268 victoria St
West Melbourne VIC 3003
+61 3 9329 4293
I used to eye Korean food with caution. Stinky kim chi and way-too-sweet BBQ meat was never on my list of things that I’d go out of my way for. Visits to gems like Oriental Spoon and Yami Yami, however, restored my faith one of Melbourne’s favourite foods so I did not put up much of a fight when I was asked to go to Hallah, a Korean restaurant directly opposite Queen Vic Market, one windy, rainy Friday evening.
The first thing that came to mind when I walked in was ‘I love the cool, smooth timber furnishings.’ My next thoughts were, ‘Why did they name the restaurant after that traditional Jewish bread?’ Thirdly, ‘Why the f*ck are they playing Flo Rida as loud as possible?!?!’ With a slight smile, a waitress led us to a table at the back and left us in the company of a cute stone carving.
Not that we really needed to use it, but there was a button on our (and each) table for diners to press should they need table service. The service on the night we went was as efficient as that race horse and the waitresses all seemed to arrive at our table even before we had raised our hands.
We ordered a jug of Hite beer which isn’t really our beer of preference but when in Rome, do what Romans do right? The beer may have been a tad too dry for our taste, the head disappearing way too quickly and the taste not dissimilar to effking Bud… but whatever, it was drinkable. And it went down PERFECTLY with the fried chicken (see below).
Complimentary tidbits (from top to bottom): spicy pickled cucumber, evil kim chi and sweet pumpkin. A second top-up was also complimentary but any more refills after that attracted a small surcharge ($2, I believe). Adam and I only had the one serving.
We started off some fried mandu, traditional Korean dumplings ($7.50). These dumplings won me over at Yami Yami earlier this year and although Hallah’s ones weren’t quite as awesome, they were nevertheless still good. The crunchy empanada-like skin was a lovely contrast to the softer, delicate strands of pork, vegetables and vermicelli threads that were inside. The accompanying soy and vinegar sauce made them taste all the more, well, tastier.
We also shared a plate of steamed mandu (also $7.50) which were fine, but not as nice as the fried ones. I guess the crispy, fried skins really did make a difference. Oh, and the fact that we weren’t, until now, brutally exposed to Crookers and Pitbull telling everyone that they were natural-born hustlers. Oh, and certified freaks.
Our dolsot bibimbap ($15), a seamless mixture of steamed rice, vegies and marinated beef was presented in a stone pot and next to it, a small bowl of gochujang which is a chilli pepper sauce (I’d insert a witty Red Hot Chilli Peppers joke here but unfortunately I’m too riveted by the state election coverage (no really, I am) that thinking of such a joke would require me to turn away from the television so that I could fully concentrate and not even I am that pro at multi-tasking). This bibimbap was certainly very competent and well, let’s be honest, probably the best I’ve had so far (though I’ve been told that the best bibimbap is found elsewhere). Adam commented on the fact that there weren’t bits of crunchy, burnt bits of rice forming a crust on the bottom of the bowl which was odd – in fact, it was like they didn’t cook the rice in the stone pot at all which may or may not tickle your fancy. Whatever, we both thought that the absence of the rice crusts was refreshing.
Finally, we had a half-serving of fried chicken ($17.50) – “WHAT WE ARE FAMOUS FOR!!!” (I quoted their website, seriously). The option to have the chicken marinated in a variety of flavours was there but we decided to be safe so we went with the original flavour. Some punters claim that Hallah serves the best Korean fried chicken in Melbourne and although I can’t say that I’ve tried many versions of Korean fried chickens (okay fine, I haven’t tried any), I must say that these were pretty damn good! They were beautifully crispy and almost completely drained of oil – think a KFC hot and spicy drumstick but without the hotness and the spices. Hallah’s fried chicken and Hite beer = Marge and Homer Simpson (no prizes in guessing what Homer would be).
Our chicken was served with two sauces: a ‘fruity’ chilli sauce and a chilli mayo sauce. Both sauces tasted pretty similar to one another, with the mayo version of the chilli sauce being obviously more creamy and the chilli flavours more subtle. Either way, they made our chicken taste even more awesome than they were already. This sht was clearly bananas.
Reluctantly, we left Hallah and walked out into the pouring rain. We both thought that this was the perfect meal to brighten up what would have been a miserable Arctic condition-like evening, yet it goes without saying that the chicken and beer would be the perfect pre-bar crawl meal during the Summer months. We will be back to try Hallah’s other variations of their super-freaking-fantastic fried chicken.