Korean food in Sydney has come a long way from fried chicken alone. Because it is so much more than that icy cold soups served in the depths of winter, steamed dumplings stuffed with kimchi and chewy, peanut-crusted tteokbokki and of course Korean barbecue. Here’s our list of where to eat Korean in Sydney. (Don’t worry, there’s fried chicken in here too.)
The best Korean restaurants in Sydney
Sang by Mabasa is the second venue for Chef Son and his family, who are all involved in the business. The original Mabasa clocked up eight years in Balmain before they moved to Surry Hills. The aim was to modernise a lot of traditional Korean fare, but not by fusing it with other culinary traditions. It’s still authentically Korean, but presentation is styled with the Instagram generation in mind.
Smart casual may be a confusing dress code, but we know it when we eat it. It’s in a bowl of pippis that have opened their little pearlescent shells in order to be anointed with a juicy, umami-bomb of XO sauce and a litter of green onion with a burn-your-fingerprints-off hot puck of fried bread to soak up the broth that remains. A wedge of soft, sweet Chinese cabbage, cooked until it’s almost translucent and bathed in a rich, chickeny schmaltz, also adheres to the theme. That's what makes eating at this mod-Korean diner so much fun.
Korean food is taking over the world. Well Pitt Street, at least. The fried dumplings with rice vinegar are a must-order but the little sides of pickle, fish cake and tofu will you feeling virtuous from the inside out. Come for the barbecue and stay for the kim chi pancake.
Soondubu jjigae. If you've never heard of it, you just may end up best friends with it this winter. This Korean favourite is more than just a soft tofu soup. You get a quivering wobble of soft set tofu - like a savoury version of pannacotta - simmered in a mini cauldron of bubbling spiced soup. The broth is guaranteed to warm you up from the tips of your fingers right down to your toes, and don’t freak out about the angry red tinge – it’s not half as spicy as it looks. At BCD Tofu House, they’re all about soft tofu soup.
Order the cold kimchi soup. It comes in a massive bowl piled high with long, thin, chewy noodles surrounded by neon toned, bright red broth – which is so icy-cold that the texture is verging on slushie territory. There’s a half boiled egg, a hefty dollop of spicy gochujang (chilli sauce) and a big heap of housemade kimchi crowning the top. You won’t find a more refreshing dish in Sydney.
For the ultimate Korean barbeque in the CBD, head to 678. Sit down amongst the chaos and enjoy the seemingly endless supply of banchan (side-dishes) like aged kimchi, soft sweet potato and pickled radish. Order the marinated wagyu short rib and pork belly and cook them yourself over the table barbeque, with a bottle of Hite Korean beer at your side.
Cool off with the Korean-style tartare which translates to something akin to a meat popsicle: frozen strips of beef come to the table elaborately dressed with matchsticks of nashi pear and cucumber, a raw egg yolk nests in the middle of the beef, wearing a deft scattering of raw pine nuts and a dressing of soy sauce and sesame oil.
In the corner of the stark neon-lit Lemon Grove food court is this Korean fast food joint. While the bibimbap and kimchi pancakes are tempting, you need to order the fried chicken. The special is $9.90 and comes with a hearty serving of black and white rice, salad, potato noodles and kongnamul (sesame seasoned mung bean salad). On the sauce front, our pick is the sweet and spicy (the Gochujang-spiked, bright red spicy sauce is just on the right side of hot and not too sweet), but you can get hot spicy, soy or honey butter mustard too.
There are mixed platters of straight beef cuts and pork belly, or a beef, pork, chicken and prawn mega combo of land and sea. If you’ve also been eyeing off a bibimbap in a hot stone dolsot, a serve of chewy dduk-bukgi or the excellent, crisp-skinned, peppery pork dumplings, consider ordering your barbecue meats individually. This here is a lot of food.
Arrive early in the evening to get a place out in the courtyard. Order a basket of soy flavoured fried chicken, some shoju and Korean beers and baske in your best life.
Let’s talk about the egg soup at this place. This Korean favourite is made by steaming eggs with seasoned stock so the egg puffs up like a mattress. As it rises, the egg soaks up the stock resulting in a kind of soupy soufflé deliciousness with every spoonful. What’s even more amazing about the egg soup here? It’s free.
This fiery Korean barbecue spot is the next in the line-up of casual restaurants to join Market City's third level dining precinct. Kogi delivers and authentic hands-on cooking experience, with each of the table kitted out with hot charcoal grills and rose gold exhausts. The searing hot charcoals imbue the meat (which include more than 15 premium cuts of wagyu beef and pork) with a smokier flavour than a gas flame does.
Jeongol is what every second table is having at Oseyo. You can put anything in this big pot of simmering broth: meat, seafood, tofu, vegetables, dumplings and even whole cakes of instant noodles. Go hard on the chilli with the spicy beef stew, trawl for squid and mussels in the spicy seafood, or hit up the dumpling stew, resplendent with enoki mushrooms and quivering pillows of tofu.
Japanese food fits into the Sydney climate like soybeans fit into their little pods. And so it’s good that, thanks to all of the incredible Japanese chefs gracing our shores, we know how to do it right. From the sushi roll lunch-run to the full sashimi-laden dego, here’s where to do Japanese in Sydney.