Every once in a while you have to take your palate In your hands and be adventurous. With this concept in mind, I took my family to Moon Park in Redfern. Open since last November, the relatively new modern Korean restaurant has nothing but positive online reviews, and so was definitely worth a try.
Up a flight of steeps stairs above a gallery, you wouldn't really know the place was there. Sparsely decorated and dimly lit, the atmosphere is uncomplicated, almost spartan, but warmth is amply supplied by our lovely waitress.
We were very quickly seated and left to examine the menu - a single sheet of organic style paper. Divided into entrees, mains (plates) and desserts; the menu is designed for sharing and has many interesting options. One standout example was the Dotorimuk ($16): a corn jelly, picked mushroom, whipped tofu with kimchi and Brussels sprouts. If you can't choose, a $65pp banquet option is available.
One of the first things I noticed is that places are set with chop sticks and silver wear, giving diners an option of how they want to eat their dinner and removing any embarrassment you might feel at having to ask.
Very soon after sitting we also received complementary Korean rice crackers with thyme salt which was lovely and thoughtful. They're larger and thinner then their cousins the prawn cracker, and the sounds they make when you bite into them is reminiscent of a Pringles ad. Both aurally and orally delicious.
After a smooth start, we hit a minor hiccup. We were asked if we would move to another table to accommodate a larger group. The table we were moved to was nicer, near the window, and it was done with such courteousness and gratitude we didn't mind a bit.
When we went to order food though, we hit another, more major stumbling block. We found that the one item that my parents both wanted was off the menu due to a missing delivery of duck. Not to be put off, we reexamined our options and ordered three shared entrees and four new mains which we couldn't wait to eat.
The Zucchini pancake with squid and mussels ($12) was the first dish to hit our table. Large, and flat, it reminded me of a Polish potato pancake but with a bit of chilli heat. There was a mild fish flavour which could have been stronger, but overall it was very tasty (if oily).
Our second entree was the Dokbeokki & peanuts ($5), tube shaped rice cakes that were covered in a peanut crumb coating, served stacked on the plate like a tasty game of Jenga. The smell of peanut wafted towards me from the moment they landed on the table. It was like the Korean equivalent of peanut butter on toast, and I loved it - although I must say I enjoyed it more than other people on my table did.
The final entree, bulgogi ssam, anchovy and sweet cabbage ($7 each) was also good. The saltiness of the meat was balanced by the unseasoned rice pancake it rested on. We were very glad it lived up to its price.
A break between entree and mains is a good thing, it aids in digestion. But, as any My Kitchen Rules fan would know (and probably everyone else too), an hour is too long. Way too long. Unfortunately, that's what we experienced, and on a Tuesday night, when all you want is an early meal; it was frustrating. Furthermore while we were waiting for the rest of our meal and didn't have any good food to distract us; we noticed just how noisy the restaurant was.
With concrete floors, bare walls and a high ceiling - the place echoes. Last year the owners started up on a shoestring budget anticipating regular but minimal patronage. Moon Park turned out to be a hit. Now that they are earning a regular income; improvements are being made in an ad hoc fashion while the restaurant is in operation. Next week, a banquet unit will be installed along one wall. This should reduce the noise and provide more seating.
Finally, after more than an hour and several queries, our mains arrived. The Geranjjim ($16) - a vegetarian dish with egg custard, eggplant and lotus root looked very small, but it was surprisingly filling and had a unique range of very nice flavours and textures.
The Jjajangmain ($20) of which we ordered two, consisted of Calamari noodles, snow peas, black beans and kombu. It was a great dish. The thin noodles were perfectly cooked and well mixed with a decent amount of soft calamari, and some pickled onions gave it a kick.
Finally, the John Dory with pollock broth and toasted barley ($26) was also a good dish. This firm fish had a delicate charred flavour. The barley was chewy, and the broth it was swimming in provided the saltiness needed.
All the dishes of the night had a base of chilli, so if you don't like it a little hot, then this isn't the restaurant for you.
All in all it was a culinary adventure. There were a lot of new things to try, and the food was good. They just need to work on the timing (maybe the kitchen was understaffed?) and the noise levels.
Where: 34 Redfern Street Redfern NSW.
Why: A unique take on Korean food
When: Tuesday - Saturday 5.30pm till late. Sunday 12noon till 3pm.