As far as Korean barbecue joints go, Guhng is lush. Outside, the heritage-listed facade of the McKillop St restaurant looks like a 19th century tavern, the kind of place flagons of beer are slammed on tables and food is served by a matronly host.
Inside, the restaurant is more contemporary than its old-timey exterior suggests. Mod-Asian fixtures like red mesh pendant lights shine on the dark brick and original stone walls, and the tell-tale brassy-hued exhaust pipes (the golden standard in Korean barbecue-world) hanging over every table look positively futuristic.
Korean barbecue, at its core, is a communal dining experience and Guhng makes sure groups are well catered for with their barbecue sets. The Angus set is enough to comfortably feed four moderately hungry meat eaters. You get a mix of lean and fatty cuts, starting with an evenly marbled Angus cube roll, which is cut into pieces over a cast iron pot of glowing hot charcoal. In a few minutes, the bite-sized pieces of beef on the grill get smoky as the fat melts and sizzles off the coals, and they take it off the heat while the juices are still running. The garlic herb beef tenderloin is best cooked to medium and the marinade is very mild – it still wants a dip of light sweet soy sauce and chilli from the condiments collection.
Break up the meat-fest with mixed vegetables and king brown mushrooms, and then it's time for the bulgogi to hit the grill now that the charcoal has gotten extra smoky. The thinly cut beef marinated in sesame oil and sweet soy cooks in no time at all, and a bit of the pickled onion on the tender bulgogi adds a fresh bite to cut through the meat.
The sundubu jjigae hot pot soup is good enough to guarantee a return visit. It’s a spicy soup with silken tofu, mussels and egg cracked into the pot just before serving. Pour it over red rice for a standalone meal, or order it as a filling side to the barbecue.
Guhng looks a little fancier than your typical Korean barbecue restaurant but it's still welcoming, even to big groups who can book the upper roooms for private functions. They also understand that the fun of Korean barbecue is being able to do your own grilling if that’s what you feel like doing, but will happily answer your questions or help out before you set fire to your dinner. It’s the kind of place you could take your parents: a little bit impressive but still holding fast to the essential communal atmosphere that makes Korean barbecue so enjoyable.