When I came across the name Bakehouse Garden in one of Sydney’s restaurant guides, I visualized French croissants, freshly baked baguettes, home-made cheese cakes, pastries and desserts set in a beautiful nursery in one of Sydney’s leafy suburbs. The wonderful aromas from the oven would tempt and mingle with the scent of freshly brewed coffee.
So with that lovely picture in my mind, I asked Mysaucepan if she is keen to check it out since she loves freshly baked pastries and French style cuisine.
“It’s not French, hello?” she said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
It’s a Korean BBQ joint”, she says confidently.
“Huh?”, I was a little baffled.
I read on and true enough, Bakehouse Garden is a Korean BBQ style restaurant in Sydney’s inner west suburb of North Strathfield.
“See, I am right, yet again”, she says.
“Yes you are but that’s my line you just stole”, I tell her.
Located along George street in North Strathfield, Bakehouse Garden is one of many restaurants and cafes housed in a converted building which was previously an Arnott’s biscuit factory.
Perhaps the previous business of baking biscuits has something to do with its name because it certainly looks nothing like a bakehouse nor is there a garden anywhere in sight.
It is rather quiet for a Friday night and as we arrive at around 8pm, there is hardly anyone except for a handful of other diners.
There are so many Korean BBQ restaurants in Sydney and I believe they are all about equal in terms of its banchan or appetizers where there is an array of pickled vegetables or kim chi such as cabbage, zucchini, radish, bean sprouts and French beans.
I love these appetizers because they are so tasty, healthy and best of all, you can order unlimited amounts of it and depending on the restaurant, these banchan are usually part of the price of the ala carte BBQ dishes that you order.
We decide to try some of the BBQ meats and immediately a bowl of fresh iceberg lettuce and carrots arrive.
The so-called “proper” way to eat Korean BBQ is to spread some spicy Korean bean paste onto the iceberg lettuce with a baton of carrot and then wrap the grilled meat with the lettuce like a small little kebab.
The dining room of this restaurant is fairly large and I would imagine it might be quite busy and popular during weekday lunch sessions with people from offices nearby or perhaps a Sunday lunch with families that live in the area.
The sign of a good Korean BBQ is when hot charcoal is used in the grill. A waiter comes and sets up our BBQ with a tray of red hot charcoal before the meats arrive.
A plate of beef short ribs has been marinating in a spicy sauce and it arrives with a pair of large scissors for you to cut the meat up into bite size strips.
I find there is little difference between these marinated meats in so many Korean BBQ restaurants in Sydney.
The taste and flavours have a lot to do with the quality and freshness of the beef and the type of marinade which are all very similar among these Korean restaurants.
The charcoal that is helped by gas burners underneath the grill gives the meat a nice smoky flavour. Blindfold the average diner and I am willing to put a wager that it is impossible to tell the difference between these marinated meats at different Korean restaurants.
So, what might be the competitive advantage between these restaurants when the food is so similar?
I suspect it boils down to subtle differences in flavour of the marinades which Korean diners might be accustomed to, the use of charcoal (some Korean BBQ restaurants only use gas burner grills), table service, ambience and price.
This restaurant might also be trying to differentiate itself from its competitors with some popular Korean drama on its TV screens.
We laughed when we saw one of the subtitles during the movie – “That would make you more human.”
The Jinro Soju is probably one of the most popular and highest-selling Korean rice wines in the world.
It tastes a little like vodka although it is a lot milder and has a slightly sweet taste. It is very similar to Japanese sake and generally goes well with BBQ meats.
We finish our meal with a spicy soft-tofu hot pot that arrives with the soup sizzling hot. It is a lot milder than its name would suggest and how it looks but tasty all the same especially in cold weather.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
It is hard to go too wrong with Korean BBQ because it is tasty and there is a little bit of fun and adventure when you cook your own meal. The price of its dishes also makes it very competitive and popular among Sydney diners.
So dear readers, what is your favourite dish in Korean BBQ?
Shop4, 9 – 11 George street, North Strathfield
Tel: +61 2 8746 0299
Trading hours: Sunday – Thursday 11.30am – 10pm, Friday & Saturday 11.30am till late