1D Bank Street
Box Hill, 3128
Just off the bustle of Station Street, this little gem of a place provides a (relatively) bbq-fume-free alternative to the Korean BBQ next door. We are such frequent visitors at this small Korean owned Japanese-slash-Korean restaurant that: a) I totally forgot to take photos of the interior décor; b) the chain-smoker-boss provides us with extra attention, offering a non-stop supply of complimentary Korean pickle. I’m totally hopeless with Korean cuisine, so bare with me as I trundle through with the review…
First up: Mandoo (Korean dumplings). Enclosed by lightly golden-brown skin that is crispy to bite, is a moist filling of vegetables, pork (I think) and vermicelli, that goes agreeably with the sweet and slightly acidic soy-vinegar sauce.
Two servings of Agedashi tofu – were mandatory requests by Ms JH and Ms AL. The lightly battered tofu had a crispy coating covering a smooth-silken (and burn-your-tongue-hot) interior. Drizzled with mayonnaise, the very sweet and slightly savoury sauce (almost oyster sauce like) oozing down the sides just makes you want to drool. Note: generally agedashi tofu is served in a shallow broth of tentsuyu (tempura sauce), which is not served here – though I’m not sure I prefer the traditional soggy’er version.
Grilled unagi (eel) on hot plate – had a shimmering glaze of deep scarlet that offered a subtle syrupiness to the melt-in-your-mouth unagi.
Complimentary Korean pickle – they have a rotating list of refreshing and mildly acidic condiments – of diced potato, kimchi, beansprouts, cucumber, fishcakes (did I leave out any?) – that is generally refilled enthusiastically – otherwise a subtle gesture to waiter will suffice.
Ginseng chicken soup – this is my parents all time favourite dish here. It is served in a scalding ceramic pot of boiling chicken broth infused heavily with the stimulating aromas of Korean ginseng. The whole chicken barely bobbing out of the broth is both succulent and perfumed with ginseng, as is the stuffing of glutinous rice.
Ginseng – A herbal ingredient derived from the root of particular plants, was traditionally (and still widely now) used as a nourishing stimulant for the mind and body. I find it has similar (though slower onset) effect as caffeine in Chinese teas. And apparently Korean varieties have a higher “heat” quotient.
A staple item in Korean cuisine, Bimbimbap, is often a requisite order for the many local Korean diners. It is brought to the table in hot stone bowl with a petal-like arrangement of beef, mushrooms, crunchy pickled carrot & dashi, juicy cucumber, and a fried egg with a gooey yolk. The bowl continues to sizzle with heat, allowing a golden brown crust of rice to form at the bottom. To eat: add some of that lovely sweet sauce and chaotically mix it together and there you have a tasty concoction of bimbimbap.
Despite all my attempts at avoiding the bbq-fumed-clothes-which-stinks-for-days phenomenon, we still ended up ordering beef bulgogi. Sitting atop the hot plate, the tender beef continued to sizzle away, providing fragrant wafts from the marinade. Next time I’ll just rock up in “bum-clothes” that I am intending on washing…
Following a struggle last time (well mainly mum and sister) with the ‘two-chilli’ rating on the spicy squid, I thought that our new dining companions from Taiwan would be more spice-adept to help me finish it off this time – which I was partially right about (plus or minus some shovelling of rice to wash it down). The tender pieces of squid and chewy vermicelli were smeared in a thin coat of bright red sauce. All-in-all a good level of spice (for me at least), with a hot intensity that induced some healthy perspiration.
Rating: Yummy+0.5 - Despite my displeasure at how often we frequent this place, I still recommend it as very return worthy for some homely and fairly authentic Korean with splashes of Japanese.
[Thanks to Ms AL for attempting to foot the bill, but clearly my dad is far superior in this Asian-competing-for-the-bill business – 還是姜老的辣 =P]
See also: Very Hungry Caterpillar.