119 Hardware Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
What happens when one person wants to eat Korean food whilst the other person wants Mexican? It sounds like a bad joke, and if it was one, the punch line would be: go to KOBA.
I’m starting to think that the space KOBA occupies along Hardware Street is jinxed. In the last couple years, at least 3 different restaurants have come and gone, but it seems KOBA is here to stay. It’s a tiny place but it functions more as a takeaway than eat-in, though it does have a narrow bench lining the wall, and a couple of al fresco tables.
We arrived at about 7pm on a Friday (overtime again – my pharmacist and I turned over a whole ward!) to find a long line, and staff that were upbeat but scattered. It took a long time to get to the front of the line, and when we did, we found that they were out of fried chicken and sliders. On a 6 item menu. 
Tokpokki ($5)
Cutting our fried, delicious losses, we started with a bowl of Tokpokki ($5), which were pretty decent for the price. Though hardly subtle, the spicy bean paste was flavoursome, and soaked thoroughly into the sticky pieces of rice cake. The raw shredded cabbage on the other hand? Not so cool. 
Chicken Tacos ($7, 2pcs)
The Chicken Tacos ($7, 2pcs) sounded really good on paper, but once I saw that they were no longer in soft shells, their appeal diminished twofold. Seriously, who thought hard taco shells were a good idea? If I wanted that, I would’ve ordered nachos! Anyway, the toppings on these tacos were a tepid and unremarkable mix of grilled chicken, shredded cabbage, and spicy bean paste. I couldn’t taste the kimchi or salsa at all. For such a distinctive combination, the taste of these tacos was profoundly unremarkable.
Kimchi Fries ($7)
Topping off the lukewarm night was a box of lukewarm Kimchi Fries ($7). Once again, this was a study in wasted potential. The chips were too skinny to be able to get away with sogginess, and though the toppings of kimchi, cheese, onion relish, and sour cream promised to be a riot of delicious flavours, the reality was that they were rather bland, and had trouble attaching themselves to the chips.
I feel as if the meal would’ve gone quite differently had we been able to order the fried chicken and sliders that I had originally came to KOBA for, and what we ordered instead were poor substitutes indeed. KOBA not only made me sad with its long waits and subpar food, what disappointed me the most was all that wasted potential – Korean food and Mexican food have some of the most prominent and bold flavours, and a kimchi and grilled chicken taco could’ve gone so right, so easily!
Rating: 10/20 – sad face.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.

KOBA on Urbanspoon

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1 Comment

  • Reply Sally Li 13/11/2014 at 12:27 am

    you should have tried the korrito as they specialise in this. It was soooo addictive. See here: http://newintstudents.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/koba.html

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