One of the biggest differences between Korean restaurants in Sydney and Korean restaurants in Korea: the size of menus. While many overseas restaurants are super specialised, Sydney Korean restaurants post scrambled menus as long as they are varied. Kangnam is a classic example – hot pots, stews, cold noodles, Korean-Chinese cuisine, fried chicken, barbecue, meat on rice, sizzling plates, bibimbap and something called stir-fry cheese-pong.
Usually this would be a bad sign – what’s the saying, jack of all trades, master of none – but unlike many of its long-menu peers, Kangnam has a lot of good to offer. Most of it revolves around barbecue. The usual Korean cuts are represented (various steak cuts, pork belly and ox tongue), some with impressive steaks of marbling, but there are also a few rarer meats – fresh king prawns, smoked duck breast, pork cheek, and the option to add matured kimchi and fried rice to your pork belly. You’ll get a separate grill for the pork and once the fat is starting to brown and crisp, you or the staff here (impeccably attentive and chatty) will chop it all up. Eat a bit of it and add the kimchi and rice to what’s left, swirl it all around, and you’ve got a spicy, tart, fatty and extremely enjoyable end to your meal.
If it’s not barbecue you’re after, the special menu is where you should be looking, particularly the Kangnam signature beef pot, a spicy mix of tender short ribs and tteokbokki (glutinous rice cakes the shape of fat cigarettes) luxuriating in a sticky stew that tastes like a ferment-upgraded barbecue sauce.
Before you get any of this, prepare your table. The banchan (Korean side dishes) offering, while not as specialised as Sydney’s top-tier restaurants, is impressively large. You get eight to ten, regardless of your order, and all will be refilled for free upon request.