The un­known zone

There’s a feast to be had at Korea House for those in the know, but needed help learn­ing the drill.

The Press - Your Weekend (The Press) - - Dine - Ewan Sar­gent

The dish­washer is worked hard at this restau­rant. I counted the plates, bowls and glasses left on our ta­ble at the end of the meal and it num­bered 30 plus. Al­most a dish­washer load for just the three of us, and no desserts.

Kore­ans give you lots of sides with their bar­be­cue meats and while it makes the plate count soar, it also makes you feel like you are hav­ing a great feast. Who doesn’t love that?

Korea House is tucked away in the Bish­op­dale Mall. It’s been around for a while but seems to fly well un­der the radar.

We heard it did a good job of au­then­tic dishes and also that it was a reg­u­lar stop for tour groups. We found proof of both on the night.

I’ll be hon­est, Korean din­ing is out­side my usual zone. But, dou­bling down on the con­fu­sion, the restau­rant staff as­sumed we’d know ex­actly how it all works. There was lit­tle wel­come – you turn up and they feed you and you go – seems to be the vibe.

In the end a young wait­ress did give us some tips when we asked for help and had very spe­cific ques­tions. But first came some fas­ci­nat­ing at­tempts to or­der from the small drinks menu.

It had a glass of “house wine” for $8. You pick red or white. We chose white. That went well.

But all three listed fruit juices were sold out. I asked about the mak­ge­olli rice wine, but there was none of that left. I asked for an Asahi beer, but none left again. It was like a plague of lo­custs had been through the drinks fridge.

I tried a dif­fer­ent ap­proach: “What beers are left?” “Tui”, she told me and “that one” point­ing to Stein­lager on the list. “Stein­lager please,” I said. I got a Heineken.

The menu is weighted to­wards group eat­ing with var­i­ous set cour­ses and dishes for a min­i­mum of two. All the usual Korean favourites are there – kim­chi, soy bean paste, bul­gogi, bibim­bap.

Two of us shared the Korea House BBQ spe­cial for $25 each while the third had the bul­gogi (sliced grilled beef) and sprouts bibim­bap (sal­ads and meat on rice with sauce).

Be­fore our food ar­rived, we saw the ma­chine-like pre­ci­sion of tour group din­ing. A Korean group sat down to places al­ready set with side dishes. Plates of hot food were land­ing even as they took their jack­ets off. They ate quickly and then dis­ap­peared, all within about 15 min­utes.

A plate of raw meat ap­peared on our ta­ble along with a por­ta­ble bar­be­cue, which the wait­ress fired up for us. The bar­be­cue has a dome-like hot plate and the top is hot­ter than the sides. It kept me busy cook­ing and serv­ing thinly sliced pork shoul­der, pork belly strips, steak, mush­rooms, potato slices and onions.

Bowls of salad ap­peared with sauces – we had soy bean paste, gochu­jang – and sides of kim­chi, sea­weed, spicy cau­li­flower, seasame-flavoured sprouts and a spinach dish.

Some of the flavours we recog­nised. Others we didn’t. The kim­chi cab­bage was mild and the real heat seemed to lie among some lit­tle cau­li­flower flo­rets. This was fun din­ing, with lots of tasty twists and turns. Al­ways it felt healthy.

An­other high­light was a spicy soy bean paste soup with pota­toes served with bowls of rice that came as part of the BBQ spe­cial course. The fer­mented paste soup had a deep savouri­ness that said much about what makes Korean food dif­fer­ent.

Next time it would be fun to try seafood like squid, mus­sels and spicy cod fish and the sub­tleties of the noo­dle dishes. And there will be a next time. We are old hands now.

KOREA HOUSE

Bish­op­dale Mall, 133 Far­ring­ton Ave, ph 03 366 8949 Open: daily from 4.30pm-10pm. Price: stews and soups up to $18; stir fry dishes up to $20; hot pot stews up to $50; bibim­bap up to $17. Cost: $67 for three (ex­clud­ing drinks)

Dishes to share dom­i­nate the menu at Korean House.

Ce­ram­ics have be­come the item to covet for your home, but which type should you go for? PHOTO: BELINDA MER­RIE

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