Saturday, March 2, 2013

By Korea, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

It feels like a long time since I last did any blogging. Which is probably fair enough, having recently gone from probably two or three times a week to two or three times a month. It’s a combination of not trying out so many places as I used to, and then not having time to write down thoughts about the few new places I have tried. It’s time though to say something about By Korea, one of those places that has been within one minutes walk of work for year but for some reason never got around to trying.

There’s no particular reason why I’d never visited By Korea. It always looked ok from the outside, and while nothing about the menu stood out to me compared to most of the other Korean restaurants in the area, at the end of the day that’s nothing really here nor there. It’s all about taste, price and service. Well, and whether it’s generally a nice place to eat. So how did By Korea stack up on these criteria? Two good, one bad, and one somewhere in the middle.

First the good. Our lunches here, or at least mine, were certainly a step up in class from the more student oriented places nearby. When my beef bulgogi came out it didn’t look like anything special, but the intensity of the flavour was at a different level, for lack of a more appropriate term for Korean cooking full of grill hei. Nice texture to the meat as well, not so much melt in the mouth but something to chew on without any accompanying toughness. The accompanying kim chi was also good. I have been a bit indifferent to most of the kim chi I have tried, but I may need to re-evaluate after By Korea. Slightly sour but with but a bit of an accompanying spicy hit, not a typical combination for a western palate but interesting.

Snooze on the other hand liked her bibimbap, but indicated she wouldn’t have it in her top two or three favourites. This may have been a combination of going for an unusual option in the octopus, as well as that it contained less vegetables than most, a negative for her.
The other dish we tried was the seafood pancake. This was quite light, almost omelette like in texture, but packed with seafood. What was a bit surprising was that it didn’t seem to have that much flavour. This could have been because I had just eaten the flavour packed kim chi and beef bulgogi, but it did come across as kind of bland.
The other thing which was good was the general feel of this place. Rather than cafe it definitely had a casual restaurant vibe happening, as if someone with an understanding that restrained is sometimes better had done the design. It’s been a while now so some of the detail is starting to fade, but I remember well spaced tables, pastel colours and an understatement that fits in well with Melbourne dining.

Price wise, it’s a little more than most. Actually, compared to the cheaper places typically frequented by students, it felt around 30-40% more expensive. I would however rate it as comparable value for money. Sometimes you have to pay a little more to get a little more.

Where it did let itself down though was in the service. I was left with the definite impression that staff weren’t as concerned as they should have been and our food took an awfully long time to come out. There was around 20 minutes gap between Snooze's bibimbap and my bulgogi coming out, which meant I got to watch her eat and Snooze got to watch me eat. I appreciate that cooking fresh takes time, but 40 minutes for my meal was a bit excessive, especially given other tables who ordered after me received their food first.

Nice place, good food and a reasonable price, I’d give them another go just in case our service was an aberration.

Food – 8
Ambience – 7.5
Service – 5
Price – 7

1/222 La Trobe Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9662 2370

By Korea on Urbanspoon

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