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Published February 22nd 2015
All you can eat excellence
Hanwoori Korean BBQ Buffet - Level 1, 70 Mary Street, Brisbane
You know a Korean restaurant is going to be good when your very own Korean friend has personally recommended it. Such was the case with Hanwoori Korean BBQ Buffet, tucked away on the upstairs level located on Mary Street in Brisbane's CBD.
It was only the second time I've had that experienced the novelty of cooking an array of marinated meats yourself, and after a tasty but somewhat lacklustre Korean BBQ experience in West End, I'm thrilled I gave it another try.
Luckily our group of four booked a table because even on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday evening, the place was packed. After being seated and settled, we prepared ourselves for an all you can eat feast.
Hanwoori's expansive dining room is sophisticated without feeling stuffy
If you're like me, it's easy to be a little bit sceptical about all you can eat places. I've had many a Sizzler style buffets in my time, and while there's food aplenty, what's available is hardly imaginative or exciting. Some buffet bain maries look days old, and some prioritise quality over quantity. Not at Hanwoori.
Don't get me wrong. There's a time and a place for a sizzler style gorging, but if you want authentic Korean BBQ, according to my friend who has lived in Brisbane for almost 2 years, it doesn't get better than this.
At first I was a little overwhelmed with how it all worked. Luckily we had the experts on hand to tell us how to cook, how long, and what. Despite the fact that you have to cook your own food, the attendants regularly came around our table to help us cut up slabs of meat with shears, bringing condiments and sides galore. My favourite was the sliced white radish, the perfect accompaniment to sandwich a piece of pork belly between.
After the electric grill in the centre of the table was fired up, we pushed the call button and the attendant came to our table, we then ordered drinks. I recommend Soju – the Korean's spirit of choice, served in a 750 ml pitcher, with a packed ice chamber to keep it at sub zero temperatures. Between endless courses we sipped the vodka like raspberry and lemon soju out of small sake glasses.
Lemon Soju served in pitcher with ice chamber. Refreshing and delicious
This is not a restaurant for the non-meat eaters. Yes, there are sweet potato glass noodles, vegetarian sushi platters and vegetables to grill, but it's pretty much a mega menu of meat, and that's the way it's meant to be. What's available is quality cuts of meat. You've got pork belly, king prawns, marinated sirloin steaks, chicken skewers and lamb's tongue – perhaps not everyone's cup of tea.
There's also a separate buffet with cooked food including honey chicken, fried rice, spring rolls and the like. Word of advice: avoid filling up just the cooked buffet, even if it may be convenient. You can get this fare at most Chinese buffets and the real quality is in the raw meat and seafood that you cook yourself.
Meat galore. Prawns, marinated chicken, sirloin steak, mini octopus, pork belly and lamb tongues
Cooked buffet - Honey chicken, spring rolls, braised chicken and fried rice
Unlike other buffets I've visited, Hanwoori's clientele also seemed to be able to show restraint, despite the excitement of being able to eat as much as your stomach can hold. You won't find people pushing their way to the smorgasbord or fervently fighting over the last prawn. There's plenty for everyone and if you take your time like we did, you can savour it all on your own terms. During the weeknights it's a bit of an after work crowd with what appeared to be plenty of Korean nationals, including our very own at our table. Definitely another sign of the restaurant's authenticity.
According to my Korean friend, it doesn't get better than this in Brisbane for Korean food
With soft lantern lighting, polished timber floors and black hardwood tables with an executive air, Hanwoori's expansive dining room is sophisticated without being stuffy and formal without feeling uptight.
Apart from the haze of after Christmas lunch, never before has the term food coma been more fitting. After eating what felt like out body weight in meat, thankfully we didn't have to waddle too far to the taxi rank.
Final thing to rave about: The price. Hanwoori's BBQ buffet was 30 dollars each andI can't say enough what exceptional value this is. With the salad bar at Sizzler almost costing the same amount – no meat included – you know where I'll be when I next get all you can eat hankerings and a desire for delicious grilled meats.