Maum continues the trend of tasting menus that incorporate traditional Asian flavors in a modern and elevated dining experience. In contrast to other SF Bay Area spots like SingleThread Farms or Manresa that draw inspiration from Asian ingredients and techniques, I would consider Maum to be more similar to Benu, Hiroshi, Eight Tables, or the now-shuttered Mosu SF. Like the latter restaurants, I left Maum feeling like I had a truly “Asian” menu (in this case, Korean), supplemented with New American and French techniques.
After serving as a private dining space for a year, Maum opened to the public in July, with just one communal seating a night, three nights week. For our particular night, they had 18 diners, though I’ve read it’s typically a max of 16.
The menu started off with a series of small, passed bites and drinks prior to being seated.
Of the five passed bites, the corn tartlet stood out with a unexpectedly light buckwheat tart base and a sweet, yet delicate corn filling that highlighted peak corn season.
Another standout was the Zucchini Squash leaf, first dehydrated, then deep fried and sprinkled in tangy and sweet Korean soybean powder.
After about 30 minutes, we were instructed to take seats at the single communal table. Our first course was a memorable start – caviar with exceptionally creamy tofu, accompanied by a seaweed biscuit. The texture of the fluffy and silky tofu was unlike any tofu I’ve had. Frankly, the tofu stole the show over the caviar, though the combination of all three parts was harmonious.
Next was a dish that highlighted the sweet, seasonal cherry tomatoes, contrasted with bright vinegar and perilla.
Following was a nod to the popular Korean tofu soup, soondubu, elevated with thin soybean skin and an intensely salty, umami sauce to season the mild silken tofu.
Next was my favorite dish – a perfectly cooked Black Cod filet in a broth of abalone, beech mushrooms, and rice cakes. The gochujang broth was a tad salty for my taste, but the flaky black cod was absolutely incredible. The accompanying ingredients also provided an enjoyable, contrasting chew.
Another hit was the duck meatball, a clever play on the Korean word for meatball, dduckgalbi. The presentation was very cute, with the meatball skewered with a tiny bone. The duck meat itself was so intensely flavorful and cooked with pork fat.
Next was a nod to Korean BBQ, with wagyu “galbi” served ssam style with lettuce wraps, pickles, and jang (fermented soybean paste). The wagyu was amazingly fatty and tender in the best way. This was accompanied by an oxtail stew rice that might be my favorite rice dish I’ve had – the depth of flavor was unbelievable! Oh yeah, there was some seaweed soup too, but the rice out-shadowed that.
After that high note, we switched gears to dessert. I’m a fan of savory ingredients in a traditionally sweet medium, and the first couple desserts were of that style. While dessert was probably the weakest link here, I appreciated the continuation of Korean ingredients.
The evening finished with a trio of small bites, including a mini choco pie! The intensely-flavored banana bon bon was probably my favorite of these.
In true tasting menu form, we were given parting gifts of strawberry jam “muffin cakes”. I devoured this at home immediately. The richness of the butter with the crumble topping and sweet jam base was irresistible!
For a relatively new public restaurant, I was impressed at the caliber of cooking. The tasting menu was focused on flavor first, without any crazy techniques or showy antics. The service was also pretty good, with timing being the only major area of improvement.
There was an option of wine pairings, bottles, or wine by the glass. I elected to go by the glass and thought the somm made good recommendations that supported but didn’t overpower the food.
One of my dinner-mates was dairy sensitive, and the kitchen accommodated her restrictions seamlessly.
I thought the overall tasting menu was reasonably priced for the Bay Area, and I look forward to trying future seasonal iterations.