There are a plethora of cheap Korean and Japanese places within ten minutes walk of work. I’ve tried a few but it feels like I’ve hardly put a dent in them, and if you turn your back for a moment a new one appears anyway so you can never get to try them all. This is presumably related to the number of students who study and/or live in the area but it’s also very handy for us office slaves.
One of the places we'd never tried before was Tarng, somewhere that had always looked ok to me but was at least ten steps past the perennial favourite Darac. In fact I think I was the only one of the group who knew it even existed, which probably means we all need to get away from the office a bit more. Today was going to be a bit of a special visit as well, as in addition to those foodie floozies Bureaucrat and Snooze the marvellous Ms Mmmm would be joining us for the first time in quite a while.
On entering first impressions were pretty positive. In common with most of the student oriented Korean and Japanese eateries (and in marked contrast to most of their Chinese counterparts) it’s very clean, with restrained decorations except for one large feature wall of the Melbourne cityscape at night. I thought it looked good even if a Seoul panorama may have been more interesting. It was also quite amusing to watch the Asian pop playing on the TV screen (K-Pop?), leading Bureaucrat into a rendition of the melodramatic scenes she makes to embarrass her Hongkie cousins on a fairly surprised Snooze.
Menu wise it’s a mix of hot pots, some cheaper lunchtime special options and a few slightly more expensive mains. Not terribly busy on the day we visited, our waitress was quiet and polite although her English wasn’t the best (or at least she was having trouble with our accents) leading to a lot of menu pointing as we tried to order.
I got the impression that I picked best on the day with my choice of the bulgogi tarng with potato noodles and steamed rice. It’s like a mini beef hot pot, tender meat served in a mildly spicy soup accompanied by a bowl of rice and three small bowls of condiments. I thought it was a good warming dish for a cold winter’s day.
Bureaucrat headed for the takoyaki bibimbap and an accompanying bowl of miso soup. To me it looked generous in size but she thought the quality was a little lacking, with the rice only warm, just the three takoyaki balls with the octopus a bit tough and the bonito flakes chewy.
Mmm chose the spicy seafood ramen with egg. The soup was spicy tasting but not too chilli hot and gave an earthy warmth like from a hot soup on a cold winter’s day. The serving of noodles was generous for the price but the seafood rather lacking in variety with only one baby octopus and a few pieces of squid. The egg was cooked thoroughly like a fried egg and not semi raw to be cooked in the hot soup as you would expect from some Japanese ramen. Mmmm compared it to a restaurant version of instant noodle soup.
Snooze’s choice was the salmon hot stone bibimbap. In contrast with other bibimbap’s, there was little by way of fresh vegetables, the salmon pieces were small and overcooked before the meal was finished and it was bland generally. Her overall feeling was that there are better bibimbaps to be had in the surrounding area at the same price or cheaper.
I quite like Tarng, one of those places where I thought you get just that little bit more than you pay for. It’s not the place to go for fine dining, if that’s what you want there are better options around. I must also admit it wouldn’t be my first choice to dine in the area but if you only want to spend a few dollars on a perfectly acceptable lunch you could do a lot worse. On the other hand, I’m don’t think my companions were as enthusiastic (but it’s my post damn it!). Oh, and the food did take a while to come out.
Food – 7
Ambience – 6.5 (nice but a bit cold)
Service – 6.5
Price – 7
32 A’Beckett St
Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: (03) 9639 4456