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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Moon Park, Redfern

Coffin Bay baby octopus at Moon Park, Redfern

EDIT: Moon Park has closed

"There are hairs on the potatoes!" exclaims Mrs Pig Flyin, and we all lean in closer for a better look. She's right, of course. The tiny potato chips are ringed with fine spiky filaments that can only be seen if you look carefully. It's the kind of wacky surprise that is synonymous with Moon Park, one part Korean restaurant, two parts everything else.

Chefs Ben Sears and Eun Hee An - both ex-Claude's - are the force behind Moon Park, and they seem determined not to have you find it. The restaurant sits on the first floor above Jason Mowen Decorative Arts, but there's no sign on the balcony or at the entrance. A small printed menu by the front door is the only clue.

Rice crackers with kombu at Moon Park, Redfern
Complimentary rice crackers with kombu salt

The dining room is simple, understated and surprisingly roomy. Tonight the crowd is mostly in their 20s and 30s, and despite tonight's chill, many have elected to dine outside on the balcony overlooking Redfern Park.

Plates of complimentary rice crackers are brought to our table as soon as we are seated. They're impossibly light and airy, seasoned with a sprinkling of kombu seaweed salt that is way too addictive.

The menu is a modest size, with six small dishes and eight larger plates to choose from. We're a party of six tonight and go with the easiest option: "We'll have one of everything," we tell our waiter.

Cucumber kimchi at Moon Park, Redfern
Cucumber kimchi $5

There's an obvious Korean foundation to each dish, but many also have an unexpected twist.

Bindaedduk fried chickpea cake at Moon Park, Redfern
Bindaedduk fried chickpea cake $3 each

Bindaedduk, for example, is traditionally a pancake made with mungbeans, but here it's reinterpreted into fingers of fried chick peas, like edible Jenga blocks dipped into a soy dressing.

Zucchini and mussel pancake at Moon Park, Redfern
Zucchini and mussel pancake $10

Pajeon pancake skips the usual shallots and replaces it with shredded zucchini. Mussels marry well into this dish, and the surface and edges are impressively crisp. The thinness of this pancake means there's no pasty doughiness you sometimes get from other Korean restaurants.

Corn cheese at Moon Park, Redfern
Corn cheese $6

Corn cheese arrives as baby corn spears on a bed of black garlic aioli with shavings of provolone over the top. It's perhaps the only underwhelming dish of the evening, with the whisper of provolone too soft against the corn.

Ddokbeokki and peanuts at Moon Park, Redfern
Ddokbeokki and peanuts $5

We do adore the ddokbeokki, logs of rice cake that have been deep-fried and then rolled in crushed peanuts. There's a wicked contrast between the thin crunchy surface and the stretchy chewy innards. The peanut coating combined with the rice cake reminds me of Malaysian muah chee too. They're so good we order another round later on in the evening.

Beef jerky at Moon Park, Redfern
Beef jerky $6

We get another serve of the beef jerky as well. The strips of beef look more like prosciutto, and are practically translucent if you hold them up to the light. They snap in the mouth like crisp bacon, with a candied sugar surface that gleams. And the taste. They're intensely smoky, catching you by surprise and then reeling you in with its lingering smokiness.

Yukhoe beef tartare at Moon Park, Redfern
Yukhoe beef tartare with kkaenip kimchi and sunflower seeds $18

We're all looking for the raw egg yolk on top of the yukhoe when it lands but are soon distracted by the petals of smoky grilled onions. Our table is divided about the flavour of this dish - some appreciate the subtle sweetness of the beef, but others can't taste much at all.

I'm not a huge fan of the sunflower seeds which interfere with the textural silkiness of the hand-cut beef, but the kkaenip kimchi - made from a leaf related to perilla - adds an unusual spiciness to the dish.

Dotorimuk heirloom tomato salad at Moon Park, Redfern
Dotorimuk heirloom tomato salad with acorn jelly and washed kimchi $16

Heirloom tomato salad feels like a strange Mediterranean blip on the Korean landscape but the star here is the dotorimuk or acorn jelly. The wobbly brown squares have a mellow nuttiness to them, accented by bright white slivers of washed kimchee.

Imjasutang royal summer chicken at Moon Park, Redfern
Imjasutang royal summer chicken, pinenut, mushroom, date and pickled rose $17

Historically, imjasutang is a cold chicken soup served to royalty. Here it's reinterpreted as an artfully plated assembly of cold poached chicken, pickled rose petals and wafer thin slices of carrot and mushroom.

This is an elegant dish that feels like it should be savoured slowly and precisely, with thin metal chopsticks. I can't stop marvelling at the discs of mushroom, microplaned with precision so each is as thin as paper. The flavours are delicate, perhaps on the bland side for some, but it's worth remembering this is a regal dish, not loud-and-in-your-face street food.

Bibim rice and pearl barley at Moon Park, Redfern
Bibim rice and pearl barley, gochujang, corn, crab, cured egg and nori $20

Bibim moves more into homestyle comfort food territory, but even here, there's an elevated twist with the addition of barley and confit crab into the mix.

Mixing the bibim rice and pearl barley at Moon Park, Redfern
Mixing the bibim

We dump the gochujang chilli paste into the rice as instructed, and then toss the rainbow of ingredients together. This ends up being one of my favourite dishes of the night, balanced not only in texture, but also saltiness and sweetness. The barley lends a pleasing chewiness, punctuated with bright juicy bursts of corn.

Whipped tofu, carrot, shiitake and buckwheat at Moon Park, Redfern
Whipped tofu, carrot, shiitake and buckwheat $15

Whipped tofu sounds bizarre at first, but the trail surrounding a pile of carrots, wakame seaweed and shiitake crisps is creamy without being overly rich. Curls of buckwheat crackers resting on top disintegrate into smithereens with every bite.

Green beans with ssamjang at Moon Park, Redfern
Green beans with ssamjang $6

Our side dish of green beans with ssamjang is a heady mix with a spicy, sweet, sour, salty and umami profile. Traditionally ssamjang is used as a condiment with Korean grilled meats wrapped in lettuce. Here its pungency feels a little overwhelming at times for the beans, but it's an interesting sideshow to the rest of our dishes.

Coffin Bay baby octopus at Moon Park, Redfern
Coffin Bay baby octopus, scallion, potato and ink dashi $18

Coffin Bay baby octopus is a revelatory dish that makes everyone sit up upon their first mouthful. The octopus itself is incredibly tender, as soft as a baby's cheek, accented masterfully with splodges of ink dashi.

Textural contrast comes from shaved kombu, green-veined shards that look like reptile skin. And yep, you can spot the furry potato crisp on the right hand side of the picture above. We're still not sure how they achieved this, but we were grateful for every baby-sized potato chip.

Bulgogi beef burger and chips at Moon Park, Redfern
Bulgogi beef, kimchi and pickled onion on a roll $15

The bulgogi beef is listed as "on a roll" so when it arrives on a table as a burger with chips, we're more than a little delighted. Maybe that was just me. Visually it sits a little at odds with the rest of the modern Korean menu but then who cares when it tastes this good!

The burger bun is soft and sweet without being too buttery or squishy, and the beef patty is fat and juicy, with a gentle sweetness from the bulgogi marinade. Chilli chips on the side make this a complete meal in itself.

Shrimp brined fried chicken at Moon Park, Redfern
Shrimp brined fried chicken with soy and syrup $18

And sigh. Fried chicken. They must have known to bring this dish out last. It's a jumble of chicken pieces on the bone, brined before frying so the flesh is moist. There's a salty punch from what we presume is fermented shrimp paste, and black sesame seeds give a nutty crunch to everything. The batter is every bit as crunchy as you could hope for, and the soy and syrup sauce at the bottom of the plate needs to be mopped up as much as you can.

There are about eight pieces on the plate but this dish is so darned delicious we order another one immediately.

Shrimp brined fried chicken at Moon Park, Redfern
Shrimp brined fried chicken take two

Moon Pie dessert at Moon Park, Redfern
"Moon pie": plum, maesil marshmallow, ginger jelly and graham cracker $14

There are only two desserts on the menu and we order one of each to share. "Moon Pie" is a riff on the American snack, reinterpreted in Korean as the omnipresent Choco Pie. Two layers of cake are sandwiched around a layer of marshmallow and then coated in chocolate. Here the cake comes in the form of graham crackers; the marshmallow is flavoured with maesil or green plums; and ginger jelly provides a hit of spiciness.

Alas there's no chocolate on the plate, but soaked prunes give a sweet - and virtuous - earthiness. Clouds of blowtorched meringue tie everything together.

Patbingsu fig leaf shaved milk with donuts at Moon Park, Redfern
Patbingsu fig leaf shaved milk, berries, fresh donuts and omija $13

Patbginsu means shaved ice, a Korean dessert that's usually topped with fruit, condensed milk and red bean paste. At Moon Park that means shaved ice made from fig leaves, along with fig leaf ice cream, fresh raspberries and tiny donuts that taste of kinako roasted soy bean flour. At the bottom is a puddle of omija, a "five flavour tea" that's commonly served in summer for its cooling properties.

It's light and refreshing, mixing up the familiar with the unusual, a description that sums up Moon Park really.

And the prices are surprisingly affordable too. We ordered several repeats on dishes until everyone was satiated, and even then the food bill only came to about $40 per head. I'd return for the fried chicken, and ok, the peanut-coated rice cakes and octopus too.
Moon Park Redfern

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Moon Park on Urbanspoon

Moon Park CLOSED
Level 1, 34b Redfern St, Redfern
(entrance via the unmarked doorway on Elizabeth Street)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm til late
Sunday 12pm - 3pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Redfern - Eathouse Diner
Redfern - House of Crabs
36 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/12/2014 11:20:00 pm


  • At 1/12/2014 11:45 pm, Blogger K said…

    I love it when you can say "one of everything please waiter". :D The ddokbeokki was my favourite followed by bulgogi burger and fried chicken

  • At 1/12/2014 11:49 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    haha, I was going to say the same thing, enough people and menu items to order "one of everything" my favourite menu choice!

  • At 1/12/2014 11:56 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hells yeah one of everything! aaand double the fried chicken mmm

  • At 1/13/2014 12:17 am, Blogger Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said…

    oh wow!! i used to drive passed here all the time!!
    but omg … so much looks so amazing!!
    fried chicken! mmm~~

    - Cassie

  • At 1/13/2014 12:47 am, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    I have been wanted to head here for a while now. Limited menu means you can try nearly all of it, WOOT! Chicken looks finger lickin.

  • At 1/13/2014 6:47 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I could put gochujang chilli paste on everything!! lol Love all the twists they did like with the bibim and pajeon pancakes but my heart wants the fried chicken!

  • At 1/13/2014 7:36 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    one of everything is awesome - going in bigger gruops does have its advantages. drooling over everything. not the best idea blog reading for breakfast lol

  • At 1/13/2014 10:01 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    What an interesting menu! While I'm starting to get burger fatigue, that bulgogi burger sounds amazing... and the fried chicken, of course.

  • At 1/13/2014 10:50 am, Anonymous angela@mykikicake said…

    Such an exciting menu. I haven't heard about this place but really happy you've brought it to my attention :)

  • At 1/13/2014 11:42 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Take me here please Helen thank you.

  • At 1/13/2014 12:36 pm, Anonymous MrsPigflyin' said…

    Bindaedduk and bibim were my favourites, I want some now!

  • At 1/13/2014 1:03 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    i may take your advice and head here with a big group so we can do 1 or everything too! all the dishes look so quirky and fun!

  • At 1/13/2014 1:38 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Interesting "Modern Korean" cuisine. I wonder if Koreans like it or find it blasphemous.

  • At 1/13/2014 4:02 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    Like the look of the beef jerky and the fried chicken!!!! unfortunately didnt have either of them :( but the menu is interesting and we definitely enjoyed our meal

  • At 1/13/2014 4:07 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    I've heard a lot of good things about Moon Park and that it was Korean but the food is totally not what I expected...much more modern that's for sure. It all looks good. I hope I get to go here...soon!

  • At 1/13/2014 6:29 pm, Anonymous My Kitchen Stories said…

    Wow you really did have a good night. the food looks very interesting. i would probably need to take this post printed out with me so zI could have aother explanation when ordering

  • At 1/13/2014 8:28 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    Some interesting interpretations of Korean dishes, I'm particularly keen to try those deep fried rice cakes with peanut!

  • At 1/13/2014 10:06 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Amazing! Just amazing. I'm still new to Korean food, and those creative modern interpretations are blowing my mind! I'll have to put it on my list for my next visit to Sydney. :)

  • At 1/13/2014 10:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Am going here tomorrow night! Your photos have made me way too excited!

  • At 1/13/2014 10:45 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Yes for chewy rice cake goodness! And the fried chicken looks so good as well. Korean fried chicken is delicious on too many levels :D

  • At 1/13/2014 10:54 pm, Anonymous Cindy (A Foodie's Joy) said…

    I love octopus and that dish looks really good! And fried chicken...what is there left to say? Yum!

  • At 1/13/2014 11:16 pm, Blogger vegeTARAian said…

    Loving that baby corn! The cucumber kimchi sounds great too.

  • At 1/14/2014 9:30 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    so many dishes to try here. good to see lots of eateries opening around the Redfern area.

  • At 1/14/2014 9:44 pm, Anonymous Trish said…

    Oooohhh so THAT was that place! Always drive past it on my way to work and always wondered what's there! Nothing beats Korean fried chicken!

  • At 1/15/2014 10:43 pm, Anonymous Gareth said…

    Fusion style restaurants can so often be well lacking identity, theme and a cohesive menu. But this place looks like they've nailed it. The food looks so pretty too. Great pics and intrigued by fig leaf shaved milk - does that mean the milk was hairy like the potatoes?

  • At 1/16/2014 11:17 am, Anonymous Kelly @ MsBrulee said…

    Everything you had looks insanely delicious. How do you do that Helen? Do you ask to try everything that will look good? =P

  • At 1/16/2014 11:49 am, Anonymous squishies said…

    I haven't seen ddokbeokki like that before! Oh man, everything looks so delicious!! I really wish I wasn't in savings mode :(

  • At 1/16/2014 3:07 pm, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    Wow they're all such interesting dishes!

  • At 1/16/2014 5:56 pm, Anonymous Olivia @ mademoiselle in Sydney said…

    Oh my!!! I loooooove beef jerky, especially when it's translucent and candied!!!

  • At 1/16/2014 5:56 pm, Anonymous Olivia @ mademoiselle in Sydney said…

    Oh my!!! I loooooove beef jerky, especially when it's translucent and candied!!!

  • At 1/16/2014 10:43 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Insane! It all looks insanely good! Yes to the deep fried chickpea cakes and I'd give the beef jerky a go! Love that they're not afraid to mix up modern oz with the best of Asian flavours!

  • At 1/16/2014 10:54 pm, Blogger Winston said…

    Wowsers to the max! I honestly have never seen Korean food like this. As much as I love the food the Korean food scene is getting a tad repetitive in Melbourne. We need something like this to break the mould and inspire creativity! Thanks for sharing this place. I almost took a fork to poke into all the food pictures in this post.

  • At 1/22/2014 2:48 pm, Anonymous Daisy@Nevertoosweet said…

    Wow so interesting never had Korean fusion dishes before but I do like their combinations of flavours and it looks awesome!

  • At 1/22/2014 2:48 pm, Anonymous Daisy@Nevertoosweet said…

    Wow so interesting never had Korean fusion dishes before but I do like their combinations of flavours and it looks awesome!

  • At 1/30/2014 4:33 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Wow, the modern interpretations of these dishes look absolutely incredible, and so original too.

  • At 2/12/2014 11:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Been here with the wife as have some of our friends. We are all originally korean and agree that it's exquisitely crafted food, but one can not describe it as korean. Not even fusion really.
    Sure there are korean elements to the dishes, but the taste... is not korean. And at the end of the day, isnt that why you visit a korean restaurant?


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