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Published December 15th 2012
A Mass Following
The popularity of Korean food in Adelaide is certainly on the rise, as can be seen by the proliferation of Korean restaurants and eateries of late. Though it is hard to compete with the sheer number of well established Korean restaurants in the eastern states, Adelaide is not lacking far behind. One of the latest to join in the growing list of Korean restaurants in Adelaide is Koba Korean BBQ Restaurant on Grote Street.
Koba has not been operating long and it has taken the Chung family of Seoul Express in Southern Cross Arcade three good years to plan and formulate. It occupies the space of a former church building. Located directly opposite the Moonta Street entrance into Chinatown, this imposing red bricked structure is hard to ignore. Entry to the restaurant requires the ascending of a couple of steps. No big deal here but for the disabled and those with prams this may be hard to navigate.
Upon entry it is easy to forget that this site was once a place of worship. It has been magically transformed into what could be described as a traditional style Korean restaurant with a contemporary feel. Despite spacing out the tables into semi-partitioned areas, the whole place was still very spaciously laid out. The whole set up itself offers somehow some private space to its patrons. Each table has its own built in charcoal grill enabling authentic Korean BBQ to be cooked right in front of the guests.
Compared to other Korean restaurants in Adelaide, there was a considerable amount of choices available on the menu. Even though I may consider myself as a well seasoned (very kimchi) Korean food eater, my mind was boggled by the seemingly endless selection available on the menu. A part of the menu is dedicated to smaller portions available only at lunch. Other items are only available at dinner. In addition, there were also items that were only available on certain days of the week. Needless to say, it took time to acquaint myself through the menu.
After having placed the order, a trolley with five different plates of complimentary side dishes was wheeled out. Side dishes are an integral part to any Korean meal and at Koba there is certainly a uniqueness and deliciousness about them. First to come was an exquisitely presented Korean mashed potato side dish which had been shaped into a flower and partnered with fruit salad on both sides. I could only describe it as aesthetically pleasing. Second was a beef salad with lightly blanched beansprouts covered by some balsamic dressing. Third was a green salad of lettuce, basil and rocket with a kiwi fruit dressing. Fourth was a side of Korean pancakes of three different varieties - pork mince, fish and zucchini. Last but not least was the essential white cabbage kimchi and radish kimchi.
Classic Bibimbap with Chicken - comes with a bowl of miso soup $15.80
The classic style bibimbap arrived with a serving of miso soup. Bibimbap literally translates to mixed rice with vegetables and I can say that after having eaten countless bibimbap over Adelaide, Koba makes their version really well. It is the first time I have had classic style bibimbap. In contrast to the common vegetables like carrots, cucumbers and bean sprouts in the usual bibimbap, the traditional style had Korean dried vegetables. Zucchini, mushrooms and burdock were amongst these vegetables. It was definitely different and smashingly good.
Staff at Koba helping us cook the Finely Sliced Scotch Fillet $24 and Garlic Pork Belly $20
Different cuts of pork, beef and chicken were available for Korean barbecue. Prices varied depending on your choice of cut. If you wish to spoil yourself get the wagyu beef! Scotch fillet was my choice on this particular occasion and I did not regret choosing it. Where I was seated I could see a part of the kitchen. I watched in awe as my scotch fillet was sliced paper thin. I also ordered the raw pork belly marinated with garlic. When cooking time came we were helped by the staff. The beef was most tender and the pork with garlic mimicked the same. Korean barbecued meats go well with rice which can be ordered on the side.
Three different sauces came as condiments for the barbecued meats. Though I was completely hooked on the pineapple onion sauce, my dining companion gave accolades to the Korean soybean paste. There was also barbecue sauce which had just a touch of smokiness.
Shabu Shabu which can also be seen on Japanese menus allows one to cook food in a boiling broth. Opting for one serve of the seafood and another one of meat (in my case, beef) gave me the opportunity to diversify my experience on that night. The seafood was amazingly fresh and the beef surprisingly tender. Traditionally, the beef would be dipped in the raw egg which was a step I chose to skip. Wheat noodles and dumplings completed the Shabu Shabu experience.
Noodles and dumplings that come with the Shabu Shabu
For an interactive and fun meal, there is no passing by Koba. The lunchtime experience will vary considerably from the dinner experience. With a more exciting menu at dinner enhanced by more personable service, dinner at Koba is something I would recommend. Hopefully it will be an experience that will keep you talking about (positively) for days to come.
Great review and the food looks really tasty. I'd been wanting to try this place for a while so went in a few months ago. I asked what was gluten free and got told I could eat everything except rice (?) Unfortunately we decided to bypass that night but judging from your photos it looks like lots of the food could be gluten free. Thanks for your review!