There are two golden rules for any all-you-can-eat: wear loose clothing, and arrive hungry. You’ll face instant regret if you don’t do both when you rock up to Charcoal Mine, said to be Australia’s first all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurant.
The fact they opened over 20 years ago goes some way in explaining the dated but perfectly functional décor. The room full of Korean families, students and couples don’t care though. Let’s face it. Everybody’s focus is on the self-serve buffet. Hit it hard.
You'll be in protein central with meats that run from marinated scotch fillet to spicy bacon strips, chicken wings, and pork sausages. Seafood choices include mussels, octopus and squid. The more adventurous will venture towards kidney, intestine, giblet and liver territory. Leave your vegetarian mates at home unless they’re happy to binge on kimchi and lettuce leaves.
Load up, head back to your table and resist the urge to throw everything on the charcoal barbecue. Yep, you’ll have to cook your own meat but trust us, it’s a cinch. Plus there are few things more satisfying than transferring succulent meat straight off the barbie and into your mouth. Plus, the charcoal really makes a difference, adding a smokier flavour to your sizzle meats. Most other Korean barbecue joints use cheaper – and less flavoursome – gas.
The buffet selection isn’t huge but neither is the price tag. You’ll pay $35-$37 for dinner, depending on which night you dine, or binge at lunch for maximum value when the price drops to $28. Bargain!
Don’t forget to create your own dipping sauces using gochujang chilli paste, ssamjang barbecue paste, sesame oil and soy. Help yourself to a bowl of steamed rice and make like a local, wrapping up your freshly barbecued meats in crisp iceberg lettuce leaves with a little bit of rice and a smear of ssamjang.
Fresh watermelon and orange wedges make for a sweet and refreshing dessert – or mid-meal palate cleanser. They have an alcohol license too, so you can barbie on up with a beer by your side. Maaate.