Ko and Co is the result of husband and wife team Frank and Sarah Lin. They were previously operators of a successful takeaway shop in the Galleries, Town Hall looking for a change. They wanted to change people's perception of Korean dining of smoky BBQ, bubbling cauldrons of spicy soups, and short cups of soju from green bottles.
[ADVERT]Soju is the best known liquor from South Korea that dates back to being first distilled around 1300 A.D. The main ingredient of soju is rice, almost always in combination with other ingredients such as wheat, barley, or sweet potatoes. Soju is clear-colored and typically varies in alcohol content from 10% to 25% proof.
To Ko and Co, Korean food isn't just about hot plates sunken into tables and meat buffets, nor is it just about kimchi and bibimbap. The flavours and textures used in Korean food are popping up all over the place, from exciting new restaurants like Moon Park to funky fusion diners like Ms.Gs. With celebrity chefs such as David Chang and Akira Back leading the charge, Korean food is being dabbled with by other hugely successful identities in the dining scene, like Wolfgang Puck. As a result, Korean food is developing a real familiarity with Sydney palates.
The combination of Korean and Mexican has its roots in Southern California, which has had a long history of Korean immigration. Coupled with the proximity to Mexico, it's a concept that had been knocking around for some time before exploding in popularity thanks to the Kogi trucks pioneered by Roy Choi.
The food was developed by Frank and Sarah who bring to my attention aspects of the food that really work together;."We remember enjoying mixing cheese into our hot rice (to melt) when I was a kid while eating our usual spread of Korean foods of bulgogi, kimchi and dried seaweed, so the match isn't completely alien to our palates."
Frank and Sarah admit that "timing was important too as the fusion concept would have been too foreign to Sydney five years ago." With the acceptance of Mexican food to the Sydney culinary food scene and the curiosity around Korean food gaining enough momentum, Ko and Co became a reality.
As we all know, a taco without a margarita in the other hand just isn't right. Jae Jung is the resident mixologist/bartender, with experience of working in a variety of venues from nightclubs and various Merivale venues including Slip Inn and Ivy Pool Bar, to the Beresford. He has put together a perfect Ko & Co's range of cocktail and drinks.
In questioning Jae about the elusive 'perfect drink' his experience revealed, "The bartender in me is trying to come up with some amazing combination of exotic liqueurs, deconstructed ingredients, fancy stemware and artistic garnish; but the drink that people seem to order hand over fist at the bar is our simple cold-press watermelon juice and soju."
Jae admits that "any fresh juice pairs amazingly well with soju, which has a low flavour profile, so we're using a mix of seasonal juices to follow whatever is fresh and in season for us". His twists on the classic cocktails (a margarita, a bramble and an iced tea – for now) are popular across the board, and they stock a range of Korean and other Asian beers (i.e. OB Hite, Cass, Asahi) that pair well with the food.
So I ventured out on Monday night to see what Korean and Mexican fusion was about. With a yuzu margarita and green apple cold press fruit soju in hand, it was time to discover the food options.
On the menu you have your tacos and quesadillas but served Korean style with a twist of kimchi. I couldn't go pass the quesadilla- flour tortilla with Ko and Co's house kimchi and three cheese filling and tacs with beef short ribs, so delicious and tasty. If you haven't tried Korean fried chicken, this is a must served up with kimchi mayo and pickled radish. It is crispy and works well with an alcoholic kick from the cocktails.
We also managed to squeeze in a dessert tortilla, a take on a Korean street food known as hotteok filled with brown sugar, cinnamon and pistachio sandwiched in a toasted tortilla. Biting into a piping hot sugar filling, this is what I remember about eating hotteok. Delish.
Mexican with Korean twist
In terms of alcoholic kick, soju works well with a variety of food due to its subtle flavours, best described as malty with a hint of sweetness. Typically soju is usually served neat, chilled in a shot glass. Personally I find it rather too potent and vodka-like so the option of having it in a cocktail is perfect.
My thoughts on Ko and Co - it's a cute little venue, a short diagonal jump from iconic Hollywood Bar. A place you can have a taste of Korea in your dinner and drinks. Think Ko and Co hit the nail on the head with showing that Korean flavours can be as fun and varied as they know it can be. A fun place to catch up with friends with great bar food, what more could you ask for. I know I'll be back for more.