1/222 La Trobe St
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9662 2370
A few years ago, if you asked me what I thought of Korean food I would have wrinkled my nose and said that it sucked. Well, probably more eloquently than that but you get the picture. To me, Korean food was all kim chi and BBQ beef that was too sweet for my liking and for a while, I stayed away. My Korean food-loving friends, however, decided to change my perception of Korean food by recommending me places such as Oriental Spoon, Yami Yami and Hallah. Since then, I don’t mind a bit of Korean and will more often than not, happily choose a plate of Korean fried chicken and beer over a meal at KFC. A brief visit to the new Cupcake Central store in Melbourne Central (I don’t like cupcakes at all, but the media release that landed in my inbox promised me free cupcakes if I rocked up on opening day so I was sold) was enough to send Shirley’s and my stomach into hunger mode so we crossed La Trobe to By Korea, a walk-pass-and-you’ll-miss-it Korean restaurant.
If you’ve been following my blog for quite some time, you’ll know that my default dish at Korean restaurant is a bibimbap. There’s something about eating rice, cooked vegies, marinated beef and egg, all mixed with a pepper sauce in a cute little stone bowl which makes the rice down the bottom go all crunchy. By Korea’s beef dol sot bibimbap ($13) was up there in terms of quality bibimbap. What I really liked about the sauce was that it wasn’t as spicy as others I’ve had in the past (by saying this, I’m admitting that I’m a very weak Asian who seemingly can’t handle heat but whatever) and it had a prominent sesame taste which I really liked – it certainly went well with the sweet marinated beef that was, thankfully, not overly sweet to begin with. And while the bowl may have been slightly smaller than what I’m used to, it was actually a perfect size – enough to fill you up.
Shirley had a not-overly-descriptive dish called seafood noodles ($15). Looking a lot like the love child of a bowl of tonkotsu ramen and a packet of those Korean instant noodles, she eyed her bowl with much suspicion. I don’t blame her, really – it was essentially a bowl of milky-white liquid with very minimal noodles and even less seafood items. I didn’t get to taste the dish but I didn’t miss out on much for apparently it was tasteless. Bah.
Thankfully, the serving of BY KOREA (YES, CAPITAL LETTERS!) fried chicken ($25) made up for a disappointing dish for Shirley. And although my bibimbap was delicious, the fried chicken totally rendered it to ‘meh’-ness levels. Each drumstick was perfectly crunchy on the outside and the chicken flesh inside, beautifully tender. Dare I say that they were even better than the ones Adam and I devoured at Hallah all those months ago. Delicious. Sadly, we couldn’t finish the mountain of crispy fried goodness so we got one of the ladies to retrieve a plastic take-away container for Shirley to bring them home in (as an aside, they don’t taste so good when reheated).
Despite the WTF seafood noodle dish, we both said that we’ll be back just for the chicken (well okay, the bibimbap for me too). Its central location and reasonable prices makes it a far better option than Hallah (which is a few blocks away), and given our lacklustre second meal at Hallah on Friday night, it’s clear to us that By Korea will be our default place for Korean fried chicken.