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Showing posts with label Modern Korean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Modern Korean. Show all posts

Friday, December 12, 2014

Melbourne: Palatial Wagyu @ Guhng, McKillop St.

Whilst my blog have promoted Melbourne for it phenomenal brunch fare, there is also another side to this global city.  During my trip, I had a very good Korean meal at Guhng, a Korean barbecue place hidden on the charming McKillop St. Walking in I was impressed by this multi-level establishment fitted with a Korean themed interior that was neither modern or traditional but rather, a combination  of both with a calm mood lighting through the venue. On every table, an adjustable vent is fitted to ensure their patrons do not walk out smelling like the barbecue they had.
But looks are only as good as its taste.  We scanned the menu and quickly found a few things we were really keen to try.  

First up was Andrew’s request for something “authentic” the seafood tteokbokki (rice cake).
Taste wise it was decent and the seafood content was generous.  Nonetheless, coming thousands of kilometres from home, I was not the most impressed by the “authentic” rice cake dish :P!  

Korean Barbecue tend to be quite generic.  You would usually have a few marinated choices, some pork belly slices, chicken tight and such.  The menu at Guhng was no different.  But we set our eyes on the Wagyu which was a handsome $39 for 200 grams.  We ordered one serve at first but ultimately ended with two.
The wagyu at Guhng had no marbling grade whatsoever but it melted in our mouths like butter.  No way this was healthy but the mental joy was absolute.  My Korean BBQ ways were groomed by my mom since I was younger.  It would be a large leafy lettuce, some garlic slices, chill bean paste and that lovely slab of meat.  The mild spiciness paired with the pungent garlic sure kicked ass when eaten together with this yummy beef. With 200 grams in each serve, it was nowhere near enough but with some lettuce leaf followed with another serve, it was a good really feed.

Trying to be a little fancier, we ordered scallops to be barbecued.  Sadly, it as an utter waste.
This was cooked a little over, its presentation was a little lacklustre but more disappointingly, Guhng lacked that special finish for the sea’s best protein.  Wasabi and soy was their best condiment but it did not complement the scallops at all!  Not recommended!  Got extra dough?  Definitely a 3rd round of Wagyu haha!   


Our last meat was the pork belly without any marinade.  It was a classic but rather typical to the extent that there was definitely nothing to shout about.  But nothing wrong either.  Looking back, the post from top to bottom might sound a little sad because the only dish I had portrayed to enjoy was the Wagyu.  But do not be fooled.  The meal here was tonight was nice. This is probably the best upmarket Korean I have been to to-date and deservingly so.   To add to the delight, Guhng also serves various rice wine concoctions that were absolutely sensational.  We ordered a jug of berry delight.  Each sip contains creamy yoghurt and bits of berries berries with the slightest hint of alcohol.  This was an easy beverage for non-drinkers like myself.  As a whole, Guhng was easily a place I will return for my Korean fare anytime but do not expect it to be that superb value for money place like Chick-In :P!

Guhng on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bites: Gaya at Applecross–revisited.

After leaving this restaurant last year with a huge 70% discount thanks to the bloggers promotion by owner Leo, I was still every bit compelled to be honest.  I told Leo that if I were to pay full price, I was not really sure whether I would be as happy as I was with a 70% discount.  His food was great and in terms of Korean, it was almost on the edge of contemporary.  I am receptive to new ideas and this was a cuisine I enjoyed.  But perhaps a promotion like a fix priced 3 course menu to add value to the dollar will help his business break the ice to the market.  To my delight, 3 months later Leo has put my advice to action and his restaurant Gaya now serves 3 course meals for a very decent $50.  That includes a complementary appetizer, an assortment of kimchee, followed by your choice of appetizer, main and dessert.


That night, the complementary appetizer was a pancake drizzled with chili mayo.  It was much simpler than the rice win cake served in my previous visit.  But I liked it better.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whilst I did not have a photo of their new trio of kimchee, I felt that Gaya has taken one step back from being contemporary to stick to its more traditional roots. In other words, to suit a layman’s liking.  Definitely the way the public wanted it.


My choice of appetizer was the asparagus, with cream cheese and enoki mushrooms wrapped by a thin slice of beef.  Seared just to color, and drizzled with a teriyaki style sauce.  Good flavors but I tend to like cheeses with flavor and cream cheese is not one of it unfortunately.    Yet this dish was delicious in its own way although the enoki tends to get stuck between your tooth!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


XL went straight to one of Gaya’s new starters to seek refuge for her hungry tummy.  The cheesy pancake. It was a fusion between a pizza and a kimchee pancake.  I will be honest that it was a shocking find to a restaurant seeking contemporary status.  But in terms of flavors, it was hard to bash.   In every slice were the joys of the stringy cheese crossed with the excitement of the kimchee.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


With our main’s,  XL chose the bulgolgi stew.  We had it at the border of North Korea and she orders this at almost every Korean place she steps into.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHer comments were positive on this one.  It was generous, tasty and really hearty when you are starving.  But was it the best she had?  She digress and said it could be less sweet.  It was for me a little on the sweet side too.


My main was a noodle dish served in a rich prawn bisque.  A clever mixture of green and yellow noodles with various textures from the deep fried battered root vegetables and shaved salad.  It had good flavor but the intensity of the prawns made the end of the plate an impossible journey.  For me, I tend to like my dishes served hot or cold.  In this one though, the shaved salad was cold bringing the whole dish to room temperature.  In my opinion it felt neither here nor there but that was just a matter of preference over the chef’s intension.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


As for the dessert, I stuck to my favourite Hott-teok and Gaya’s signature dessert, the Red Misu. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANeedless to say, after a 2 week long street food journey in Seoul last year, nothing was more nostalgic than these little pancakes filled with piping hot cinnamon syrup.  I loved every bit of it.  In fact, Leo decided to put more sugar in mine this time.  It was yums!  Perhaps a little burnt but still every bit delicious.


With the Red Misu, see my previous post on it here WenY Wonder’s Why: The Gaya @ Applecross.My verdict?  PA310413 Like mentioned before, the food the Gaya prepares is Korean with a modern twist.  Improvement and changes are definitely a possibility; but in the capable hands of Leo it is not too far away.  Tonight’s dinner was a bit of a hit and a miss.  But like with all experiments, there are good and bad outcomes.   Nonetheless, it is these experiments that keeps us foodie tongues surprised and keen to try.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bites: Gaya Restaurant @ Applecross

Open just two months ago is Gaya Restaurant opposite Il Ciao in Applecross.  The brain behind this modern Korean-Western fusion establishment is South Korean native, Leo.  Since embarking on his culinary quest 13 years ago, he had always dreamed of bringing the best of South Korean flavors to table with a modern twist.  Seeing his passion reminds me of several other places in town such as Midori who’s Korean chef puts a spin to your everyday Japanese fare while Mr. Muneki of Nine Fine Food, another South Korean, makes fantastic Japanese food with his sidekick chef.  So what does Leo bring to the Korean food scene in Perth with his restaurant Gaya?  To that, I will have to judge the food we ordered that day.


















Our meal started with a complementary steamed rice wine cake with honey.  Sweetish and fragrant with a mild bitterness thanks to the rice wine, it was hardly my favourite starter.  In fact, one might easily mistake it for bicarbonate soda which was what my friends and I felt.  Yet, this might still appeal to some.  With the appetizers, we ordered favorites like Korean Fried Chicken drizzled in a tangy sauce along with some sticky yet crisp rice cakes.  It was my dad’s favourite of the lot.


The next appetizer we had was the Arancini. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADefinitely not your typical Arborio rice stuff with smoky prosciutto.  Here it was filled with a basil pesto, topped with pan-fried kimchee and dollops of berry sauce on the side.  Fried to perfection, these arancinis were different from what I usually have.  It was a nice take on the classic, but was it a good rendition?  I liked the fragrant basil pesto and the mild acidity and heat from the kimchee but I was not too sure about it all.  In the end it was OK.


A more traditional Korean dish arrived after the Arancini.  Here, we had the Vegetable Jijimi or a term I am more familiar with, Vegetable Pajeon or simply just Vegetable Pancake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe reviews around the table for this was a little mixed. But that was no surprise as the cooking turned out to be very uneven for this lovely pancake.  On the outside, the pancake was very thin and crispy making each bite heavenly while the middle was quite soft and most of us would have liked it to be cooked longer.  On the other hand, having a side of chili mayo and balsamic soy instead of plain soy sauce showed ways that Leo tried to bring different flavors to the traditional Korean ones.  That bit I must insist I liked as it comes to terms with modern day dining cultures though chili mayonnaise tend to be overused quite a fair bit!


Despite the mild flaws in the fried chicken, arancini, and pancake, they were all very good appetizers.  However, it was the Japchae that pleased the crowd.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJapchae is already a staple street food in Seoul.  At Gaya,it is brought to a whole new level.  With the noodles cooked to perfection, it is then wrapped and pan fried.  For me, the Japchae itself was really nice but to wrap it and pan fry it once more was rather unusual.  It became a little oilier but being Asian, my tolerance was rather high.  However, to present it on a bed of wasabi mayonnaise? Hmmm! I think it did not add much flavor to it.  Perhaps one little line across the plate would have suffice.  Nevertheless, the crisp skin gave the Japchae a change from its usual texture which was soft and chewy.  Something that was very much enjoyed across the table.


For the mains, I ordered the the braised short ribs.  The ribs were simply succulent with its meat cooked just right to the point before the meat would have fallen off the bone!  The sauce itself was superb with a good sweet flavor but felt overly reduced.  I expected it to be a little soupy rather than a thick sauce which I got.  This led to the dish being salty.  But this was not the end for the dish,as all it took to bridge hell and heaven in my mouth was a bowl of rice. While most of the faults were something I could live with, one bit which I did not enjoy was the parsnip chips which were overly soft.  I believe it was because the chef was waiting to serve 7 mains at one go, thus the chips were soggy when served. For $30, it was something I would definitely order again.  Absolutely moreish although fishman who also ordered this main found that it felt very un-Korean as the flavors of the dates did not really shine through.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABraised short ribs, parsnip and red dates.


Yv on the other hand ordered the 36 Pork.  If you have not guessed it yet, this was cooked for 36 hours sous vide before being crisped on the skin.  Things we loved about the dish was its presentation. It looked beautiful and the pork was really nice in a way that it was not too fatty yet extremely tender.  Its skin was good but we would have loved the skin a notch crispier.  Here it was crisp just nice but not really enough.  Its accompaniment of apples and sweet potato puree was interesting as it evolved to the classic roast pork and apples meal.  But for some odd reason, the sweet potato puree and apples did not quite live up to my expectations as it sweetness was insufficient.  This made the pork feel rather 1 dimensional.  Still good but definitely have space for improvement.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA36 hour pork.   Pork belly, sweet potato puree, chive salad, glazed apple, soybean.


Bullgolgi Ginseng Bibimbap was what my sister and XL ordered.  Again, this was another dish that emphasizes on Leo’s impeccable attention to detail while bringing quality Korean flavors to the dining table.  Despite being an eye candy, was it a mouth pleaser too?  I have not tasted a phenomenal bibimbap before and there was little differences that separated this and the ones I had in Seoul.  Essentially, it was a beautified Korean classic.  Lovely textures, flavors and colors.  But one thing which did not stand out was the ginseng.  I was hoping for a taste of Korea’s highly regarded ginseng but the flavors were absent.  Which made me wondered, where did it go? Hmmmm…   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABibimbap, assorted vegetables, ginseng chili paste sauce.

As my parents were not a fan of beef, they ordered a seafood stew and a spicy chicken.  I have to say, while the dishes my friends and I ordered were a mix of above averages and good, the same cannot be said for the seafood stew and spicy chicken.  The chicken for starters felt like a soupy version of Jeayuk Bokkum which is a spicy pork bulgolgi, this time with the addition of glass noodles and instead of pork, chicken was used.  Its taste was OK, but I definitely found that the quality of this dish felt underwhelming, it needed a lot more to impress.  With the seafood stew, it looked OK, but my parents were not sold by its taste.  It left them wanting for something more than what was served.


Then comes the sweet ending.  If you have read my post on South Korea’s street food in Winter, one of my raves was the Hott-teok.  A divine disc shapped Roti/Prata filled with a delicious sugary cinnamon syrup.  Only available in winter, it is simply a must have when one goes to Seoul.  At Gaya, Leo makes it every day.  AND IT IS ONLY 8 BUCKS.  Are we Perth-ians spoilt or what?   But how did it fare compared to my Korean experience?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPresentation, once again received full marks without questions.  Now comes to most important bit, the taste.  Its pastry?  Flawless.  For us, it was fluffy and the consistency of the pastry when bitten into was spot on.  Also the flavors of cinnamon was apparent.  However, I questioned the amount of syrup that dripped when I bit into the Hott-teok.  I can immediately tell that this was a trade-off between presentation and taste.  But as I am a die hard believer in “taste before looks”, I would rather have an ugly piece of pastry filled with a large amount of syrup rather than these petite ones.  Nonetheless, I really loved this dessert.  I could have more for sure.  Perhaps a little change to the slightly charred caramel shards.


Despite the Hott-teok setting high standards, Gaya produced another stellar dessert that night; the Red-misu.  Another sensational $8 dollar dessert presented as if I was eating in a fine dining establishment.PA310413Just look at it.  Little chocolates resembling stones in a garden with a baby basil stalk as its plant.  On its surface was a chocolate sand that complimented the mild sponge fingers layered carefully with the mascarpone. And why was it called Red-misu?  It is because there were  bits of red beans in this which in many ways resembles little seed/stone found in soil.  Simply perfect.  It is not the most generous in mascarpone like other places and neither is it strong in alcohol but this was, in my terms, a delicious tiramisu.  One which shouts childishness instead of the deep liquor laced ones.  It was safe to say that at $8 bucks each, the desserts at Gaya Restaurant were a steal.



How does Gaya Restaurant fare as a whole?  Speaking to Leo earlier on, his motivation was clear; good Korean flavors with a modern twist.  Commenting on foods having a modern twist probably requires one to discern between gimmicks and techniques.  With the many different cuisines around, it was hardly a modern twist.  However, it was definitely enough to differentiate itself from ALL the other Korean places in town.  Then comes the harder bit which is widely contested around town;  good Korean flavors.  I felt that it was.  My housemates reckon Leo felt more like a man doing what he does best.  He cooks and he puts love into what he does.   The food here is different and in some ways did many things which were beyond the Korean food I have tasted in Perth.  The pork, and the short ribs were clear examples.  They were modern and significantly different.  Maybe contemporary? I do not know.  Essentially I liked it.  Then comes the bad bits like the spicy chicken, and seafood stew.  If I had one word, it was underwhelming.  But fortunately, regardless of what came out for the mains, the appetizers and desserts were lovely.  Additionally, I felt that the interior could do with a makeover to reflect the cuisine which was more contemporary than usual.  Lastly, the price is always a deciding factor when it comes to eating out.  For just over $50 dollars, it was a complete 3-course meal in the expensive suburb of Applecross.  For me, this was a place worthy of calling good.  Returning for seconds? Definitely!



The Gaya on Urbanspoon