A real Korean barbecue (BBQ) treat in McKillop Street. Welcome to the palace of Korean degustation treats, Guhng (The Palace). This restaurant has come a really long way since its humble opening in 2010. The best pieces of advice I can give you when it comes to eating out here now follows.
Some meat being cooked at the BBQ prior to being chopped up
Firstly, be in the mood to go out and share with your friends or family members. The adage that "sharing is caring" after all is inherently true. Be prepared for a Korean feast for two hours on end, and this includes dessert. Otherwise your Guhng experience will be over before you know it. Ladies, it would be a great idea to wear a simple, floral summer dress, especially when enjoying this experience on a Saturday night in Melbourne's summer.
Secondly, book ahead. That is a given. It would have been ideal if our group of eight was able to book a table at 7pm. We went for the 6pm time slot. If we had chosen 8pm we would be super hungry. The choice is yours. Be prepared to have a great experience (speaking of personal experience, I'm sure you will), and make some room for some sweet stuff.
Those hot and tangy sauces, beware of frequent top ups.
The moment you arrive, drinks are served. In the shared degustation, the prices quoted on the different sets (by each letter of the alphabet) are based on two people. From memory I shared a Set A with another friend of mine that costed around $32 for the both of us, and a variety of red meat cuts arrived after the starters. That's another rule of eating in here, you need to be in the mood for meat. If you're a vegetarian, you should plan ahead. If you're not of the strict species, then you will love the fish cakes. Our group ate them like they we're going out of fashion. Flavoursome and cooked at the right consistency with a herby flavour.
One of the staff members cooking our meat at the BBQ, and turning it over.
The entrees are pretty basic otherwise, except for the pasta salad. A creamy potato like salad taste was enjoyed. That with a lemon, lime and bitters to drink was sublime. Oh yes, and another cool tip for eating out here: ask for water. With the spicy sauce that never leaves room for an empty dish, you will need some of the clear stuff - especially with sweet heaven at the end.
As quickly as our group ate the entree dishes, the meat cuts were delivered in tubs by the wait staff are they set the coals alight at the barbecue on our table. The waiters here need to do more than just serve food and drinks. They (the wait staff) are also responsible for cooking the beef cuts. A fleshy layer of meat lands on the coal plate to cook with a lamp sliding down to add pressure, so that the meat cooks faster. There was a slight concern when a few little raw pieces were visible after the meat cuts were cooked. We're talking beef cuts such as lamb. Attention to detail was paid, and sometimes the managers on duty would also cook at our BBQ.
Neither of us felt really comfortable when it came to picking up the desired meat cuts we wish to eat directly from the bed of coals. The staff kindly put all the cooked meat pieces on a plate for us all to choose and share. The meat cuts went surprisingly well with some tofu and some red bean rice. The sauces are essential. You need some sauce to take away a bit of the meaty taste, and to add some subtle, salty spices to your palette. The sauce combinations and the delicacy of the meat cuts being cooked was bang on the money. As your sauce supplies were running low, there was no need to ask for any more sauce. The staff happened to be mind readers on this occasion, and hence would automatically top up your sauce for you, no different to when some wait staff at some restaurants top up your bubbly or wine when you're glass is almost empty, if not half empty.
The green tea ice cream, part of the Green Tea Lovers dessert
The desserts were amazing, and if you order dessert you're only charged an extra $4 if you purchase one of the BBQ sets. You would be silly not to, considering that the green tea lover is normally $10 a pop. Myself and many of my friends opted for the latter dessert which came with a scoop of authentic green tea ice cream, together with a green tea tiramisu. The latter was a bit sweet and creamy, yet I did not regret my decision to end my Korean BBQ experience on the eve of my last Melbourne trip on a high. Other friends went for the BMW dessert, and yes it's true: this dish is named after the car brand. The latter is definitely not for the faint hearted, and for real chocolate and green tea lovers at heart. If you're in the mood for something more alcoholic, then you're in luck. Lemon lovers missed out on this occasion. Why? The restaurant ran out of some tangy lemon sorbet.
That's it, two hours (especially with awesome company) flies just like that. It was time to leave as the staff needed adequate time to clear our table to prepare for the next groups arrival. Escape the street scape, and if you don't mind enjoying quality food with great mates in a dimly lit space, then Guhng (The Palace) is the ideal locale for dinner on a Saturday night. Let's eat to that.
The green tea tiramisu, part 2 of the Green Tea Lovers dessert