Sydney's cheapest all you can eat buffet? I think I've found it. You only need to hand over $13 for limitless lunchtime gluttony at new Korean restaurant, The Bab. That's a guaranteed bargain even if you don't skip breakfast or forget to wear elasticised pants.
The Bab sprang up on the retail level of the recent residential development, The Quay, just before Christmas. It's the fancy building opposite UTS library and diagonally opposite Market City, currently host to a Japanese hair salon, Asian supermarket, Chinese herbalist, Jumbo Thai restaurant and a compact Woolworths in the basement.
A la carte is available but at lunchtimes, practically every punter is here for the buffet. There's plenty of seating - about room for 80 - but large groups of uni students tend to arrive in sporadic swarms.
Signposts politely ask that you pay at the till first. After that, it's on like Donkey Kong.
A row of bain maries line the back wall. When we'd first walked past and wandered in with curiosity, staff were happy to let us sticky beak at the dishes on offer. We're told that the dishes change every two days, backed up when we return at the end of the week for lunch - most of the dishes we'd seen previously have been swapped for something new.
Spicy chilli pork
We found bulgogi beef and spicy chilli pork on the day we visited. The pork was my favourite dish of the day - super tender and well spiced.
DIY bibim bap station
A DIY bibim bap station lets you assemble your own Korean mixed rice bowl with zucchini, carrot, bean sprouts and spinach. The display sign says Vegetarian but omnivores can help themselves to the cooked beef mince at the back left. Splash over as much sesame oil, teriyaki sauce and chilli sauce as you need. Sadly the only thing missing is the raw egg yolk, but otherwise it's a tasty affair.
Deep fried tofu with chilli sauce
There's plenty of deep fried fare for crunch junkies but we find the deep fried tofu with chilli sauce is a little on the sweet side and the sweet and sour pork is more batter than meat. The deep fried dumplings with a vegetable filling are a little on the bland side too.
But there are plenty of other choices to fill your plate, including ddeok bokki, those satisfyingly chewy rods of rice cake simmered with fish cakes and vegetables in a chilli sauce.
Jap chae potato noodles
You can also go nuts on the jap chae, a stir fry of sweet potato starch noodles. We can accept a vegetarian version (usually this dish will contain beef) but the absence of shiitake mushroom was sorely missed.
A fresh garden salad will alleviate any guilt about eating yourself into oblivion, because hey, it's vegetables. And nutrients.
If a bowl of greens is too much to handle, we also found this sweet and saucy collision of wheat noodles and salad.
Endless kimchi is a godsend for any fermentation convert. Have an extra serve for digestive purposes.
Mixed vegetables with calamari
This bain marie was marked as mixed vegetables although it came with bonus calamari rings. It's a jolly jumble of bamboo shoots, capsicum, shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy.
Crab fried rice
The crab fried rice is a glorious celebration of crab sticks but hey, who's eating carbs at a buffet anyway?
There are some talented chefs in the kitchen, with this spectacular carved watermelon proudly displayed on the pass when we visited.
Round 1: Dumplings ahoy
So okay, here's the first plate I ate for lunch. That's seaweed soup at the back in the small bowl.
Round 2: Spicy chilli pork and bibim bap
And I followed this up with plate number two. Ok, I caved and ate rice but that bibim bap was too hard to resist. A platter of oranges makes for a classic Asian finish to the meal.
So sure some dishes were better than others but it's hard to be too nit-picky about a $13 buffet. It's sit down. It's dignified. There's even free water. If you're in a hurry, they do takeaway containers from $7 where you can fill your own.
At dinner time, it's a la carte only with everything from pajeon seafood pancakes to jeongol hot pot to jajangmyeon black bean noodles.
New signs appeared the last time I walked past. Korean fried chicken. Plain or spicy. I'll be back. And chicken it out.
The Bab [facebook page]
Shop 22, 61-79 Quay Street, Haymarket, Chinatown, Sydney
(Enter from Thomas Street, opposite Urbanest)
Tel: +61 (02) 9304 0119
Open daily 11.30am-10pm
Lunch buffet is available 11.30am-3.30pm
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1/21/2016 02:02:00 am