Seoul’s loss is Sydney’s gain as Jung-su Chang – a chef boasting a Michelin pedigree – heads up Funda, an outstanding new Korean diner in the CBD.
From the moment you enter via a curved-top two-metre-long LED tunnel broadcasting pulsing imagery of Korean culture and food, the experience is immersive. The tunnel gives way to a space featuring neon lights, a streamlined warmly lit bar, and ceiling and column features rippled like a body of water.
But Chang’s genre-bending menu doesn’t need an elaborate backdrop. The French-trained chef, who left two-Michelin-star restaurant Jungsik in Seoul for the opportunity to cook in Sydney, gracefully draws from classic Korean cuisine, Australian ingredients and Western techniques and presentation to create a menu that’s balanced and new.
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Although Funda is billed as the casual neighbour venue to Allta, a 12-seat omakase due to open October, the attention to colour and detail in the plating is exquisite. Slices of raw blush-coloured bonito, served on a bed of vibrant green seaweed salad, carry pickled ginger and sprigs of micro-mustard. Beef tartare carries the sweet tang and spiciness of chojang sauce, with crunchy pappadum chips topped with light-as-air pine nut foam alongside. Burrata, the oft-adored cheese gracing menus everywhere, is reimagined at Funda with the tightly hand-tied orb joined by soy-marinated raw prawns.
“Most of the dishes have authentic Korean elements, but they’re not so different to what you would expect to find in a Western restaurant,” general manager World Jeong tells Broadsheet. “We want to interpret Korean food in a modern way.”
Drinks are equally innovative. The Funda Martini features pickled kombu-infused gin, white miso amontillado sherry and kimchi oils. The Open Sesame surrounds black sesame ice-cream with Johnnie Walker, cacao and bokbunja, a Korean wine made of raspberries.
In Seoul, Chang was at the top of his game, but when Funda owners Jangho So and wife Sunyoung Kim offered him the chance to come to Australia, he says he couldn’t say no. “I built my career in Seoul,” he says. “But I feel there’s always room to improve and develop, to expand with different ingredients and try new things.”
Australia, with its mix of cultures and cuisines, was the perfect place to do that, says Chang. “Australia is about diversity. My skillset is French cooking, but I want the Australian market to understand you don’t have to be Korean to cook Korean food, you don’t have to be Australian to cook Australian food.”