lemongrass, green chili, and root vegetables. Definitely smelled something green there, but not quite like green capsicum.

Yusheng with pine nut sauce - so this is a Singaporean-style yusheng (魚生) typically eaten for lunar new year, but this features 6-year-old lily bulbs from China (The Chairman's contribution), asparagus and cucumber from Korea (Onjium's contribution), along with jicama and celtuce from Singapore (Seroja's contribution). The vegetable mélange was really refreshing, and the Korean pine nut velouté was lovely.

The sea cucumber was stuffed with a mince of clams and shrimp, and this was nice and savory.

2019 Alheit Cartology Bushvines - ripe on the nose, very aromatic. This was ripe on the palate, too, but still got the acidity and slightly grippy on the palate.

Hwe (회) - Danny confessed that they have never served raw fish in the entire history of the Chairman...

Sea perch - the fish was marinated with the vinegar that has been pickling the Chairman's young ginger for 1 year, and stuffed with said pickled ginger, then topped with rue.

Striped jack (縞鯵) with smoked caviar - with some Sichuan peppercorn oil for that wonderful fragrance. The fish was smoked with camphor wood.

Sweet shrimp - with gochujang (고추장) so it was pretty spicy, but OK for me.

Anchovies - I love anchovy fry.


Rockfish - served with jellyfish, tossed with juice from oyster fermentation, with sarai (สาหร่าย) gelée and finely-diced lemon zest. Very nice.

2022 Moulin de Rameau Chardonneret - toasty nose with good acidity. Bongwater.

A kimchi palate-cleanser...

Hanwoo BBQ - the eel was fermented by the Chairman with stinky tofu starter, while the Hanwoo was barbecued with perchik from Seroja. Onjium provided the namul (나물).

It was suggested that we stack the beef and the eel together "like a Rossini", so I did... and took it down in one bite, as I always do. I do love the combination of the flavors, because each element had its own complexity, and having them mashed up together in the mouth made it even more interesting.

Onjium's homemade soju - this was really strong and burns in the mouth when drank after the beef.

Crispy and chrunchy - an interesting-looking trio.

Taro cake (芋頭糕), by The Chairman - with X.O sauce on top.

Japanese angelica shoots, by Onjium - interesting that the タラの芽 was coated in glutinous rice powder and fried, then served with pickled radish.

Squid roll, by Seroja - the squid was stuffed with julienned carrots and zucchini wrapped in laver, then coated in a layer of kadaif which provided a crunchy contrast to the bouncy squid. Oh, the curry spice here was nice.

1993 Fleury Symphonie d'Europe, dégorgée Janvier 2020, en jeroboam - very nice, a little caramelized but still fresh and lively with plenty of bubbles. Got the acidity as well as a grippy texture on the palate.

Daegae - since we are not in Hong Kong, we do not get the Chairman's signature dish with flower crab. We do have a damn big snow crab (대게), and I could see that the kitchen has taken time to remove all the kanibiru (カニビル) eggs from the shell... leaving some marks.

The sauce was made with tomalley and whisked "like a sabayon". They've also taken the trouble to take the meat out of the shell for us.

Seroja's signature roti paung.

Of course we are supposed to not only wipe up the sauce, but also eat the roti with the crab meat and tomalley. So, sooo good.

The next juice was probably made with radish or turnip, with some savory profiles. Funnily, though, it also was a little like sugar cane juice.

More palate-cleansing kimchi.

Jeju black pork - I'm so happy that I get a chance to eat the famous black pig from Jeju Island, and in very interesting ways!

Jowl - marinated in soy sauce and tasted like Cantonese preserved mustard greens (梅菜) and also had distinctive flavors of aged tangerine peel (陳皮).

Tail - served with Malaysian chili and spices. Really good.

Intestine - deep-fried and stuffed with salted egg yolk and a little ginseng. So, soooo good!

Hock terrine - any pork terrine is good for me. I just wish they didn't slice is so thinly...

Satay - made with pork shoulder, and garnished with pineapple, shallot, and cucumber. This was so fatty and satisfying.

2020 Harmand-Geoffroy Gevrey-Chambertin - nose of blueberries and black fruits. Later on we've got some strawberries and also forest notes.

Bibimbap - the signature bibimbap (비빔밥) of Onjium features 8 kinds of vegetables, which include bamboo shoots, zucchini, daylily shoots (원추리), two types of spinach, godeul-ppaegi (고들빼기)... etc.

Chayote slices

Doenjang guk (된장국) - with shepherd's purse (냉이).

Granita with sorbet - for a refreshing finish to our meal we have Korean strawberry (millefeuille) jelly, a really delicious Korean tangerine sorbet, and a bandung granita.

Tea and sweets

Pineapple bun - these had adzuki means inside and, to be honest, were a little dry.

Kueh bahulu - I love anything made with brown sugar.

Black sesame cookies

This was sooooooo much food! Very tasty and certainly interesting and educational for me, but by the time we finished lunch at 4pm, I was so glad that I didn't commit to any dinner engagements tonight. Two of my table-mates, meanwhile, were off to another collaboraiton which starts at 5pm - giving them exactly one hour before they start eating again.

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