366 Smith Street Collingwood, Victoria 306603 9973 6055
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri noon-2pm, 6-9.30pm,Sat 6-10pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Mastercard, Visa|
Melbourne has taken the bulgogi by the horns with its latest foodie favourite.
Where and what
Long tagged as a coming trend, Korean food's train might finally have pulled into the station. Look no further than the kimchi setting Melbourne's heart on fire and the arrival of Bistro K, a smart newcomer in the heart of hipsterville with a decidedly modern menu. There's none of Korea's cook-it-yourself business here: Bistro K is run by a chef who can plate more prettily than you.
Where to sit
In the section of Smith Street immediately north of Johnston Street, Bistro K eyeballs the discount sportswear shops across the road but packs a shed-load of charm into its red brick walls. Decked out with exemplary inner-Melbourne style, it has a misshapen assortment of pendant lighting as a front window design feature, Scandi-style blondwood tables and chairs, black and red metal stools and a fine-looking bespoke bar. The surfaces are hard - the floor is concrete - so noise can be a problem when diners fill the room.
The wine list could do with work - it's short and prosaic, though Wolf Blass, Four Sisters, Jacob's Creek and Penfolds all appear - but there's a short list of Korean spirits and fruit wines. Trendsters will make a beeline for the soju (distilled rice spirit) cocktails with soda and fruit - buy in bulk and save with a litre jug priced at $22.
Korean food has a fiery reputation but the heat is nuanced with a sweet, earthy depth. A cold starter of grilled octopus ladled with a mild red chilli sauce shouldn't cause many problems; ditto the butterfish and salmon in a crunchy-sweet batter, plus crushed pine nuts doing unexpectedly good things. You'll find Korean heroes bulgogi (marinated beef, in a salad) and bibimbab (rice, egg, meat and the works) and sides of kimchi, naturally enough, but Bistro K has its own style card to play. Two sets of conjoined lamb cutlets show the kitchen's restaurant smarts: grilled to the state technically known as pinkly perfect, they're posed elegantly with asparagus, cabbage leaf-wrapped rice and a viscous sweet soy. More street-style is stir-fried pork tossed with carrot, mushrooms and firm tofu in a peppery red oil. All mains come with a bowl of miso and the nutty steamed black rice, bumping up some already keen value stakes.
Korean food - your time has come.