Restaurant Shik review

The pig skin terrine at Restaurant Shik
The pig skin terrine at Restaurant Shik Photo: Darrian Traynor

30 Niagara Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Features Licensed, Accepts bookings
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9670 5195

Look. You'll probably ignore the advice to order in moderation at Peter Jo's new mod-Korean joint Restaurant Shik. It happens. What are you supposed to do, when after months of menus of roast chickens, heirloom tomato salads, hanger steaks and carpaccio there's suddenly gelatinous terrine made of pig's ear that might be the key to the fountain of youth; sticky beef intercostals for wrapping in fragrant herbs and green tomato pickles; when there's salt-and-miso cured perilla leaves (Korea's answer to shiso) for filling with warm rice to make sorta dolmades and daikon turned tingly and floral from raspberry wine vinegar and sancho pepper? Don't fight it. Order the lot, and ask questions later.

Later, as you survey the wreckage of your pork and kimchi pancakes, the multi-coloured banchan, probably the remnants of a hotpot-like bonito stew, one of those questions is likely to be "how much do I need to factor in dessert?" Here's the great news (unless you're a massive bingsu fan): Restaurant Shik doesn't serve dessert. At all.

Jo, a self-taught cook you might better recognise as the sommelier from Belles and Etta, isn't that into Korean sweets so he's ditched them. And (teeth suck!) until he's confident in delicious alternatives to making his pickles with fish bits, there won't be a lot here that vegetarians can get around.

Restaurant Shik
Restaurant Shik Photo: Supplied

Here's why that's a good thing. Shik is one of the most personal and idiosyncratic restaurants Melbourne has turned out in a long time. We need mavericks like this. It calls to mind when Victor Liong dropped Lee Ho Fook or Thi Le gave us Anchovy. That's not a long bow. All three grew up as Sydney kids to immigrant parents and have created venues shaped equally by the flavours from their home tables, and careers in contemporary Australian restaurants.

Shik's low-lit room says more about Scando minimalism than Seoul, even if the plush studded bar stools and marble-topped tables were bought in Korea. And while it's a good idea to sink some Hite beers or start with high-end soju, mixed with a perilla-infused Korean pear and yuja (yuzu) juice, it's a progressive parade of skinsy wines courtesy of sommelier Josh Begbie's list. You're drinking living things from Jauma's James Erskine, a German Marte riesling that's all fluoride-and-apricots if that's your jam, or a more elegant Tom Shobbrook syrah if it's not.

You're in big flavour country here from go to woah. That pig's ears terrine is a sort of anise-fragrant, salty and textural aspic that you pinch up with garlic chives made electric with a dressing of chilli, krill and vinegar. The tartare, starring rough-cut beef rumbled with a little soy, ginger and topped with fried saltbush, is dry-aged, condensing the flavours and giving extra chew.

Braised bonito with chrysanthemum leaves
Braised bonito with chrysanthemum leaves Photo: Darrian Traynor

You'll repeat the chilli, garlic and soy dance often, but keen balance means the flavours don't get old. Thatches of chrysanthemum leaves freshen a sort of snapper-crudo-meets-Korean-coleslaw made spicy with gochujang (chilli paste). Mussels luxuriate in a glossy stock pinging with pepper and ginger that you'll load onto fizzing rice crackers.

Occasionally there are more familiar hat tips to traditional dishes. The fiery stew of funky, oily tiger-striped bonito fillets and thick-cut Korean radish is a pretty classic iteration of a jorim. Pork belly bossam, the meat braised in an anchovy and star anise-spiked dashi, kombu and stock.

The rest can veer left field, but still largely follows Korean food philosophy of making good of what's available. So it is that your banchan (those myriad side dishes that appear to spice up your rice and wraps) stars little turnips and kohlrabi but also salted, fermented beetroot for a total earthy, Aussie, crunchy aberration.

Perilla leaf jangajji.
Perilla leaf jangajji. Photo: Darrian Traynor

Summon it all. Ditto as many of the grilled or braised meats as you can and settle in for what could be the best dinner in Melbourne for the ADHD-afflicted. Maybe you'll cut to the quick of the wagyu intercostal, rendered to sticky softness then scorched up for maximum flavour, with crisp cos and salty baby brown mushrooms? Or go the fiery route with a classic garlic-chilli kimchi? Or wrap it in either the fresh and fragrant or cured and umamified perilla leaves? Do it all. Do as you feel. Embrace that spirit of a restaurant doing exactly what it wants.

Pro Tip: Keep your eye out for Sunday sessions.

Go-to Dish: Soy marinated Blackmore intercostals with banchan.

http://restaurantshik.com/