Where 179 Queen Street, City; 03 9642 1270; oree.com.au
Open Mon–Sat 11am–3pm, 5pm–11pm; Sun 5–11pm
Cards MC V eftpos
Cuisine Korean barbecue duck
Do ... Bring a friend; most dishes are for two or more.
Dish ... Barbecue duck.
Vibe ... Quick Korean from the counter by day; smoking barbecue joint after dark.
Prices ... Starters, $9-$13; Mains (for two or three people), $42-$89; bingsu $16
New Korean barbecue restaurant Oree does more than specialise in duck; it's singularly committed. Every dish is devoted to duck. Think of your favourite Korean dish. Now add duck.
That most sociable spread, the Korean barbie, is here. Up the back, in broody booths with boudoir-red walls, the tables' centrepiece grill is carefully covered with thin fillets of fat-rimmed duck. It comes straight-up, marinated in either soy or chilli, or smoked. Staff swoop in to turn and tend your duck, or top-up bottomless banchan (sides) and sauces – all clustered round the grill like folks round a camp-fire.
The barbecue is a choose-your-own adventure where a lot can happen between each reach for a piece of duck. You can plunge your palate into the fiery-sour depths of kimchi. Come up for air with sweet pickled pink cabbage, or try a spoonful of souffle-light steamed egg. Even on the way to your mouth, detours with duck are possible: dip in salt-and-pepper or soy sauce, or dredge in sweet-chilli sauce (chojang) to take your dark duck in any direction.
At night, the barbecue booths are where it's at. Top pop hits keep the mood up and nudge diners to neck another Heineken or go a second can of Cass. The booths seat four, so if you're a group of five, someone will need to prop in the aisle. Groups of six or more will be in the front of the restaurant, which is more stark: out with the bain-marie cabinet beneath the giant, picture menu.
Oree's fluoro-lit front section is best suited to nine-to-fivers ducking out of the office for a quick lunch. Dishes are individual serves, rather than the large for-sharing dinners, and cost around $13. There's bibimbap, the edible colour-wheel, with swatches of orange carrot, purple cabbage and green seaweed on rice, topped with smoked duck pieces. The duck keeps coming, with sizzling duck bulgogi or galbi.
The other thing that keeps coming is the bill. Oree isn't a multi-course kind-of place beyond ordering duck spring rolls or fried duck dumplings for starters. Send back the bill and order a bingsu. It's a huge glass bowl (for two to four people) of slightly sweet powder snow topped with beans and toasted coconut and almonds. Mix it through and let the clash of spoons begin.
After 9pm, the duck is allowed off stage, and Oree brings out the Drunken Duck menu of traditional Korean pub food. Yes, that means fried food of the KFC (Korean fried chicken) ilk. It also means stodgy dishes to soak up the soju, hic hic hooray for gnocchi-like tteokbokki or sausage "army" stew.