Mosu, the Michelin-starred restaurant from chef Sung Anh, is making some big changes. Namely, Anh is moving it to Seoul, Korea. The tasting menu-only restaurant is packing up and will close its doors by April 29.
Anh’s reasons for taking his restaurant across the globe are many, including proximity to his wife and children who live in Korea, as well as the overwhelming urge to push himself further. In San Francisco, the chef had begun the process of looking for a better, larger space for Mosu, when he made the decision to move further than he first planned. “My whole goal is not to just grow the restaurant, but to do what I want to do [as a chef],” said Anh. “I believe I can grow as a chef better in Korea.”
Plus, San Francisco can be brutal on restaurants, with many closing due to rising labor costs and rents. While none of that has been easy for Anh either, he says it’s not his primary reason for leaving. “Thankfully our business is OK,” Anh told Eater SF. “I’m not leaving because I can’t pay my rent, I am not moving away because my business suffers financially. The decision is for my family's sake and wanting to do something more. I am from Korea, and I want to go deeper there.”
Sung, who is now a U.S. citizen, was born in Korea. He knows the landscape of Korean dining, and now that Michelin has taken its ratings there, it’s a good time to join the growing dining scene. “As chefs, we talk about how we have to do something different and do something personal, why else are we doing this?” said Anh. “In order for me to do that I am making this crazy move. If I too am anchored to what I’ve done before, then how can I can I be better?”
At opening, Mosu came out of the gate strong, as one of Eater National and Eater SF’s “Most Anticipated Openings” of the year. It also opened with 12-course kaiseki-style tasting menu priced at $195— a move that garnered criticism from many, including Chron critic Michael Bauer, who wrote:
"What shocks me about Mosu and Hashiri is the audacity of the pricing out of the gate. The Bay Area is in a period when prices are skyrocketing and people are becoming numb to the $30 main course — but Mosu and Hashiri push new boundaries. From what I experienced, compared to other established places, the prices weren't justified."
After his lengthy essay on when restaurant should be allowed to raise its prices, Bauer never officially reviewed Mosu, though it received a Michelin star. But Anh, who has spent time in the kitchens of The French Laundry and Benu, says his main focus is always the food. “We are being judged all the time, but people seem to judge my character or interior, not the food and the flavor.” Eater critic Bill Addison visited last year and was blown away by a riff on chawanmushi of yuba (tofu skin) and egg topped with trout roe, crab, okra, and radish, though he too was befuddled by the “austere” interior and lack of signage.
The next iteration of the restaurant will be known as Mosu Seoul, opening in a quiet, hilly neighborhood on the North side of the Cheonggyecheon River. Plans are already in motion, with construction starting in the next couple months, and an opening timeline of August— a remarkably fast turnaround that is typical for Korea, but shockingly quick for SF restaurateurs. The new Mosu will be about 3,000-square-feet, a much bigger and more tranquil space than the Fillmore location. “It’s my goal to better serve the guests,” said Anh. “I told people that it would be ‘zen-like,’ but then guests walk outside and it’s sirens and really different.”
The food at Mosu Seoul will not be a carbon copy of what Anh has been serving in SF, though it won’t transition into a traditional Korean menu, either. “I have to adjust to the city and palates of the people, and culture. If I do something traditionally Korean, I think people will laugh at me, so I will take more Western techniques with me. ”
However, Anh says the move is temporary, and he ultimately plans to return and settle in San Francisco. And when he returns, it will not be to the Fillmore space. It might not even be Mosu, though Anh says he has a special place in his heart for it. “It’s my first baby,” he said. “Every detail from the logo to the minimalism to not using micro greens was thought out in creating my style. But, you never know— maybe I will have a better idea next time.”
For the last weeks of Mosu SF, Anh says he wants to finish strong, and to say thank you to the people who’ve supported his restaurant. Stay tuned for more details.