At dinner with a group of food-loving friends one night we each made predictions as to the next food trend that will sweep Melbourne (cos the taco burger food truck thing is so 2012).
My prediction is Korean. It is spicy, hearty, healthy and, well, not Mexican. And while my knowledge of Korean doesn’t extend too far beyond bibimbap and bulgogi, perhaps stylish newcomer Bistro K is the place that will teach me to look beyond Korean BBQ to modern interpretations of Korean food.
If nothing else, their Korean drinks list was an eye-opener. The non-alcoholic fizzes were a series of unfamiliar names so I took a stab at a can of Sujunwa, cinnamon juice, which proved to be a sweet hit. My friend tried the traditional Korean Yuza-Citron tea which was sort of like pouring hot water onto marmalade and similar to the traditional flu remedy of honey and lemon with hot water.
In the alcohol column there were traditional Korean rice wines and plum wines and curiosity will one day lead me to try their fruity, soju based cocktails or a jug of Mak Ku Li, fermented rice milky wine, with various fruits.
The menu is split into small plates, larger plates, bibimbap. The prices are very reasonable – small dishes are around $10 and mains are under $25. And the servings were appropriately sized – you’re not getting a tiny bit of food as a ‘main’ course.
From the entrees we selected the deep fried crumbed oysters ($12 for 4). Crumbing is not the way I’d normally choose to enjoy my oysters but in this case the crunchy coating was an enjoyable contrast to the fleshy oyster briney-ness inside.
You can’t avoid kim chi in Korean cuisine and for our other entree we selected one of the more traditional dishes on the menu – slow cooked pork belly with kim chi topped with a thin slice of steamed tofu ($11.50). The relative blandness of the tofu was just the right counterpoint for the package of sour and spicy pickled cabbage and tender rich pork. You can also have this dish as a main course and it is just the kind of food I’d hoover down with rice on a cold winter’s night.
We were equally impressed with our main courses. If you’re vegetarian/vegan (or even if you’re not) then I highly recommend the spicy cubes of deep-fried tofu with a side of fat, fleshy grilled king mushrooms the likes of which I’d never seen (I actually thought I was eating meat until I realised it was fungi). It’s a bargain for $18 and I reckon even meat eaters won’t feel like they’ve been cheated from their protein.
Our second shared main course was a fall-apart fillet of pan fried butterfish which really did melt in your mouth like butter. It came with more king mushrooms, a brushstroke of pumpkin puree and some interesting textural contrast in the form of soy jelly film.
Both mains were served with black rice and a bowl of soy bean and vegetable soup which meant that we actually didn’t have room for dessert – a shame as I would have liked to try their house made ice cream ($6).
I really enjoyed my experience of Bistro K – it serves a sophisticated yet very reasonably priced menu that I’m keen to explore further. Who knows, maybe Bistro K will lead the vanguard of Melbourne’s newest food trend.
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