Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Best Friend (Chung jin dong), Sydney CBD

Continuing on for my current love of Korean food I recently went to one of the more casual offerings Best Friend on Pitt St.

It has all the tell tale signs of a good city Asian eatery; it's humming with young couples and groups of friends and the crowd is primarily made up of the ethnicity of the restaurant. Any Korean eatery where the primary menus and signage are in Korean is always a good sign. We're by no means the only anglo people in the room but I can't help wondering how many of the boys here were introduced to the food by their girlfriends.

Like many similar city restaurants there's a large screen pumping out variety shows and Kpop videos in the background, this is always a love hate relationship for a diner. Kpop has all the glitz and choreagraphed dancing of similar Japanese Pop offerings but with a slightly more 80s feel and often a lot more humour. While we're eating a clip shows where the protagonist sings a heartfelt love song while wearing a chicken suit, sadly I failed to get a decent photo of it.

Banchan - included with meal

The dinner is more casual than many Korean restaurants and I gather a bit cheaper so the Banchan are hardly fancy but still welcome. A small salad, kimchi, fish cake and rice jelly are brought out with our drinks.

Boiled mandu 10 for $6.60 or 20 for $9.90

When boiled these mandu dumplings are more akin to wanton than gyoza but they remain one of my favourite relatively guilt free starters. Minced pork, shallot and glass noodles are wrapped in a wheat based dumpling skin. The soy/chilli/sesame sauce served with these is filled with umame and one of the better examples of dumpling sauce I've tried.

Special set - spicy pork $13

Best friend has a number of bento style casual meals available at a reasonable price. This comes with a spicy pork bulgogi, rice, salad and miso soup for $13 making it a great place for a quick reasonably priced bite on the way home. It's not ground breaking food but for a quick pre-cinema meal or post drink dinner it's not a bad option.

Gochujang tteokbokki - Korean rice cake with chilli sauce $19.90

This dish is my current obsession, I could eat it day in and day out and the version at Best Friend is a great rendition. Soft sausage shaped rice cakes are reminiscent of rice based gnocchi, they're soft with a pleasantly chewy texture. This is then cooked in a gochujang chilli sauce not for the feint hearted - if you don't like spicy food stay away from anything Korean and spicy, they like it super hot one of the reasons I love their food! This version has a bit of texture too it so I suspect they have used tomato in their sauce, it is also laced with chunky vegetables and slices of fish cake. Being lactose intolerant I can do without the cheese but it does go well with the sweet spicey sauce.

Be warned this meal is huge, it's designed for 2 people - or me and my lunch tomorrow! If you are going to heat it up make sure to use a wok or oven with a little extra water as the rice cakes lose moisture over night and can be chewy. Definitely avoid microwaving.

This and Darling City are easily two of my favourite casual Korean diners, great for a quick bite at a reasonable price but nothing fancy. Great for when you're sick of Thai food in Sydney. For those out for a rowdy evening $9 bottles of soju and meat dishes bound to soak up the drinks are a great pull as well.

Best Friend (Chung jin dong)

Google Places entry

377 Pitt Street, Sydney 2000
(02) 9261 8326 ‎

Fully licensed (Asian alcohols only)
Casual family atmosphere

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