I’m a huge fan of Korean food when it’s done right. My favourite dish of 2016 was a sublime vegetable pancake from Munchies Street Food and previous to that I raved about a little food van doing great things called Seoul Street. Unfortunately Hobart has had little luck when it comes to Korean restaurants with a number shutting their doors in quick succession. As one closed in North Hobart another took its place just days after and the difference was remarkable. Kalbi was born.
The space is the cleanest I’ve seen it in years, having undergone a number of changeovers in this time. A handful of tables line either side of the restaurant and a busy kitchen can be spied behind the counter. It’s minimal in design but the stools are comfortable and it’s all about the food.
An egg roll is a beautifully cooked layered omelette, just set in the middle, light and fluffy. It’s pocketed with fresh herbs and a sweet mayonnaise drizzled over the top. Vegetarians are well looked after here with dishes like this and many more.
Korean Fried Chicken demands to be tried whenever seen on a menu. Here it is marinated and twice fried resulting in tender bites of boneless meat. The sauce has a great balance of sweet and hot with neither dominating and the daikon adds crunch and freshness. It’s a fantastic example of the dish, pictured here at lunch time but also available at dinner in a larger serving for $20.
The arancini are spiced subtly but effectively with the flavours of kimchi. Crispy on the outside and coated in the same sweet mayonnaise encountered before they oozed a little cheese when cut open. Tasty indeed and very filling for a small plate if dining alone but it’s really designed to be shared.
It’s intelligent, contemporary food with traditional flavours and showcases everything I like about the cuisine. The style is casual dining and the whole menu is pretty much perfect for sharing amongst a table of friends. Takeaway is also available and it’s perfectly acceptable to eat alone.
The name Kalbi comes from the traditional dish of beef short ribs. Here it is offered as a filling for Ssam, lettuce wraps with a variety of condiments. The beef ribs are fall off the bone tender, sticky, hot, and with a touch of sweetness. House made kimchi is a delight but the real star of the sides was the ssamjang, a fermented chilli and bean paste with real depth of flavour and texture. I loved this dish, I relished tasting all the different elements and I adored wrapping them all up in a crispy leaf to devour. Also available as fillings are mushroom, pork belly, bulgogi and more.
It’s not licensed but BYO is only $3pp corkage and there’s a bottle shop across the road. No dessert is on the menu but there’s a multitude of places on the strip you can grab one after. Or save the money and come back for more fried chicken instead. It’s worth it.
396a Elizabeth St, North Hobart ph (03) 6236 9725