276 Victoria St
North Melbourne, VIC 3051

If I have Korean BBQ, it’s always at the end of the week. That means I will have to wear my week-old, yucky jumper and jeans to avoid making my good winter coats smell like a chimney. Which means that I will have no excuse but to do the washing once I get home. Donwoori, it may sound kind of gross, but it’s actually a delicious and very effective system.
I’ve been craving hot pot and Korean BBQ like mad recently. It must be the weather, because there’s just something so comforting, so winter, about communal dining around a heat-source. And after having a week of delicious hot pot courtesy of my mum, it was time for Korean BBQ. I had trouble deciding between Wooga, which is the more popular one on Urbanspoon, and Donwoori, blogger’s pet. But after asking a Korean friend (hola, Sophia!) in the know, she told me that they were actually run by the same people, so Donwoori it is! Plus, you had to book at Wooga, and I hate not being able to rock up whenever I want.
So we ended up at Donwoori pretty early, about quarter to six, because I’ve heard that this place fills up quickly on account of everyone who can’t get into Wooga (which is right next door) scurrying here to try their luck. I don’t know why this is but, all the Korean BBQ places I’ve come across have that old-fashioned tavern look to it, right down to the wooden furniture and bamboo curtains. I personally love the cosy, rustic feel.  I also love how they give you disposable wooden chopsticks to use, as opposed to those horrid metal ones that heat up like a cattle-brand. 

After settling on Combo Menu A($39), consisting of three plates of meat, soup, and rice for two, hot coals were brought out and put over a gas flame, and an array of Banchan were served. The obligatory kimchi was crispy and slightly sweet, though I do tend to prefer mine to be a bit more mouth-puckering. The pickled daikon provided a raw freshness, and the pickled cucumbers were a classic with a perfect balance of flavours; it was probably my favourite out of the three. There was also a larger bowl of spring onion salad mixed in with a zingy sauce – much better than the lettuce leaves served at other BBQs. I was super not jealous of the poor people who had to have their pot of coals on the table instead of in a pit; I would have probably ended up more cooked than the meat.

Top Grade Beef Rib
Top Grade Beef Rib
A sheet of Top Grade Beef Rib, rolled up like a scroll, was unfurled onto the BBQ before being cut up into pieces for us to enjoy. There was no marinade to break the beef down, resulting in slightly tough and chewy pieces of meat. But I actually don’t mind it that way; as much as I love meat that melts in the mouth, there’s just something so primitively satisfying about working those jaw muscles. Plus, the lack of marinade and an excess of chewing really released that natural beefiness. It was extra lovely dipped into the spicy soy paste served on the side.
Top Side Beef Marinated in Salt and Pepper
Top Side Beef Marinated in Salt and Pepper
The next meat we had was Top Side Beef Marinated in Salt and Pepper. Oh goodness this was fantastic. The meat was tender and juicy, and the subtle yet rich taste of pepper in the marinade was the perfect accompaniment to the beef. It was so simple, but so, so awesome. Unanimous favourite of the night.
Marinated Flank Beef
Marinated Flank Beef

The Marinated Flank Beef was cut and laid out in such delicately beautiful slices that it could almost pass off as carpaccio. The marinade was a mix of savoury and sweet, quite like a bulgogi, and made for another delicious bit of BBQing. But only if you eat it quickly, because the thin slices cook fast on that grill, and there’s nothing worse than dry beef, except no beef.

Soybean Paste Stew
Whilst we BBQ’d (or rather, whilst we ate and the waiters BBQ’d for us), there was a small pot of Soybean Paste Stewbubbling away on a gas stove. Being familiar with only the Japanese variety of soybean paste, I was essentially expecting miso soup. So it was surprising to take a sip and discover that it tasted almost identical to the tomato and egg soup mum makes. It’s comforting in its familiarity, but Chris, who hasn’t had this regularly for the last 19 years of his life, appreciated it a lot more.
I was actually a bit apprehensive about eating at Donwoori, despite rave reviews and my own cravings. The last time (which was also the first time) I had Korean BBQ, I wasn’t entirely sold. Sure the meat is nice but, I just couldn’t get used to the wait staff reaching between us every 5 minutes to cook the meat, and we would awkwardly stop talking each time they did.  But now that we have a Korean BBQ experience under our belts, the process felt a lot more natural. It also helped that the staff were incredibly proficient and friendly; they even offered to refill our banchan, but I have an awful habit of saying no to things like that, even though there is nothing in the world I like more than free refills (except complimentary bread). It does get quite smoky in there though, with minimal space and no smoke vents, unlike big sister Wooga next door. And if they’re really are run by the same people, then I can’t wait to head to Wooga, even if it’s just to have this meal all over again, sans smoke.
Rating: 15/20 – donwoori, be happy.

Donwoori on Urbanspoon

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  • Reply Peach 07/09/2012 at 11:54 am

    Hmmm I swear I commented on here during work hours, but it disappeared ;p

    ANyway…. MINGGGGGG love Korean food!
    I actually don’t mind the smell of Korean BBQ ;p

    • Reply ming 11/09/2012 at 11:01 am

      I have a shameful secret. Or not so shameful. I LOVE MEAT SMELL AND I KEEP MY JUMPER UNTIL THE BBQ SMELL GOES. Ok maybe very shameful :p

  • Reply Catherine 18/09/2012 at 12:41 am

    I love Donwoori – You have to satisfy all your hotpot and BBQ cravings while it’s still cold!! No chance in summer hehe I’m going to hotpot next week, now i must plan kbbq soon! :)

    • Reply ming 18/09/2012 at 10:41 am

      Yes definitely! that’s one of the good things about a long winter, yummy comfort foods :)

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