If you scored all these restaurants on the above criteria, Gyeong Bok would hit ten for almost all of them. The short BBQ menu offers both offal (a rare sighting of ox intestine) and the complete other end, wagyu so comprehensively marbled it fizzles like on the pan like butter. Before any of that arrives you’ll see one of the best banchan offerings in Sydney, 12 different dishes all made by the restaurant's owner and occasional maître d'. And those are probably not even the best bits. That honour goes to the $25 lunch set, an absurdly sized seasonal feast focused around your meat of choice - bulgogi, either chili-paste lathered squid or pork, or simple rissole-like beef patties.
In Korean, it’s called gogi-gui, literally ‘meat roast’. It’s got a long and complex history (we’re talking thousands of years) but these days it means essentially one thing – meat that’s grilled, often at the table by you, and enjoyed with banchan (Korean side dishes, kimchi being the most famous) and booze. In Korea it’s massive; these are places where big nights are had and memories made. You could say they’re as much a part of Korea’s social fabric as pubs are to the English, the izakaya to the Japanese and the hot pot to mainland Chinese .
In Sydney, the experience is much the same: you choose the meat, grill it on a barbecue set in the middle of table (if this step scares you, all the below places will do the grilling for you), douse it in any combination of sauce, and chase it with soju, beer or a cup of makgeolli (a cloudy Korean rice wine).
Most barbecue joints will serve the same set of classics. An unmarinated selection including pork belly (long strips, medium-thick-cut), steak (probably rib-eye, skirt and chuck) and thinly sliced ox tongue. Plus a few marinated pieces, always galbi (either beef short ribs in soy, ginger, garlic, sesame and pepper; or pork spareribs in rice wine plus either soy or chili paste), and maybe some saucy chicken thighs and pork neck too.
These are our picks for the best. Barbecue restaurants with high-quality meat, genuine charcoal under their grills, service good enough to know when you need a waiter or a literal chef at the table, house-made banchan and a decent menu of non-barbecue options too.
Prefer your food fast and thrifty? Try one of Sydney's best cheap eats.