The hwae bibimbap at Danjee. Photo: James Brickwood
Anointed by such deities as Momofuku's American-Korean chef David Chang or Top Chef and LA food truck master Roy Choi, tingling kimchi, jammy ssamjang sauce and soy-sesame-ginger marinated meats are so hot right now. And we're not just talking about the chilli zing of Korean fried chicken and long, fat, cylindrical rice cakes doused in pepper-red sauce.
In the elevated heights of the fine-dining firmament, new stars (two of them of the Michelin variety) were recently awarded to Manhattan's Jungsik with its intricate "new Korean" cuisine, while two weeks ago its Seoul sister was named 20th in the World's 50 Best Restaurants, Asia list.
So when the owner of a hugely popular rustic diner in Sydney's K-Town decides to go a little upscale, it's proof we're right on trend here. Danjee (which is Korean for an earthenware pot or container) is the spruced-up baby brother to Pitt Street's Sydney Madang - home to excellent Korean barbecue with good quality sides, known as panchan, and a measure of any decent Korean eatery.
Classic Korean freshened up at Danjee Korean Restaurant on Albion Place in the city. Photo: James Brickwood
Hidden between cinemas and fast food joints off George Street, Albion Place is the kind of laneway we've always had but never much bothered celebrating. Danjee straddles it with a smarter, more restaurant-y area and a semi open-air barbecue venue opposite. No all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet but a smart, attractive Korean eatery with craft beers, an intriguing wine list (courtesy of the owner's son) and attentive service.
What to eat? All the classics, also spruced up, and sparkling fresh. So pajeon (pancakes) turn into tempura-ish fritters of everything from stuffed green chillis to perilla leaves. Japchae - glass noodles - are tossed with enoki and king brown mushrooms, and the old five-food-groups-in-one-bowl staple that is bibimbap (usually vegies and meat on rice) turns into a gorgeous assemblage of raw fish (hwae) with all sorts of finely grated vegetables, to be tossed together with rice and leaves.
It feels healthy (a Korean priority) but tastes much better than merely ''good for you''.
Side dishes are a cut above - excellent kimchi, sweetly citrus-dressed fresh slaws, wilted greens and more. And of course there is DIY or pre-order barbecue: marinated duck, octopus, classic beef ribs (kalbi) and "boneless rib finger" [sic], fatty meat strips from between the ribs.
It's the kind of place that makes you wonder why we hadn't cottoned on to Korean way earlier.
Do go with a gang, to order more.
Don't stress about barbie smoke, it's a badge of Korean cool.
Dish barbecued beef ribs with panchan (sides) or hwae bibimbap (raw fish with fresh vegies, herbs, leaves and rice).
Vibe Classic Korean, freshened up.
- 02 8084 9041
- Cuisine - Korean
- Prices - Noodles $15, barbecue with sides $22 a portion, well-priced wine.
- Features - Cheap and cheerful
- Opening Hours - Seven days 11.30am-3pm, 5-11pm
- Author - Joanna Savill