I think I have an issue with Korean cuisine. For some reason, it does not rate highly on my list of favourite things to eat.
This could be attributed to either Melbourne not really having any decent Korean restaurants or simply me and Korean food being as compatible as Collingwood FC and people with class. The first time I had Korean food was back in 1999 (or 2000). It was my cousin Jess’ birthday and she decided to shout the family and her friends dinner at Seoul House on Russell St. I remember being excited to be cooking our own meat on a BBQ placed on our table, a foreign concept to me back then. Excitement, however, turned to disappointment when all I could taste for the rest of the night was god-awful sweetness thanks to whatever they put in the marinade. It was like they had poured an entire 2 litre bottle of coke in the mix or something.
Because of that experience, my stance towards Korean food has been somewhat negative. While I have not actively sought out Korean restaurants as a dinner destinations, I would nevertheless follow a mate there should they wish to have Korean. No matter where I went, the food at every single place never did anything for me. And every time I walked out of a Korean place, I would often smell like 1) smoke, 2) pickled cabbage, 3) garlic or 4) all of the above. So when my mum insisted on having lunch at this Korean restaurant in Chadstone yesterday, I was a bit apprehensive. Adam and I had really wanted to try that dumplings place in Glen Waverley that Dave recommended. But mum was persistent, “No, this place is GREAT!” she assured us. In the end, tightarseness prevailed (she was paying) and so off we went down Warrigal Road to a place called Let’s Bab.
It really is a weird name for a restaurant. Kinda like David Bowie eating a bowl of rice or bibimbab in Seoul (“bab” either refers to the Korean word for rice or “bibimbab”, a Korean dish). The place was rather full when we arrived but luckily, a table for four me, mum, Kenneth and Adam was available for me, mum, Kenneth and Adam. Looking at the menu, I found that half the items were Japanese which meant that there were also takoyaki and udons amongst bulgogis. The prices were also quite reasonable, bento boxes were $8 and mains averaged $9. It took me some time to choose my meal but in the end, I decided to play it safe by going for the Japanese seafood ramen (though the menu claimed that it was “authentic Korean” – ??!).
We shared a plate of korokke (deep fried potato croquettes, $6). The menu advertised 4 pieces but we ended up with 3 whole pieces, cut up to make 6 individual pieces. A sukiyaki-tasting dipping sauce accompanied the croquettes which weren’t anything special.
My seafood ramen ($8.50). Now, where shall I begin? Firstly, the noodles were nothing more than maggi noodles. Secondly, all the “seafood” that was in my soup was one large prawn, two or three smaller shrimps, one small pippi and one piece of seafood extender. The rest of the contents was made up of sliced cabbage and carrots. Finally, the soup. It was way too spicy for me which masked any attempts (or lack of) at flavour. Even Adam, who loves spicy things, found it way too spicy. I struggled to finish the whole thing because it was that horrible. Ugh. And I didn’t eat the kim chi that was provided either.
My mum’s “special” dish of creamy garlic prawns with kim chi fried rice ($15). This item was featured on the specials board and for some reason, mum didn’t see the word “creamy” in it. So when this flouro-toxic waste pile appeared in front of her, she was rather shocked. I managed to have a nibble at the sauce which tasted a lot like a bad batch of carbonara. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever had at an Asian restaurant. Ew. I didn’t bother with the kim chi fried rice because I just knew that I wasn’t going to like it. My mum also left this dish unfinished.
The other two wisely chose rice dishes which were set out the same as the bento boxes (rice+whatever meat you decide to have, fried tofu with okonomiyaki sauce and mayo, kim chi, salad) but a bit more expensive. Kenneth’s bulgogi was $11 while Adam’s unagi on rice was $9.50. I took photos of both their dishes but sadly, they turned out pretty bad so I’ve decided to omit those photos here. I didn’t mange to have a taste of Kenneth’s beef (but it illicited no complaints from the big man) whereas a bite of Adam’s unagi immediately caused a gag reflex as it was way too sweet. Nevertheless, I did eat his tofu (pictured on the bottom right hand corner in the above photo) which, at least, filled me up until we got to Box Hill. And it didn’t suck either.
What about YOU?
Where do you go for Korean food in Melbourne?