THE KOREAN BBQ THEORY

Finding the right Korean BBQ restaurant is not so difficult with this little cheat sheet. The Milk Moustache’s self-described Korean BBQ expert, Naeun Kim, shares with you her secrets.

You know it’s a good Chinese restaurant when you see lots of Chinese people eating there.

Apply this theory to any oriental restaurant, and you never have to eat another greasy Asian meal again.

Being a Korean has its advantages when ordering at Korean BBQ restaurants, so stick with me, and you’ll uncover the secrets to getting the most out of your Korean dining experience.

Disclaimer: This is not a bribe to get you to read to the end – there really are more tips.

Bakehouse Garden is a Korean BBQ restaurant at the end of the trendy George Street, in North Strathfield. It is in a corner of the old Arnott’s biscuit factory site, and has made great use of the space – large wooden tables and chairs that could easily seat about 100 – with an outdoor option for larger groups. The wallpaper is plain in a good way – Korean and Chinese characters neatly adorn the walls, without stealing the spotlight of the giant spherical water fountain by the bar (it is also BYO).

The entrée, savoury seafood and shallot pancake (haemul-pajeon), arrives within ten minutes of ordering, and is a disappointment. At $15, (around $5 higher than most Korean restaurants), the seafood is sporadic and is overpowered by the large pieces of shallots.

The meat arrives shortly after, and the table soon becomes crowded. Pressure is on to quickly finish the pancake to make room for the mains. The meat on the BBQ menu is pretty much the same in every Korean restaurant, so us Koreans judge the restaurant’s generosity with portion size and efficiency of the charcoal burner. The marinated short ribs (yangnyeom-galbi) are just the perfect size, but the menu could be misleading for some. It fails to mention it is only two ribs at $19, which is enough for only one person.

Our individual mains arrive as we gnaw off every piece of meat off the bones (not obligatory, but very satisfying) – spicy soft tofu stew (sundubu-jjigae, $12) and dolsot-bibimbab (boiled rice, mixed grains, beef and vegetables served in a hot stone pot, $12). The tofu stew is small, but you know the saying, good things come in small pots. There are four bibimbabs to choose from, but dolsot is the most popular for a reason. Served in a hot stone bowl, a raw egg is placed on top, cooking quickly against the sides of the bowl. The best is saved till last – before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom is painted with sesame oil, making the bottom layer of rice golden brown and crisp. Here’s a secret – leave some rice at the end, pour water in the bowl and you’ve got yourself nurungji – a traditional Korean aftermeal.

Don’t be enticed by the words, ‘chocolate mousse’ and ‘blueberry swirl’ under desserts. The real Korean ‘desserts’ are hidden under the noodles section. Mul-naengmyeon (buckwheat cold noodles in chilled broth, $12) and bibim-naengmyeon (buckwheat cold noodles mixed in a spicy sauce with vegetables, $12) are mandatory. Koreans never finish a BBQ meal without one of these, but if you’re struggling to breathe, there’s a convenient half size available at $8.

By the time we’ve finished eating, everyone is red-faced, swearing not to eat breakfast tomorrow. Korean barbecue does that to you.

Korean customers are packed to the brim, yelling over the top of each other with their soju-soaked mouths – the thumbs-up sign that it’s a very good Korean restaurant.

Bakehouse BBQ
Address: Shop 4, 9-11 George Street, Strathfield 2135
Phone: (02) 8746 0299
Style: Restaurants
Cuisine: Korean
Hours: Mon-Wed, 11am to 10pm; Thu-Sun, 11am to late
Details: BYO

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