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  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Curtained dining room with tables, glassware and a vase of flowers.
Photograph: Lauren Dinse

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Doju brings an upscale Korean dining experience to the CBD, playing unique spins on national classics with premium Aussie produce

The strip of Little Collins Street between William and King has long been a hotbed for affordable work lunches with the food court at Exchange Tower being the pinnacle. The building is still home to a few of its long standing tenants but as of late last year, one end has been transformed into an upscale Korean-Australian diner called Doju, led by chef Mika Chae.

It’s an unlikely use case and not the most seamless evolution, but the team have done a solid job of disguising their quarters. Sheer fabric panels cleverly conceal the interior office windows that look down into the dining room, a somewhat randomly-placed platform has been transformed into a mezzanine, and notes of olive green and marble give the space a sleek edge.

The downside of a space repurposed in this fashion is that there’s little contingency plan for unwanted noise. High ceilings and a somewhat awkward dining layout make it hard to hear my dining companion or the waitstaff, who are friendly and enthusiastic but quite green. If the hallmark of great service is the elimination of uneasiness, Doju is not quite there.

The wine menu is intriguing but we bypass it for cocktails. The preserved blueberry milk punch sounds and looks promising, topped with a meringue that dances on the ice as it melts, but offers few notable tasting notes besides sickly sweet and not very strong. The mango gimlet, on the other hand, is well-balanced and delightfully savoury thanks to lacto-fermented fruit, gin and hojicha.

Snacks are next on the docket and, like many venues of late, are a menu highlight. “Retired dairy cow”, arguably the most popular of the bunch, is served tartare-style atop a crisp seaweed cracker called bugak, finished with desert lime and dollops of verdant dill emulsion. The condiments offer a welcome hit of salt and acidity but the beef itself is minimally seasoned, meaning there’s nothing for it to hide behind – the quality speaks for itself.

The jeotgal calamari is another testament to simplicity and perhaps one of the most recognisably Korean dishes on the menu. The seasoned rice balls are nutty and aromatic – a perfect contrast to the pungent ojingeo-jeot, or salted Corner Inlet squid, that sits atop them. They’re served in a lettuce leaf to be consumed in one bite, and what a perfect bite that is.

It’s a good thing snacks ended on a high because the next course doesn’t show up for over 30 minutes. It’s understandable, these things happen, but the situation is met with little more than an apology and a laugh – a bit of a blow considering the meal’s $200+ price tag.

Some dishes are better executed than others. The stinging nettle noodles with green sauce and marron were a bit gummy and the lamb rump, while delicious, felt like it was plucked off a Mediterranean menu rather than consciously worked into the Doju concept. 

But what the dishes lack in finesse they make up for in flavour. If you must only choose one, turn your sights to the LA galbi, Doju’s spin on the popular Korean-American short rib dish. Here, MS9 beef is layered with savoury and fermented like horseradish, shiitake, doenjang (Korean soybean paste) and chive kimchi. The umami overload almost feels excessive but reins things in just enough to be complementary and not competitive.

At only a few months in, Doju is clearly still finding their groove but it seems this formula of high-quality local proteins and thoughtfully paired Korean condiments is what they do best. With Healey Lane’s burgeoning Koreatown precinct just a few blocks away, there are many places in close proximity to enjoy Korean food. 

But while most are on the more casual and traditional end, Doju has captured an underserved market for formal, Korean-inspired dining in the CBD – and that’s worth celebrating.

Time Out Melbourne never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique. 

Love Korean flavours? Check out our round-up of the best Korean dining spots in town. We've also got the scoop on where to get the tastiest Korean barbecue.

Written by
Quincy Malesovas


9/530 Little Collins Street
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri noon-3pm, 5pm-10pm, Sat-Sun 5pm-10pm
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