There are three restaurants competing for best banchan in Sydney, Hansang, Gyeong Bok and Myeong Dong. If it was about sheer numbers, Myeong Dong would take the title. The most we’ve seen is 14, remarkable considering they’re all made in house. We’ve seen soy-marinated perilla leaves, cured octopus, fish cakes, local lotus root, pickled zucchini, chestnut jelly, semi-sweet soy-dressed potatoes and many, many kinds of kimchi. It’s such an exceptional service it makes the rest of the menu feel like a side quest. The perilla loaded lamb hot pot and the bo ssam are our picks, the former for its herbal and seemingly curative qualities and the latter for thanks to the inclusion of oysters and a particularly pungent fermented chilli paste.
Get the haemul pajeon seafood pancake to start, and revel in a massive disc of prawns, calamari, mussels and shallots, bound together in a light and crunchy batter. Don’t overlook the classic simplicity of sundubu jjigae, a spicy soup filled with fresh curds of soft and quivering silky tofu and hunks of seafood. If you’re down with offal, you’ll love the tender chewiness of the beef intestine stew.
You won’t find barbecue grills here, but you will notice that the majority of diners – Korean families and chattering groups of friends – sharing hot pot dishes, giant vessels set over a portable gas cookers at the table. The gamjatang spicy pork bone stew is a crowd favourite, a spicy soup piled with raw onions, cabbage, enoki mushrooms, green vegetables and sweet potato noodles. There’s not a huge amount of DIY cooking involved, just some gentle prodding to make sure everything softens as preferred. What you will be rewarded with is a piping hot soup, swollen with goodies. The pork rib bones are the best bit. Don’t even bother going for one unless you’re willing to do it justice by using your fingers to get into every last nook and cranny.
It’s not all spice: fried chicken wings, bulgogi beef and hot stone pot bibimbap mixed rice all await. The bossam offers build-your-own fun: slices of pork belly ready to be wrapped in lettuce with pickled daikon, seaweed, red capsicum and radish kimchi with raw oysters.