Forget the deep south, turns out Korea is the king of the grill. A champion of communal dining, the Korean barbecue is all about gathering around a flaming hot grill and passing smoky cuts of barbecued beef between friends. As with most Korean cuisines, the sides are part of the main event, and the best barbecue restaurants are the ones dishing out the best banchan dishes.
Melbourne's best Korean BBQ restaurants
Everyone knows that meat grilled over charcoal is exponentially more flavoursome than other forms of cooking. And this is why we love Hwaro, the Korean barbecue joint on Little Collins Street. It’s not Korean barbecue without beef ribs (gal-bi), and here you can order them thin and bony, standard cut, premium marble or top grade. If you’re new to Korean barbecue this is a great place to start because here they’ll pop your meats on the grill, flip it and slice it when it’s ready if you prefer being a passenger. If you want to captain your own dinner cruise, you go right ahead.
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. Break up the meat-fest with mixed vegetables and king brown mushrooms, and then it's time for the bulgogi to hit the grill once the charcoal has gotten extra smoky.
Experience the thrill of the grill at Mrs Kim's barbecue joint. You can order à la carte or choose a meal deal, like the two-person $45 ‘Cluck Cluck’. Chicken thigh, marinated in soy sauce, is sweet and succulent with properly caramelised edges. Neat rectangles of tender scotch fillet ordered from the beef menu are threaded with just enough fat to keep things juicy, and a veggie package with broccoli, carrot and potato is topped with grated cheese and cooked on the ring. It looks pedestrian, but one mouthful of its molten magnificence will change your tune.
At G2 Korean BBQ, the young Angus beef ribs are marbled little girders that cook quickly over the hot coals and stay juicy. The thinly sliced pork belly is the smart choice for two reasons: it helps temper the richness of your meal and cooks in record time. The staff are very hands-on with the cooking here, helping to turn your basket of mixed mushrooms, cut your marinated bulgogi beef into portions and rearrange your grill to get some proper heat on your wide, flat slices of zucchini and potato. If the whole process of cooking for yourself is why you like Korean barbecue you’re going to have to hold onto the tongs firmly.
Feel like more Korean?
Korean cuisine has made its way into Melbourne's culinary scene somewhat quietly. What is undeniable however, is that Korean food has truly influenced mainstream food culture. No one bats an eyelid at a Korean-Mexican fusion dish, gochujang now competes with Sriracha as the next hot condiment, and you'll find kimchi as a side dish in cafés. We’re going to give credit where it’s due with a beginner’s guide to some of the main players of Korean cuisine.