It's 7pm on an autumn Friday night in Sydney, and ambling through Chinatown are your usual sometime throngs of students, office workers and families eager to start the weekend. But it's not terribly crowded or over-run with people, and even as you shudder and jolt your way upwards in the poky dilapidated box of an elevator on Liverpool Street, you have little idea of what lies in wait to greet your arrival.
The din of 140 noisy diners, chatting, eating, clinking and laughing confronts you like a solid brick wall. Chairs are scraping, waiters are bustling and my god, is that a queue?
With big sighs of relief, we hurry to our reserved where half our party is already seated. "We saw you take photos downstairs!" they jibe, and yup, I’ve been busted by the viewing monitor of the security camera downstairs.
We take eons to order and when we do, our dishes seem to arrive instantaneously, almost toppling over each other as our table rapidly runs out of room.
First to arrive is one of my must-have favourites Pajun, a seafood pancake. There’s a scattering of spring onion, calamari and prawns throughout the comforting yellow batter but it’s not as crispy as the best usually are, and I suspect these are pre-cooked for the anticipated Friday night masses.
Haemul pajun $15.00
Next up is Jap chae (or jab chae), a traditional Korean dish of potato starch noodles. Slippery glass noodles glisten in a sweet oily soy mixture, languishing at ease with a party of rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, prawns, spring onions and bean sprouts. The noodles are slippery little suckers and I have to exercise patience as I do battle with the accompanying tongs which look more like a pair of giant silver tweezers!
Jab chae large $20.00 ($12.00 for small)
Fried starch noodle with vegetable
I am most looking forward to the Bosam, a dish I first discovered at Se Joung in Campsie, when friends and I happened to glance enviously at what the family next to us were eating. This is a different version of bosam however, and although I enjoy the thin slices of boiled pork belly, resplendent in its multiple layers of meat and fat, paired with cabbage leaves, tofu and spicy kimchee, I cannot help but pine for the flavour-bursting oyster-studded kimchee from my original encounter.
Bosam large $35.00 ($25.00 for small)
Boiled pork belly slices with kimchee and cabbage
There are marinated pork ribs, sweet and tasty but a little chewy, and marinated scotch fillet which is lovely and tender. Both arrive on a generous bed of finest onion chunks.
Dwe ji bul go ki $16.00
Marinated spicy pork ribs
Bul go ki $14.00
Marinated beef scotch fillet
We taste the Mandu jungol dumpling soup which arrives with floating islands of fluffy egg and a sprinkling of toasted seaweed.
Mandu jungol $35.00
We also try the Gumtang white beef soup which is somewhat sweet and very addictive. I'm still trying to work out what the familiar flavour I could detect was within. The soup comes with glass noodles, shavings of beef and plenty of finely chopped spring onion.
White beef soup with vegetables
The best part about eating Korean is of course the banchan side dishes, a pick-n-mix offering which always varies from establishment to establishment. We intermittently snack on kimchee, zucchini and cubes of green pea jelly. When we run out of spicy boiled potato and politely ask for some more, our waitress returns with replenishments within seconds.
The place is reassuringly heaving with Korean students and families. And all night there's been a queue of 15 people waiting for tables.
Bring your appetite and make that reservation.
Level 2, 605-609 George St
Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9269 0222
Monday to Saturday 11am-3am
Licensed and BYO
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4/11/2006 05:58:00 pm