Gukbab

Gukbab literally means soup with rice, which is a way that some Korean stews are meant to be had, by mixing the rice through the soup and eating the whole thing together, almost like an instant version of congee. I had the dish a few times when I travelled to Korea (blog posts coming in March!), and was excited to see a restaurant in Melbourne that specialises in it.

It’s easy to miss the restaurant, with no clear signage and being scattered in the same building with a few other restaurants each with bigger signs. However, once you enter through the glass doors, the strong scent of sizzling bulgogi and Army stews will let you know that you’re in the right place.

Banchan

The free banchans consisted of a pasta salad, pickled onion, and your obligatory kimchi. Nothing out of the ordinary here, and they were all fun to munch on after we placed our order.

Kimchi Jiggae – $15.00

Despite there being plenty of soups and stews that were harder to find in other Korean restaurants, we ordered the classic kimchi jiggae on this occasion. I make kimchi jiggae quite often at home, especially during Winter, but this was definitely better than my homemade version. It had a great depth of flavour in the soup itself, that’s made up of more than just kimchi and gochujang, which made for a great base for the sweet potato noodle and pork in the stew.

Japchae – $16.00

Japchae is a common Korean dish that is essentially stir fried sweet potato noodle with thinly sliced veggies, including capsicum, carrots, black fungus, mushrooms and beef. The slippery sweet potato noodles were sweet and salty, with a strong sesame flavour from the ample use of sesame oil, a staple in Korean cuisine. Despite this being a quite pedestrian dish usually, I actually really enjoyed it.

Cheese Bukdak – $19.00

The fiery colour of the stir fried chicken caught our eyes first, and this was actually quite spicy. The chicken pieces were quite tender, and the cheese toned down the spiciness slightly. The strong spicy flavour meant that it was a great dish to have with a plain bowl of rice, but if you can’t handle a lot of heat, I’d say give this a miss, or be prepared to be drinking plenty of water after every bite.

Everything that we tried at Gukbab was quite authentic, and the restaurant is great for a bigger gathering, given the extensiveness of the menu, ranging from stews, fried chicken, bibimbab, hot plates and even bingsu!

The byu-dagi guk bab is said to be the signature dish of the restaurant, and I definitely look forward to trying it out on my next visit, just gotta wait until the 40 degrees days are over.

How to get here:
Gukbab is located on Little Lonsdale Street, just two minutes walk away from Flagstaff station.

GUKBAB Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Goodovening

Some food trends come and go, but Korean fried chicken is here to stay, and I’m all for it – nothing brings satisfaction to the table quite like a plate of greasy chicken.

While there are some promising restaurants that can always be counted on, I had wanted to try out Goodovening for a while now. The restaurant had been packed on the few times that I had walked past, so we made sure to book beforehand.

The outdoor seating area was reminiscent of restaurants scattered on the streets of Seoul, being slightly elevated, lit dimly and the tables are set under clear covers, which means diners can sit outside all year round.

Complimentary

I have no idea what these were, and it’s hard to describe the taste. They were sort of tasteless to be honest, and quite hard, but were fun to nibble on nonetheless. We finished chewing on these quickly actually, and the waitress was more than happy to bring us more without us having to ask.

Fried Chicken (16 pcs, half original and half soy garlic) – $34.00

Of course, we had to test out the benchmark first with some fried chicken. The batter looked promising, and indeed had that light airiness that I have become accustomed to. We chose soy garlic for the flavoured half, and although the chicken had less sauce on it than other places, they were sweet and tangy, and the crispy batter was not compromised at all.

The chicken came with a cabbage coleslaw and we also order some chips ($5.00) with it, because hey, if you’re going to be frying chicken then you might as well fry some potatoes on the side!

Hot Chilli Cheese Chicken & Rice Ball – $25.00

Cheese make any food taste better, and Koreans are known for putting cheese over absolutely everything. The spicy chicken pieces were very punchy and had a nice kick to it, and the cheese added some creaminess to the dish.

Hot Chilli Cheese Chicken & Rice Ball – $25.00

Although nothing out of the ordinary, these rice balls were adorable and fun to eat with the chicken, and also helped to tame down the spiciness when needed.

Carbonara Chicken – $35.00

We’ve gone all out at this point, so what’s one more chicken dish? Carbona chicken is exactly as it sounds; the pan was filled with boneless fried chicken, fries and cabbage, all served on top of a thick and creamy carbonara sauce. This was indulgent to say the least, with the crunchy chicken paired especially well with the richness of the sauce. We all thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite of this.

The dinner actually turned out to be a surprise birthday dinner for me, my friends had bought me my favourite cake from Bibelot, and it was a really enjoyable night for all of us. My friend had asked one of the waiter to put the cake in the fridge at the beginning of the meal, along with some candles. At the end of our meal, the same waiter came out and plopped the cake box in the middle of the table, without opening the box or clearing out our chicken bone filled plates first. I was so confused by this point, and my friend had to ask him to bring out the candles and a lighter in two separate attempts. I mean it was a little odd, but we all had a good laugh about it. It probably just came down to a matter of miscommunication, but I guess just make sure that you ask the waiter to bring out the cake more clearly if you were also celebrating a birthday?

We tried out three styles of chicken at Goodovening, and maybe that seems like a lot, but the extensive menu actually made it really difficult to narrow our choices down. I’m definitely looking forward to returning, although it’ll be hard to not order the Chicken Carbonara again, I will try to venture out and try out some of the other chicken dishes on offer.

How to get here:
Goodovening is located on Queen Street, get off at Flagstaff station and the restaurant is around seven minutes walk away.

Goodovening Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oriental Spoon

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Oriental Spoon is amongst one of the oldest Korean restaurant in CBD, backed up by no evidence other than my memory. I was never really that big a fan of it, but after being turned away at three Korean restaurants, we finally admitted defeat and walked into Oriental Spoon at 9pm.

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Top: Bean Sprouts | Bottom: Kimchi

The banchans were placed promptly on our table. The bean sprouts were pleasant enough, but the kimchi was a lot sweeter than I’m used to.

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Top: Cucumber Kimchi | Bottom: Fishcake

The cucumber kimchi had the same sweetness as the standard kimchi, and the fishcake had a nice bite to it.

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Fried Chicken Combo – Soy and Sweet Chilli: $34.00

The whole night we were trying to hunt down some Korean Fried Chicken, so this was a no-brainer of an order. When the chicken was placed in front of us, it looked so sad and pathetic. There was only 10 pieces of chicken, and the pieces were quite small too. My Korean friend even asked the waitress if this was a full of half serving, and we were told it was indeed the full one, and the waitress looked a little embarrassed by the question, if that’s any indication.

Size apart, these were pretty disappointing taste wise too. My friend said they were no better than actual KFC chicken, which I had to agree with, there was barely any sauce, and the chicken were just not the crunchy and juice kind that I’m used to from other Korean restaurants.

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Jap Chae – $17.90

We also got the jap chae to fill us up, which is sort of like a fried noodle dish with sweet potato noodle, sliced beef and a variety of vegetables. According to my friend, the authentic way to make this dish is to cook each element separately, and then mixing it together, to ensure everything is cooked perfectly. The dish is meant to have a very light flavouring of soy and sesame oil, but this was not the case here at all. This reminded all of us of beef bulgogi, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not the flavour you have in mind when it comes to jap chae.

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The restaurant was reasonably filled up when we visited, and there was a range of customers. Given that Oriental Spoon has stayed around for years, and expanded during that time, clearly it’s doing something right, but I am unwilling to give it another go after this meal, especially because there are so many grean Korean restaurants around Melbourne.

How to get there:
Oriental Spoon is located on La Trobe Street, 5 minutes walk away from Melbourne Central.

Oriental Spoon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Palsaik

Endless choice of meat and fun DIY, what’s not to love about Korean BBQ? I mean okay, the smell lingers for days, but that’s a price worth paying for. Palsaik specialises in Korean BBQ, and has been around for a while now, and I finally made it down there one Monday night with a friend.

The interior was a lot sleeker than I expected, mood lighting all around (which means bad photos unfortunately), and there was plenty of tables. The whole space looked more spacious than Korean restaurants I’m used to.

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Palsaik Set – $58.80

We get the all-so-famous Palsaik set, also known as the 8 flavour pork belly set! The set included 8 different flavours of pork belly (duh); wine, original, ginseng, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste and red pepper paste; as well as a seafood and soybean paste stew, two steamed rice, and assorted vegetables.

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Seafood and Soybean Paste Stew

The stew was quite flavourful, and had prawns, mussels and calamari rings.

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Banchan

There was also some lettuce, as well as kimchi, spring onion salad, pickled radish and pickled onion, so that you can wrap up the pork belly in the lettuce, and a combination of whatever sides you fancy.

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But let’s be real, the best part about Korean BBQ is all in the cooking! The sizzle of the meat, and watching them caramelise, it’s just such a satisfying experience. Out of the eight flavours, my personal favourite was garlic and red pepper paste, the garlic was, well, garlicy and delicious, and the red pepper paste lent the pork belly some spiciness, which almost always gets a tick in my book.

We all know the real purpose of those vegetables – to make us feel good about ourselves for eating vegetables, and hey, they did their job.

Although I much prefer having Korean BBQ at home, if you do want to head out into Town for some Korean BBQ, then Palsaik is definitely a great choice! With a decent selection of meat, and a great atmosphere, it’s suitable for both small and large groups.

How to get there:
Palsaik is located on Little Bourke Street, around 10 minutes walk from Melbourne Central.

Palsaik BBQ Korean Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bon Chicken & Beer

Instead of me whining about how hard law school has been for the hundredth time, let’s just get onto the review.

Bon Chicken & Beer is a new eatery on Kingsway, there are already some great Korean restaurants in the area, however, none of them specialise in Korean fried chicken, something that I crave from time to time.

The restaurant was quite small, but the service was friendly and we were sat down promptly.

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Complimentary salad

Instead of the usual banchan, salad and pickles were served alongside the fried chicken. The salad was kind of like a coleslaw, and had plenty of spicy mayo on top.

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Pickled radish

The pickled radish was very refreshing, and did help to prevent the other dishes from being too cloyingly heavy.

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Kimchi Pancake – $14.00

We started off with a classic, kimchi pancake. The kimchi pancake was not as crispy as I like, however, this is probably due to the amount of kimchi that was in the dough, and the fact that it’s not overly oily, like my favourite rendition of the dish from Joomak. The sauce in the middle was very salty though, you only need the tiniest bit for some extra flavour.

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Tteobokki – $15.00

Another crowd favourite is the tteobokki. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, it’s basically cylinder shaped rice cake stir fried in a sweet and spicy sauce with vegetables, fish cake, and some ramen thrown into the mix. Although nothing out of the ordinary, this was very comforting to nibble on.

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Half & Half Chicken: Sweet Chilli and Soy Garlic – $33.00

For those of you who are as indecisive as me when it comes to ordering, the half and half is such a God send. The chicken had a super crispy batter which I loved, and my favourite out of the two was the soy garlic, it had the perfect balance of flavour, and the chicken was extremely tender. The sweet chilli was great too, however, there a little too much sauce for my liking.6Although Bon Chicken & Beer opened not too long ago, it was already pretty busy, clearly people can never say no to fried chicken on a cold Winter night. If you’re wanting to try some chicken that’s not from Gami, then Bon might be where you should head to next, some of my friends actually prefer the chicken at Bon better, if that’s any indication.

How to get there:
Bon Chicken & Beer is located on Kingsway in Glen Waverley, just 5 minutes walk from Glen Waverley station.

Bon Chicken & Beer Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato