Category Archives: Korean

Joomak

Joomak
Basement, 407-409 Swanston Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9663 7123
Joomak on Urbanspoon
joomak booth

Melbourne boasts of secret laneways and underground restaurants. Joomak is one such place, hidden in the basement of the Druids House along Swanston Street. Head downstairs and be welcomed by blue discotech fairy lights draped across each private dining cubicle, great for group huddling and gossiping over Korean nibbles and drinks.

joomakshoju
Pineapple soju $16

Toong organised a girls night out to celebrate her birthday and hens night. It was a small gathering of herself, Long Legs, Q and me. Toong had been here several times and loved the pineapple soju. It tasted exactly like pineapple syrup, sans the taste or smell of alcohol, making it an underestimated beverage that is pleasant-tasting and easy to drink.

Food is of a share-plate concept with no individual rice dishes such as bibimbaps gracing the menu. A button is located on the pillar and pressing it signals the waiter to your table. That night we shared 5 dishes amongst us 4.

ricecakes
Rice cake with seafood $24
Ban Chan

The dish of rice cakes with seafood was the first to be set down. Normally involving cheese, Long Legs had requested that the cheese be omitted. It wasn’t quite my thing. Firstly, I’m not a fan of the Korean rice cake, which I find rather dense and chewy. Also the sauce was heavy and sweet, making it a combination not to my liking. Long Legs does like the Korean rice cakes though, and found no fault with the dish.

pancake
Kimchi and squid pancake $17

The rest of the dishes captured my full attention, especially the kimchi and tofu soup (which is one of my favourite Korean dishes) and the kimchi and squid pancake. The soup, while nothing to shout about, ticks all the boxes of spicy, bubbling and comforting. Oddly enough I liked the pancake (I wasn’t expecting to), with its resilient chunks of squid and undetectable kimchi flavour.

beef
Beef short-rib soup $16

We also shared a beef short-rib soup and a chicken stew dish whose particulars I don’t fully remember. Both was tasty and full of flavour, heart-warming and would be perfect for winter.

stew
Braising chicken with spicy sauce $17

If you’re interested in some eclectic Korean food and love exploring Melbourne’s hidden spaces, give Joo Mak a visit when you’re next passing by.

 

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Filed under CBD, Korean

Rice Workshop, Raw Trader

Rice Workshop
238 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9650 6663
Rice Workshop on Urbanspoon

rice workshop

Sometimes all I’m after is a quick no-frills tasty meal that is easy on the wallet and super satisfying. Rice Workshop is one such place where the food ticks all those boxes for me.

The concept is simple: choose your staple of rice or noodles, add on the seasoned meat and toppings (ontama egg for me), and if that’s not enough, pick from a selection of deep fried goodies to complete the experience.

beefbowl
Regular kimchi beef $8.50, add ontama egg

My comfort meal at Rick Workshop is the kimchi beef bowl with an added soft-boiled egg. The thin slices of fatty beef are marinated in a sweet soy with slight hints of maple. Paired with slightly spicy vinegary kimchi, it’s a sucker of a combination that gets to me each time. An ooey-gooey egg is cracked over the ricebowl and coats everything with a gelatinous slurpy egg blanket, yum!

Complimentary sides of pickled ginger or radish are available and I always pile my bowl high with the radish. The piquant crunch is irresistible!

A simple soft serve of matcha or black sesame is available for those needing to round up the meal with something sweet.

Raw Trader
10 Sutherland Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 4 7869 2008
Raw Trader on Urbanspoon

raw trader

For myself, I was hankering for a healthier sweet treat after gobbling up my meal. I crossed a couple blocks to Raw Trader, a healthy café situated near Short Stop Donuts that offers raw, unprocessed, vegan dishes. I indulged in a chai “cheesecake” and enjoyed the fragrant hints of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. The texture of the cake was creamily smooth and made for a wonderful guilt-free way to finish up my day in the city.

chai cheesecake
Chai cheesecake $10

Tummy satisfaction doesn’t always need to be in the form of a fancy degustation. I find that simple pleasures of delicious fuss-free food warms the soul. What’s your go-to meal for a quick soothing?

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Filed under Asian, CBD, Chai, Japanese, Korean, Raw, Sweets

Chimac, Pidapipo

chimac

Chimac
Shop 1 39-47 Peel Street
West Melbourne
Vic 3003
+61 3 9939 5916
Chimac on Urbanspoon

Chimac has been on Liz’s and my wishlists for a while. After hearing good reviews from Fakebooo, a double dinner date was arranged.

Chimac focuses on fusion Korean street food and with the slogan “I love chicken and beer”, we knew we were at the right place for some finger-licking KFC.

beef
Draft by Jiaro HITE (jug) $18

Apparently Hart is a major lightweight so he stuck to Coke while the rest of us indulged in the appropriate beverage. The Korean draft was pleasant and light, perfect for the deep-fried madness that was to come.

The first dish to grace our table was an interesting combination of melted cheese, firm tofu and kimchi on a hot plate. We loved it. Grilling the kimchi intensified its depth, working well with the neutral tofu.

burritopancake
(Left) Joeeon burrito – spicy pork $15
(Right) Seafood pancake – prawns, squids and scallion $17

We also enjoyed a seafood pancake and a burrito. While the pancake was alright and nothing to shout about, the burrito wrap, Chimac’s take on the popular Mexican snack, made for a delicious mouthful. It was stuffed with rice, jalapenos, sour cream and spicy pork belly and it worked.

fried chickentofu kimchi
(Left) Chimac Chicken (including salad and pickled daikon) – mix and match of Ultra Crispy and Wonder Soy $38
(Right) Tofu on kimchi field – tofu, cheese and caramelised kimchi $22

The star of the night had to be the fried chicken. We chose a mix of “ultra crispy” and “wonder soy”. The latter was a lighter version of teriyaki and still leant towards the sweet side. I do not want to imagine how insanely sweet the ‘bloody sweet’ version will be. We all agreed that the ultra crispy was the preferred choice. No secret herbs and spices needed, this blew us away as soon we crunched in. I loved how little batter is used, as opposed to the usual thick-battered chicken from other Korean joints. Hart even declared it the best Korean fried chicken he’d come across.

Needless to say, all of us had a bloody delicious time at Chimac. Hart’s so smitten by the chicken that he’s already made plans to return the following week. As for myself, I’m curious about the rest of the Mexican/Korean menu (ta-kors anyone?) and I can never say no to good ol’ fried chicken.

pidapipo

Pidapipo
299 Lygon Street
Carlton
Vic 3053
+61 3 9347 4596
Chimac on Urbanspoon

gelato
(Left) Fior di latte $4
(Right) Ricotta, honey and cinnamon $4

Despite being stuffed to the max, I thought ice cream will be the perfect way to fill in the gaps in my stomach. What better place to check out than the newly opened Pidapipo? There was a queue, as expected, but it moved along pretty quick. I got a scoop of the Christmas special: ricotta, honey and cinnamon, while the Angmoh lapped up some fior di latte. Oddly the gelato wasn’t as good as how we’d remembered it. Was it because our expectations were set too high or was the quality truly compromised by the crowd and pressure? I’ll probably let the excitement settle down before heading back for 2nds at Pidapipo.

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Filed under Carlton, Gelato, Korean, Mexican, West Melbourne

Kong

Kong
599 Church Street
Richmond
Vic 3121
+61 3 9427 1307
Kong BBQ on Urbanspoon

kong

Cookie Monster keeps up with food trends and suggested lunch at Kong. I was more than happy to go along with her suggestion.

I zoomed across the south-east suburbs to get to Richmond after work on a Saturday afternoon, rocking up just shy of 2pm. The restaurant was pumping but we managed to get a table rather quickly.

cocktailpickles
(Left) Raspberry wine, vodka, fresh lemon, pomegranate, pink grapefruit $17
(Right) Trio of kimchi and pickles $7

A stiff drink was in order albeit a feminine one and I loved every drop of my raspberry wine. A starter of zucchini and daikon kimchi with pickled pumpkin was the appropriate way to awaken the palate. Cookie Monster was really impressed with the pumpkin and I ate it despite not being a fan of the vegetable.

buns
(Top) Soft shell crab with salted duck egg relish and coriander bun $6
(Middle) Peanut butter salt and pepper tofu with burnt chilli mayo bun $6
(Bottom) Spicy pork belly with pickled cucumber and kong crazy horse chilli bun $6

Cookie Monster and The Angmoh knew what they wanted very quickly. It was the soft shell crab and pork belly buns they were seeking. The Angmoh’s good intentions of letting me sample his pork belly bun disappeared as soon as he bit into it; it was packed with flavour and studded with a perfect crackle. I forgave him as I can only imagine how incredible it was. Cookie Monster and Hughey B had the soft shell crab buns and from the rate of how quickly these were devoured, I concluded they had no complaints. I had a peanut butter tofu bun. I do prefer the softer silken tofu from Wonderbao, but the combination of the nut butter, salty pickled vegetable and kimchi was excellent.

chopsticksroti
Pulled pork, slaw, kimchi, burnt chilli mayo ssam roti-roll $12

We couldn’t go past a roti dish after the waiter explained that a heap of time and experimentation were invested into perfecting the recipe for the wrap. It came neatly sliced into 4 portions, blanketing pulled pork, slaw and kimchi. It was pretty good indeed.

brisketsalmon
(Left) Bossam – 16hr smoked brisket with sansho pepper and grilled chilli $18
(Right) Wood roasted salmon with crispy skin seaweed salad and kimchi $21

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t bothered by ordering from the mains section in a Korean BBQ restaurant. The food came cooked to order, there was no fussing about with the flame and I wouldn’t leave smelling like charred meat. We shared 3 mains amongst us, a roast salmon, a pork belly soba salad and slow-cooked brisket. The fish and beef were well-executed and cooked to perfection. However the seasonings in both dishes were overwhelming and leant towards salty. I enjoyed the pork belly noodles purely because it did not have an overpowering dressing. Oh wait, the crackling atop the noodles was the most awesome keropok too!

bossam
Bossam – pork belly with soba noodle, nashi and apple soy $18

To offset all that protein we thought something green might work well. We ordered the dashi-cooked spinach because of its tongue-twisting name but were let down by the size and lacklustre simplicity of it. The dashi stock was faint and the overall taste of the dish came from the sesame-dressing. None of us thought it was worth its price tag.

spinach
Oshitashi-dashi poached spinach with sesame, mirin and soy $16

Having enjoyed Chin Chin, I wanted to be wowed by Kong. The Angmoh gave it his thumbs up but the rest of us thought that the marinades and seasonings suffocated the main ingredients in most dishes. The use of miso, spicy bean paste (dou ban jiang) and ssam jang is inevitable in any Korean/Japanese joint but should be used sparingly or thoughtfully balanced out. Don’t get me wrong, that walnut ssam jang was indeed delicious and I am keen to return to Kong to try other dishes but will be choosing wisely from the menu.

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Filed under Japanese, Korean, Korean BBQ, Richmond

ChangGo

ChangGo
70 Little LaTrobe Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
ChangGo on Urbanspoon

chang go

Asian blood runs through my veins. I can pick up a grain of rice with chop sticks, I love karaoke and I’m pretty quick at doing Mathematics as long as it involves single digits in a plus or minus equation. And yet there’s one thing I don’t enjoy: a group meal involving huddling over a communal cooking source, table crammed with plates and bowls and small dishes with elbows jostling into each other’s personal space. Steamboat is one such occasion, and the other is Korean BBQ. There’s a tendency to eat too much and you always walk out of the restaurant in dire need of a shower.

banchan

But still, loyalty runs deep and so, when Spot invited us for a get together at Chang Go, I braced myself and with the deep numbing joint aches signalling an impending cold, I piled on thermals and a thick ski jacket, hopped onto a tram and headed towards the city.

pork belly

Famous for its 8-flavour pork belly, Chang Go has developed a bit of a fan club. Ingeniously, Spot managed to secure an early booking at 6pm, allowing us to hurdle over the gathering crowd, right into the techno-doof beats and smoky depths of the restaurant.

Our dinner that night consisted a small party of four: Spot, Fakebooo, The Angmoh and myself. We got stuck into dinner quickly, ordering the pork belly set and the beef combo. Each came with 2 serves of rice, a stew, an array of meats, and of course, as with any Korean meal, a seemingly limitless serve of banchan. The kimchi here is really nice, strong with chilli and well-balanced with a sweet tinge to counter the usual piquancy of the dish.

radish

First up, the pork belly. This was served on an elongated platter, with each marinade inscribed into the wood. It does look like a massive serve of meat, but once cooked, shrinks down rather significantly. The hot grill is set an angle, allowing the copious amount of oil to drain into a collecting tub. The set up even came with a little scraper, made up of a wedge of radish speared onto a stick. The Angmoh took his manly BBQ duties seriously and wielded the radish like a gladiator about to joust. But back to the meat – the 8 flavours consist of plain, wine, garlic, ginseng, herb, curry, miso and red pepper paste. Amongst the flavours, it was ubiquitous that the wine and miso-marinated pork belly were well-received. I thought the garlic and ginseng ones were pretty good too. All of us frowned at the curry and herb marinades. Fakebooo remarked that the curry seasoning tasted like that of Twisties and I personally thought the rosemary did not complement the pork.

beef

As soon as the pork belly platter was cleared, the cooking plate got replaced with a grill and the beef was swiftly set down. Our beef combo included premium beef rib, top side beef and flank beef. The latter two come marinated in a slightly sweetish sauce. We all liked the non-marinated beef rib best.

kimchi

Did Chang Go change my opinion of Korean BBQ? I’m afraid I’m still going to be hesitant about it in future, preferring alternatives where food that has already been cooked is set down before me, and I can leave without then having to shampoo my hair twice. That said, the experience at Chang Go was not unpleasant. Waiters were attentive and walked about frequently to clear plates, top up banchan and keep an eye on the cooking meats. The quality of pork and beef are very decent, with the pork lacking that potential pungent “porky” taste, and the beef having good flavours, probably from the use of grain-fed cattle. The company completes the experience and I reckon my cold got dispelled by good hot food with loads of anti-oxidant rich garlic and chilli.

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Filed under CBD, Korean, Korean BBQ

Kass Kass

Kass Kass
490 Flinders Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
KassKass Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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I like to think of myself as a not-that-demanding female. In fact, I suppose I could, in an extremely generous manner of speaking, describe myself to be easily pleased. It doesn’t take much, I promise. Just gather up my girlfriends, chuck us into a karaoke room and complete the night with fried chicken. And so it was on one unforgettable night when Daisy (Never Too Sweet For Me), Ashley (I’m So Hungree) and myself had a 3 hour singing session followed by a lovely meal at Korean restaurant Kass Kass.

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Korean style fried chicken – crispy deep fried chicken with homemade batter, served with cabbage salad and daikon pickles $28

We crooned, we swayed, we clapped, we screeched. They got hungry, I got hangry. We climbed into Daisy’s nifty little car and made our way across the city to Flinders Street for KFC. Korean Fried Chicken, to be precise.

IMG_5560
Tofu Salad $10

I’ll be honest, I’ve tried the Korean Fried Chicken at Gami and didn’t like it one single bit. I like my fried chicken with minimum batter, maximum seasoning. And no icky sweet sauce to turn it into a smulch of sticky soggy avian mess, thank you very much. The fried chicken at Kass Kass put a smile on my face. The pieces of chicken were juicy, and they weren’t hidden under a thick armour of batter. The skins were crisp and every bite resounded with an audible crunch.

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Pork loin kass – Japanese style fresh breadcrumbed meats served with rice, miso soup, cabbage salad and homemade sauce $16

Apart from the KFC, we also shared the katsu pork loin, tofu salad and bibimbap. The fried pork was a touch dry but its cold dipping sauce of sweetened worchestershire helped. The salad came with pan-fried tofu, simple and delicious. I shrugged at the bibimbap. I’m biased towards Darac’s bibimbap, and hence I can’t give Kass Kass the thumb’s up. I also have to point out that the usual Korean appetisers of kimchi, seasoned bean sprouts, sweetened potato etc. weren’t offered that evening, which is, hmm, unusual.

IMG_5559
Bibimbap $15

There you have it. A simple girls’ night out of music, singing, good food and fried chicken is one of the many ways to my heart.

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Filed under CBD, Korean

Cheap and cheery CBD eats

Let’s face it. There are days where you’ve slugged all day at work, have totally forgotten to take something out of the freezer to defrost and just can’t face heading to the supermarket to buy and much less cook dinner. It’s times like these where something quick, simple, delicious and not to mention, cheap, is highly desired. Take a stab at the following four options: there’s Malaysian, Korean, Japan and French to suit fussy tastebuds.

Kitchen Inn
469 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9328 2562
Kitchen Inn on Urbanspoon

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It was one of those evenings after gym where I hadn’t prepared any food for dinner and couldn’t be half-assed to buy and cook something. I texted Fakebooo to ask if he had any dinner plans that evening and fortunately for me, he hadn’t and didn’t mind a quick cheap meal after knocking off work.

We decided to meet on the “Asian Food Stretch” of Elizabeth Street. I arrived earlier and started considered my choices, then discovered Kitchen Inn. Fakebooo arrived soon enough and commented that the “Kolo Mee” was pretty good. Since I’d yet to try Kitchen Inn, we decided to give it a go.

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Kampua special $11

While many Singaporean and Malaysian dishes overlap, several dishes in Kitchen Inn sounded alien to me. Fakebooo and I braved the unfamiliar and ordered two dishes that we did not recognize. I had the Kampua Noodles while Fakebooo sampled the Sarawak Laksa.

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Sarawak Laksa $10.90

My dish appeared as a bowl of dried yellow noodles topped with a small mound of char siew and prawns, garnished with a sprinkling of fried shallots. Some sauce (which I later found out contains pork lard) sits on the bottom of the bowl and all the ingredients are mixed deftly with chopsticks. It was delicious. Fakebooo’s sarawak laksa turned out to be somewhat similar to chicken curry noodles with a sprinkling of five spice. The soup was grainy with peppery bits but the fragrance and flavour made it enjoyable.

It was good crossing into unknown territories that evening and trying new and different Malaysian dishes.

Tarng
32 A’Beckett Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9639 4456
Tarng on Urbanspoon
trang - sunflower

I love the décor at Tarng. The studded sunflowers on the black wall uplift what would otherwise be a dark and stern appearance for the restaurant.

Trang - sides

I was in the mood for kimchi stew that evening. The Angmoh loves his Korean BBQ, and so, ordered from the BBQ set of the menu.

trang - kimchitrang - pork
(Left) Kimchi stew – kimchi soup with pork and tofu $12.80
(Right) BBQ pork belly with spicy sauce $15.80

My stew was spicy and tangy, the perfect combination for tempting and whetting my palate. The pork melded into the soup and gave it a rich buttery roundness. The Angmoh’s dish was served on a sizzling hot plate that had the adorable shape of a fish. Unfortunately the ratio of sliced onions to pork was extremely skewed towards the former and it all swam in a pool of oily sweet sauce. I took pity on The Angmoh and graciously shared my stew with him.

While Tarng was a hit and miss this time, my previous visits have been enjoyable. Stick with the hotpots or stews, just to be safe.

Roule Galette
241 Flinders Lane
Scott Aly
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9639 0307
Roule Galette on Urbanspoon

roule galette 01

Transport away from the busy Melbourne CBD into a romantic alley of France with Roule Galette. It is cute, quaint and saturated with the essence of everything French. The music, the accents and, of course, the food brings back happy memories of Paris and a forlornly sigh in my heart.

It was around lunch time when we stepped foot into the café. The Angmoh’s smoked salmon crepe and my egg and ham galette were delicious and surprisingly filling. The crepes were nicely thin and had good texture. The balance of batter to ingredients was also well-achieved.

galettes
(Top) Océane – smoked salmon and fresh yoghurt sauce with lemon and chives $13
(Bottom) Complète – egg, ham and Emmental $10

I have tried the dessert crepes on previous occasions and the one with rose jam is a particular favourite of mine. The jam is not sickeningly sweet and the sweet floral fragrance gives the dish a wonderful perfume.

Roule Galette is a good way to dodge the hustle and bustle of the city for a romantic escape into France.

roule galette

Dontoo
330 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne
Vic 3000
+61 3 9670 7113
DonToo on Urbanspoon

dontoo

To commemorate Mid-Autumn Festival, a small gathering was organized by Serena (Pigging Out Around the World) for a mooncake test taste. (I’d eavesdropped on a twitter conversation and shamelessly did a self-invite. Thanks Serena, for arranging this get together.) A group of 7, myself and Fakebooo included, huddled around the QV foodcourt on a cold spring evening and put 7 mooncakes on the line; there were 3 different brands represented across 5 traditional mooncakes and 2 snow skin mooncakes. Amongst the traditional yolk-filled ones, we compared white lotus with yellow lotus pastes.

mooncakes

In the end, Maxim’s white lotus with egg yolk came out tops. It was smooth, not too oily nor sweet and had the wonderful light scent of the lotus seed. The snow skin mooncakes were god-awful and had overpowering chemical fruit flavours in the filling. I shudder at the very recollection of them.

Maxim’s mooncakes are readily available from the Maxim’s bakery in Chinatown but it is not produced by said bakery. The bakery borrows a famous brand from Hong Kong, the very same that produces and exports the delicious mooncakes. These mooncakes can also be bought from various Asian grocers.

After saturating our tastebuds with sugar, oil and lotus paste, Fakebooo and I made our way to Dontoo. We needed something soupy and wholesome to offset the heaviness of our pre-dinner dessert, and so, ramen it was.

Dontoo is by the same people of Don Don, famous for cheap and tasty Japanese rice dishes and bento sets. The former dishes up ramen during weekday nights. When you arrive at Dontoo, mark your order on the sheets provided, grab a table and wait to slurp up some delicious Japanese noodles and broth.

dontoo - order

My Kuon ramen dish was the most basic on the menu, with a serve of char-shu, soft boiled egg and vegetables. The soup was rich with dashi (or smoked bonito) and the generous serve of ingredients made it a very filling meal. The soft-boiled egg was gooey and had the delicious aroma of soy while the thick cut charshu was appropriately fatty, soft and sweet.

ramen
Kuon ramen – charshu pork slices, vegetables, seaweed and seasoned egg $8.90

Fakebooo likes the Tsukemen at Dontoo and decided to have it again. The cold ramen noodles had a delightfully pronounced bite. They are dipped in a separately served salty soup to provide great flavour.

dontoo - ramen
(Top right) Tsukemen – chilled ramen served separately with “melt in your mouth” pork pieces and dipping sauce $11.90
(Bottom left) Kuon ramen

I suspect different provinces of Japan do ramen differently. I am very used to ramen served with Tonkotsu (pork-based) broths with pickled bamboo shoots. Nevertheless I very much enjoy the ramen at Dontoo. The texture of the noodles and flavour of the ever-important egg and charshu hit  the spot for me and hence is one of my recommended ramen bars of Melbourne.

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Filed under CBD, French, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Noodles, Ramen, Sweets