This week Smith Street welcomes Bistro K, a newly renovated space boasting exposed brick walls, polished concrete floors and retro light fittings.
Chef and part-owner Jae Park trained as a chef in Korea and is coy about his culinary history, but the admission of an 18-month stint at Crown’s Nobu gives the game away: Park’s food is good. Really good.
To start, lightly grilled scallops and prawns are stacked on a bed of pickled carrot and radish alongside a mousse of black sesame-infused tofu. A traditional Korean beef stew presents an unusual cut of beef rib sliced across the bone, little ellipses of gelatinous meat falling apart in a braise of soy, honey, parsnip and sesame. Both are excellent.
Best of all, it’s inexpensive. Entrees are around the $10 mark, while mains are under $25. It’s early days and the menu is short and sharp (the dessert menu shortest of all with only the one option of ice cream, made in-house daily).
There are plenty Korean drinks on offer too. The $21 bok bun ja (sweet wild berry wine) doesn’t seem so expensive when it arrives in a 400-militre bottle. That’s not one drink – it’s four – and it marries the delicate spicy and salty flavours of Korean food well.
Perhaps the soundtrack of easy-listening covers of 80s hits (think Like a Virgin meets Kenny G) needs a little work, but there’s an addictive enthusiasm from the staff and to sit in a refined space and eat a meal of this calibre at such a low price point is a privilege that doesn’t go unnoticed. Nor will Bistro K for much longer.