By the time everything arrives there’s barely an inch of bare table left. The dish invasion starts with an onslaught of banchan (the Korean side dishes that come free with every meal). There are 12 different kinds, sometimes including semi-sweet soy-glazed potatoes, pickled cucumber smothered in chili paste, kimchi, pickled shallots, rare greens imported from Korea and pickled with chili and garlic, and even a small serving of japchae (sweet potato noodles tossed with sesame oil, soy and assorted veg); on other days a completely different seasonal offering.
And then the mains arrive, this time a $25 lunch banquet that starts with your choice of meat (bulgogi, spicy sizzling plate of pork or squid, or a quartet of rissole-like beef patties); a crunchy shallot-stuffed pancake; and bossam (boiled pork served alongside a spicy bean paste and greens for wrapping it all together); and finished with the most old school Korean tradition – toasted rice soup, literally boiling water poured over the crunchy remains of a hot stone pot once filled with rice. Or, another option, barbecue – set within the table, fired by charcoal and cooked by you. All the usual cuts appear (marinated pork and beef ribs, plus unmarinated pork belly and a few marbled steak cuts), but what sets this menu apart are the extra, less common offerings like pork jowl, ox intestines, and intercostal strips (the fatty meat between beef ribs).
Whatever you choose, it will end up feeling like a preposterous amount of food, but this is no gimmick. The effort put into making all the banchan in house (most Korean restaurants buy it in from a big supplier; Gyeong Bok is one of only three restaurants in Sydney to offer so many free of charge and with free refills) should be a sign of what this restaurant is about. There’s an enormous amount of care spent to make this feel like an experience you could get in Korea, and there’s probably no better proof of the achievement than the restaurant’s popularity with West Ryde’s Korean residents.