It's been almost a year since Momojein's last menu revamp, and although we were sad to see some of our favourites go (I'll never forget you, potato pancakes), we fully trusted that the newest tricks Chef Lim Hee Won had up his sleeves would be as impressive as usual. Our hopes were high and our tummies rumbled at the thought of discovering what the Momojein team spent eight months cooking up in the kitchen.
Highlighting homemade dishes and handmade techniques, Chef Lim stays close to the humble roots of traditional Korean fare whilst giving it an air of elegance and refinement. This philosophy could not have been better conveyed than with our starter of gujeolpan ($138), a festive dish of small round wraps and nine fillings served traditionally in a divided container, with one compartment for each ingredient. The vibrant colours of the wrappers were naturally extracted from beetroot, spinach and white lotus seeds and served with a homemade pine nut mustard dip. Another homemade highlight was Momojein's tofu ($138) – made in house every day, with strict supervision and a balanced ratio of black beans and soybeans to instill a stronger fermented flavour. Paired with a six-month-aged kimchi and other preserved sides, we could taste the hard labour with every bite.
Spicy bell pepper tuna
Nostalgia came out to play in the spicy bell pepper tuna ($162), inspired by an iconic childhood favourite of Chef Lim's. The whimsical presentation and bright colour of the tuna-stuffed bell pepper dish harken back to a simpler time, though the preparation is anything but. Charcoal is imported from Korea to guarantee an authentic, smoky flavour off the grill. We loved the juicy, aromatic notes of the finished product, especially its sweet tartness. The KFD ($128) fell a little flat – though the chicken meat was thoroughly succulent and soft, the crispy, battered skin of starch, bean powder, soy sauce, chicken feet, liquorice and pineapple didn't leave a lasting impression.
Read more: Simple, Homestyle Korean Food at GaGaHoHo
Kalbi with grilled vegetables
The yukhoe ($178) must be hailed as the standout dish of the day. Tender beef cubes marinated in a seasoning of guaranteed success (chilli powder, diced onion and black sesame), Chef Lim's reinvention of the classic Korean tartare resulted in a sophisticated, aromatic treat, chock-full of traditional ingredients like pine nuts, chia seeds, pear and homemade chilli oil, and it was made even more irresistible with crisp, freshly made tapioca and seaweed powder shells as the scooping vessels. The kalbi with grilled vegetables ($390), though a little expensive for our tastes, provided the same level of satisfaction. It was grilled to savoury perfection and was served with a well-balanced dip of mashed pumpkin and Korean mustard.
The following dishes of mung bean pancake ($128), soondoobu stew ($208) and smoked pork belly ($350) each had their own merits, but it was the dessert that we were most looking forward to. Chef Lim's modern take on baesuk sherbet ($88) was mildly sweet and soothingly warm; the boiling of the Korean pear helped to soak up the sweet soup of cinnamon, ginger, honey and sugar, and the homemade basil jelly and addition of soda water and fizzy pear juice were the cherries on top of an extensively diverse meal.
The amalgamation of old and modern, rustic and refined takes Momojein's menu to new heights and makes it a worthy destination and a well-deserved Best Casual Restaurant winner in our 2016 Foodie Forks Awards. We love Chef Lim's casual yet elevated approach of familiarising Hong Kong diners with the many facets of Korean cuisine and the refreshing encounter of something unexpected every time we dine here, though the price tag can amount to something hefty depending on what you order. With Momojein approaching their second anniversary, we hope it's here to stay.
23/F, QRE Plaza, 202 Queen's Road East, Wanchai, 2789 1949
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author's.