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Saturday, 27 July 2013


So apparently Korean food is 'the next big thing'. I had never really tried it and, considering myself an early adopter (plus, being local to Collingwood), I was keen to try out BistroK (366 Smith Street, Collingwood) as soon as I could. I'd read a review that described it as inexpensive, with cheesy music. Sold!

Not a fan of the name. I originally read it as "Bistro OK" - let's put that down to excitement rather than stupidity or deteriorating eyesight - and I'm going to assume the "K" is to do with "Korean" - perfectly legitimate, as is the "Bistro" part. It's just not very exciting or memorable though, is it? It's a bit pissy. Doesn't really match the strong standard of food, service or decor provided within.

I coerced a willing friend into a midweek meal and we wandered north of Johnston (the dead zone of Smith Street) into basically an empty restaurant. It's all red brick and sexy designer lighting: not your standard traditional-style Asian decor at all -- a pleasant change. Apparently some aspects of the fit-out were custom-made overseas, specifically for the venue. I very much liked the front table with its overhanging lights reflecting in the front window. By the time we left, this table was filled with men (that wasn't why I liked it, though - promise); in fact, most of the front room had filled up. According to its website, the restaurant has "dining rooms" (plural), and Urbanspoon also cites "outdoor dining". I witnessed none of this, but found the front room charming: simple, spacious, modern and warm.

The wine list was limited, but that's not usually a problem for me. I should have tried something interesting and Korean, but I was feeling sickly (poor excuse), so a glass of something white, alcoholic and not particularly outstanding sufficed.

The food menu comprises 'Small' and 'Main' dishes. Being new to Korean cuisine, we looked for some guidance from the ultra-friendly waitress, such as recommended dishes, and although she was smiley and willing, it was a little like knocking our heads against one of the restaurant's walls. So we picked our own: a handful of the 'Small' dishes, to share.

You can read the menu much better on their website

...just sayin'

In retrospect, I wish I'd ordered a main, because the 'Small' dishes were indeed small, and also to get a better perspective of the chef's highly-touted culinary skills. Jae Park previously cheffed [yes, it's a word... well, it is now] at a five-star French restaurant in Korea and then at Melbourne's Nobu. His plating [did you first learn that word from MasterChef, too?] is highly regarded. After eating at BistroK, I can endorse this. Some elements on the plate appeared to defy gravity, and could be both rich in flavour and ridiculously light at the same time.

We had...

Prawn & scallop salad with black sesame & tofu mousse

Bulgogi (marinated sliced beef) salad

Grilled asparagus & baby spinach salad

Side of rice... innit purrrrtty?

Pork belly with dried apple & kimchi chips

It was all very nice, and reasonably priced for the quality - absolutely. Nonetheless, I was a bit disappointed - after having read BistroK was inexpensive, I had envisaged more quantity for my dollar. Also, my ears were not alerted to any cheesy music. Damned expectations.

Hey mister, you match the lampshades

I would recommend this place for a date or small dinner gathering. It's classily done: pleasingly modern, quality product, and something different. Just make sure everyone knows what to expect going in, because even though the food will look spectacular and taste delicious, you could still come out hungry.

Bistro K on Urbanspoon