G Restaurant Awards newcomer Meta has worked itself to the bone to be on this list; on the night of our visit, its staff, headed by chef-owner Sun Kim, are getting ready to open its sister restaurant, Kimme. They have been working overtime, and are visibly tired. Despite the circumstances, Meta delivers.
Three floor staff handle a full room of 35 diners. Service might be lagging, but the manager, Pierre, is all smiles every time he comes around to our table.
We opt to go all-in with the winter-themed seven-course, along with the non-seasonal supplementary dishes of farmed Irish oyster with lemon, ginger and gochujang, and the bossam (Iberico pork slices served with endive and oyster leaves). To take the smaller menu of five courses would mean missing out on the Korean abalone porridge with century egg and seaweed as well as a dessert. But the latter – a green apple calvados with fennel and parmesan
– turns out to be rather incohesive.
Fortunately, everything else is more coherent: each dish has an assortment of colours, and most have an element of mystery and playfulness about them. Take the Korean abalone porridge, for example – underneath the pale slices of abalone is a congregation of comforting flavours. It’s a little smoky and salty, with plenty of umami. This, and the butternut squash with roast corn, prawn and kaffir lime, show Kim’s expertise with seafood and vegetables. The squash becomes the main feature, almost relegating the hidden prawn to a texture-and volume-filler.
It could be the expansive plates that make Meta seem conservative with its portions, but what it misses the mark on, it makes up for with might in flavour, and effort: a small cocktail programme, fine wines, and steadfast staff. These things add up.