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Kood Tea Café and Korean Kitchen

  • Restaurants
  • Surry Hills
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
The delicious bento bowl at Kood
Photograph: Avril Treasure

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Chef and owner Mary Lee draws on her family recipes at this teapot-sized eatery that serves up Korean soul food at its best

You won’t be able to find a website for Kood. That’s because the Korean tea café and kitchen doesn’t have one. Or a phone number, for that matter. Instagram? Forget about it. What you will find, though, if you happen to stroll past 414 Elizabeth Street around lunchtime, is a line nearly snacking out the door. Hungry workers waiting to be served by a smiling Korean lady working out of a teapot-sized kitchen.

When you get up closer you’ll see what everyone is here for: nine duck-egg-blue bowls heaped with traditional Korean dishes (vegetables, noodles, tofu) canteen style – and to the left, heated woks with gleaming, come-hither helpings of chicken, beef and pork. There’s no menu, not really, but three petite clipboards sitting on top of the glass cabinet featuring an option per page: poke, bento and bibimbap. We go with the bento, which comes with two main numbers, three sides, rice and japchae. And it costs just $16.50, which, let’s face it, is less than a glass of wine these days.

Born in Taegu in South Korea, Mary Lee has been working in hospitality for more than 20 years, many of them alongside her ex-husband. Early this year, the chef opened up Kood by herself, only employing her friend Monica to help out in the kitchen. Together, the two cook everything from scratch, drawing on family recipes that have been passed down for generations. And while there was no glossy PR launch for Kood, the aforementioned line out the door most days proves old-fashioned word of mouth still works. And that’s because this place is really, really good.

We sit down with our plate of food that's piled almost as high as Paektu Mountain. We’ve gone for spicy pork, barbecue beef, two types of leafy green veg and green beans. Lee, wearing round glasses the colour of ripe berries and a smile that warms you up like a hot water bottle on a cool night, also gives us a fillet of battered fish. A new dish she’s trialling.

We sit down and get stuck in. The translucent japchae are stir fried with julienne onions, carrots and wood ear mushrooms, the noodles as bouncy as a yo-yo, with a light soy and sesame oil sauce and a hint of sweetness. Next, we have a mouthful of the traditional Korean beef, which has been marinated with garlic, soy and sugar, so the meat is tender,  juicy and tasty. We take a bite of the leafy green vegetables with kimchi, and the spicy and sour cabbage cuts through the fat in the meat. The fish, which Lee says is barramundi, is pan fried, perfectly golden and lightly salted. The flesh is succulent and fresh, and we reckon it makes the cut.

Truth time: this is our fourth time at Kood, and while we do change our order up/like to live on the wild side (Lee swaps three of the dishes every couple of days), the only thing we have not wavered on is the chilli pork. That is one risk we can do without.

Vivid red in colour thanks to chilli powder, the pork is cooked with soy sauce, onion, Korean salt, shallots, onions and cabbage. It’s got a kick from the chilli, a beautiful fruity flavour from cooked-down apple and pear, and the ideal amount of salt and garlic. In other words, a home run.

All the dishes work in harmony, balancing and complementing one another, and it’s a joy to eat.

Inside are wooden chairs, jars of pickled vegetables lined up along the kitchen bench and a handful of homewares dotted around. At the front is a cabinet stocking Korean triangle sushi, which Lee prepares each morning. One wall has a piece of paper detailing the tea menu – ginseng, citrus, ginger, sencha – to name a few. It’s a modest space, but we’re not here for the décor. Crown Street has enough of that.

We’re here for the food, which is authentic, absolutely delicious, and a flavour bomb. Soul food at its best. And we’ll be back for it again soon, too. See you in the line.


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Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


414 Elizabeth St
Surry Hills
Opening hours:
Mon-Fri 9am-7pm
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