The K-Food Revolution
Without a doubt, Korean food is a popular choice in Melbourne. A new restaurant in the CBD pops up all the time so it’s difficult to find ones that are a little different.
After visiting Suda last year, Alice from Suda discussed with me how young Korean people eat a fusion of cuisines – demonstrated by her bulgogi pasta. Earlier this year I also visited JD’s Burgers and had an excellent bulgogi chicken burger – showing that these flavours can be transferred to many other things.
Now it’s all about MODERN Korean food, so here are some that I’ve visited recently to explore the concept.
BEBU: Shop 2, 31 A’Beckett St, Melbourne (next to Wonderbao)
I found out about BEBU via Alice’s Instagram. She tells me the chef is a former chef of Coda – sounds promising already right?
It has a mixture of traditional food and burgers for something more modern. The comforting bibimbap (mixed stone bowl of meat and vegetable) is available and babsang, which I haven’t seen before. It has your usual bulgogi or japchae (sweet potato noodle) dishes but comes with a tray of banchan (side dishes). Click below for more information.
It comes with pickled daikon, red cabbage and Gochujang sauce – that’s the ever popular sweet, red sauce in many Korean dishes. The serving looks small with only a handful of wedges, but the sweet sticky sauce and juicy chicken had enough flavour to fully satiate the tastebuds.
At prices of $15 and $13, you could find slightly cheaper options in the CBD. But I love to support new restaurants and this did hit the spot – will be back to try more burgers. Stella, who was front-of-house, also mentioned they are aiming to do dinner, so I look forward to trying that when it launches!
Uncle Jung’s: 360 Elizabeth st, Melbourne Central (Menzies Lane)
This place is in a unique space in that it is owned by the same company as the two eateries next door: Saigon Square and ChillBros Paletas. Because of this, it has an upstairs seating area (much quieter option to Menzies Lane) where you can eat food from any of these places.
They’ve just updated their menu, but I’m sure they have some premium “off the menu” burgers such as the soft shell crab and prawn burger. The soft shell crab is on display at the counter with POTATO GEMS, so how could I say no??
The charcoal black buns are a bit doughier than your usual bun, but it’s made up for the fact that it’s full of extra vegies such as avocado and tomato. Most other crab burgers I’ve had just have some lettuce/slaw and sauce, so this added some depth.
I chose the spicy potato gems, which weren’t all that spicy, as I expected. It just helps add some extra tangy flavour to go with your meal. We were so full after this, but for $18 it’s a tad pricey. But, my friend enjoyed her burger just as much as I did!
Their other menu items include tacos and classic servings of Korean Fried Chicken. I considered the tacos for something different the second time I visited, but can just never believe they are going to fill me up. Hence, I went for the spicy galbi (beef rib) burger.
Once again, I wasn’t expecting any spiciness but extra flavour, which it did slightly. It went deliciously with the Korean BBQ sauce but my only disappointment was the cheddar cheese. It feels like a shortcut version – just a cold, plain taste and does not compliment the burger at all.
Meanwhile, my friend had the Korean Fried Chicken burger and said it was really good – he also struggled to eat it because the batter made the burger so big!
Uncle Jung’s is open Mon-Thurs 5pm–11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm–11pm and Sun 10am–11pm.
Namu Cafe: Shop C, 389 Lonsdale St (just on Hardware Lane), Melbourne
I had to drop by this one because I saw the kimchi fries on Hungry Cookie’s Instagram. The downside? It’s only available after 2pm!
Instead, I decided to try one of the burgers to see how it compares to everything else. I did consider the quesadillas but wasn’t convinced again. If you haven’t noticed, I have a huge appetite (which is slightly dwindling.)
They also do breakfast but nothing out of the ordinary – that’s a little disappointing. Imagine a Korean-infused breakfast menu! See the menu below.
I chose the Korean bulgogi burger, as this is the only burger that really sounded like Korean fusion.
It was big and juicy, but ultimately tasted almost like a normal burger. You can taste more intense flavours in the beef than a normal patty but there was nothing else to enhance this Korean taste – no sauce, Kimchi or anything…The chips were fat the way I like it, but there was not much seasoning, a bit plain even. If only it came with kimchi fries!
This meal will set you back $15, and is only really if you want a decent burger and happen to be in the area.
Namu Cafe is Mon-Fri 9.30am-4.30pm according to Zomato (or 9am-4pm on their Facebook).
Would love to hear about where your favourite modern Korean places are – comment with your recommendations. I do know of Chimac and Bistro K but haven’t made it to either yet!