Basement 407-409 Swanston Street
Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000
(03) 9663 7123
Happy 2013, everyone! OK, so it’s like the second last week of January, but you know what I mean. I feel like I need to dust the cobwebs off this blog, it’s been that long since I last posted. The last few weeks have been a little nuts, what with all the present hunting and festivities and crying over the state of my bank account. And the food. Holy cow. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight’s worth in food over the Christmas break.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from ringing in the new year doing what I do considerably well – eat. And what better way to celebrate than with Korean food? Some friends and I forewent the usual Victoria Street haunts for something closer to the fireworks and found ourselves at Joomak – an unsuspecting, hole-in-the-wall type place nestled in the RMIT district on Swanston.
I didn’t really know what to expect as I traipsed – hesitantly – down the stairs into the basement of the seedy-looking building. But I knew I had stumbled onto a hidden gem upon taking in the uber-cute private booths, neon string lights and kitschy spool chairs. Joomak also oozed a very cool, relaxed vibe, which I dug. Everyone looked like they were right at home.
Our party of five was one member too many for a booth, so we were seated at a corner table. A round of Soju (15.0 a bottle) kicked off the celebrations. Soju is like the Korean alternative to vodka but a little sweeter and more rounded out in taste. Well, as far as I could tell, anyway. Being designated driver on NYE probably wasn’t the best idea, but hey, at least there aren’t any deplorable Facebook photos.
The chicken drumettes (15.0) that made their way over to us next almost evaporated into thin air, they were snatched up so quickly! I reached for a second, only to find an empty plate and everyone else munching/avoiding eye contact. Sneaky buggers. The one I did have was crunchy and juicy and went down an absolute treat. Those Koreans sure know their chicken! Hallah over in West Melbourne do it one better, though. I could live on that stuff.
Our seafood pancake (17.0) was a generous serving of prawns, mussels, carrots and spring onions. It was nice and thin, and full of flavour. Plus, it wasn’t batter-y like some okonomiyaki I’ve had in the past, which was a welcome change.
We also ordered ourselves a Kimchi and pork pancake (17.0). The spicy Kimchi flavour wasn’t all there and the shredded pork was scarce, but it was still pretty delicious. We still had the complimentary banchan (traditional Korean side dishes) that came complete with some exceptional Kimchi, so no biggie.
The pan-fried spicy squid (19.0) arrived at our table on a steaming hot plate. I’m usually a self-confessed chilli wuss, but with it being NYE and I decided that I couldn’t wuss out this time. While I ended up scraping some of the sauce off, it was fairly manageable (in tiny doses, between large gulps of my lemon lime and bitters). The squid was lovely and tender.
Trying to squeeze in all the food we could before we each embarked on our doomed resolutions to eat less in the new year (yeah, that’s never gonna happen), our last pick from the Joomak menu was the cheese egg roll with fish roe (14.0). Anyone who has an acquired taste for eggs and tomato sauce (or anybody who is Filipino) will probably like this number. As soon as our waitress laid it down, there was a stunned silence, followed by a simultaneous ‘whoaaa’. It didn’t disappoint, either. The eggs were light and fluffy, and the cheese was wonderful in all of its melted, gooey glory. We gobbled that thing up like there was no tomorrow.
I was kinda bummed that there was no BBQ component to dinner, but I’d happily go back to Joomak (and the strawberry rice wine that we apparently missed out on). Service was genuine and friendly, and the food was pretty good, too. No matter what the occasion, the Korean dining experience is always fun – and best shared with friends.