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Vegetables and slices at Sang by Mabasa
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan

The best Korean restaurants in Sydney

From bo ssam to bibimbap and all the banchan in between

By Nicholas Jordan
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Barbecue and fried chicken might have once been the most popular manifestations of Korean cooking in Sydney, but that’s not even scratching the surface. When your cravings take you beyond the communal grills, here are the city’s top spots for platters of pork belly, hearty beef broths, kimchi hot pots, crunchy-leek pancakes, and cold buckwheat noodles, anju (Korean drinking food), and cheese-smothered rice-cakes.

Banchan and rice are at the heart of most Korean meals, and you can expect all of the restaurants below (with the exception of nights at Sang) to provide at least four of the small side dishes free of charge, including refills if requested. The best of the best will serve up to ten homemade options. And remember that restaurant-style Korean cuisine (home food is a different matter) is largely designed for big groups so prepare for colossal hot pots and sizzling plates by bringing your best eating crew with you.

Earn your feast with the best walks in Sydney.

The best Korean restaurants in Sydney

Vegetables and slices at Sang by Mabasa
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan

1. Sáng by Mabasa

Restaurants Korean Surry Hills

At this tiny, tranquil Surry Hills restaurant it’s a family affair, from the kicthen to the floor staff. Here, they prepare their food with a delicacy and care of a restaurant that should be posting much steeper prices. Gu jeol pan (nine individually prepared vegetables and egg arranged around a stack of elastic, pink pancakes) is plated like an artist’s palette; simple dumplings or bibimbap are cradled in beautiful Korean ceramics. If this is your first foray into Korean dining that doesn’t come with an exhaust fan overhead, you’re in for a very nice surprise. If you’re a regular, you already know why this is top of our list.

A Korean hot pot
Photograph: Nicholas Jordan

2. Hansang

Restaurants Korean Strathfield

The owner, the staff and pretty much anyone who’s eaten here will tell you the thing to order is the beef-bone stew. It’s a cream-coloured broth with the texture, aroma and depth of flavour you’d expect from something that’s simmered in a cauldron for 72 hours. It’s one of the best soups in Sydney, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg here. The loud, beerhall-like venue has a long menu traversing meaty drinking snacks, hot pots (the spicy chicken and intestine is particularly fun) and simple homestyle stews. Then there’s the fact the banchan, all 8 to 10 of them, are some of the best in Sydney (it’s a photo finish with Myeong Dong).

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Korean cuisine including pork and banchan
Photograph: Nicholas Jordan

3. Pu Ji Mi

Restaurants Korean Eastwood

Pu Ji Mi is a literal mom-and-pop restaurant hidden in an Eastwood mall with a loyal local following. The talk of the town is that this is one of the only Korean restaurants in Sydney to do home-style food. Everything is made in-house and a lot by hand. The showpieces are jok bal and bo ssam, two famously booze-friendly pork dishes (trotters and belly, respectively) served with an arrangement of fresh greens and powerful condiments, both of which you use to make a spicy, punchy, lardy wrap.

Korean stew
Photograph: Nicholas Jordan

4. Ymone Haejanggook

Restaurants Korean Strathfield

Every drinking culture has hangover cures. In Korea, it’s haejanggook, a term that literally translates to ‘hangover soup’ and includes many recipes that range from spicy to heavy or spare. Ymone Haejanggook is the best place in Sydney to get a decent haejanggook at an actual breakfast hour. If you do come at night though, you can start the whole cycle over again with a hot pot, a sizzling plate of spicy intestines and a few bottles of soju.

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5. The Mandoo

Restaurants Strathfield

This is a proper hole-in-the-wall restaurant: less than twenty seats (all of them fighting for what space they have), a tiny menu of dumplings and noodles, and an oddly serene open kitchen demonstrating the art of shaping dumplings and pulling noodles by hand. Dumplings are massive, silky and generously filled (often with pork, potentially with kimchi, too) while the noodles are either plunged into ice and topped with kimchi and egg, or served in a simple beef-bone or seafood broth.

Food at Myeong Dong
Photograph: Helen Yee

6. Myeong Dong

Restaurants Korean North Strathfield

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.

 

 

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Bo Ssam
Photograph: Nicholas Jordan

7. Seoul BBQ

Restaurants Korean Strathfield

Sydney has many anju restaurants serving Korean bar snacks designed to fortify you for a night on the tiles. Most of them are simple diners full of international students (check out 88 Pocha for a fun version of exactly that). Seoul BBQ is a level up. Expect the same cheese-lathered, spice-smothered dishes you’ll find at other anju joints, but here they shave a few dollars from the price tag (if you order a drink, almost everything on the menu is less than $15). FYI, despite the name, there’s no traditional BBQ set up, just hot plates delivered to the table.

Biwon Korean BBQ
Photograph: Nicholas Jordan

8. Biwon Strathfield

Restaurants Korean Strathfield

Biwon is our favourite iteration of Sydney’s Korean-Chinese eateries. Like the Korean-Chinese canon generally, Biwon’s charm is its unfussiness – servings are massive, good value and accessible. The restaurant is loud and often packed, so don’t be surprised if you’re shafted to the top floor where you need to order through an intercom. However you request it, the jajangmyeon (black bean noodle) and tangsuyuk (battered sweet-and-sour pork) both make it worth seeking out this hidden diner above a Strathfield café.

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