A few years back Sydney’s Korean barbecue scene was almost all oriented towards the cheap and cheerful. The drinks were priced for all-night sessions and the fit-outs pared-back to welcome hoards of international students. If there was ever a sign of what’s changed, it’s Bornga. The Haymarket restaurant is part of Sydney’s new wave of up market, ambitious barbecue restaurants.
You’ll see what we mean - the grey-scale brick pillars propping up faux-temple awnings, the shiny copper exhaust tendrils, the custom built barbecue tables, the sir and madame service style, and a glossy menu that’s more styled than a perfume ad. All of it as slick as a veteran decade-old restaurant but as sparkling clean as a brand-new opening.
Korean celebrity chef Jong Won Paik is to thank for this. Bornga is one of his many restaurant chains, this one with a mission to make Korean food more accessible to foreigners. The leader he’s chosen for that battle is woo samgyeop, paper-thin slices of beef brisket usually grilled to medium and eaten in a lettuce wrap with ssamjang (a thick pungent chili and bean paste) and maybe some raw garlic. That and the duo of pork belly slabs (soy-marinated or not) are the go to orders for things-you-grill-yourself. For ready to eat items check out the yesan tteokgalbi (fatty pork ribs and rice cakes minced into sausage-like logs), a rarity in Sydney.
Whatever you order, expect a banging range of banchan (the small plates that come free with every Korean meal) including a generous couple of hunks of raw crab absolutely lathered in chili paste.