Sydney’s dining scene is already trending towards a casual tapas style experience where diners can share a variety of dishes. It seems a distant past that my friends and I have gone out for a 3-course meal where each of us had our own entree, main and dessert.
The conviviality of communal dining dates back thousands of years and the Chinese, as well as so many other cultures, seem to have perfected the art of creating delicious dishes that are meant to be shared among all at the dining table.
Mysaucepan is out with her girlfriends this Saturday evening and a few friends are asking about restaurant recommendations.
“I don’t recommend restaurants” I tell them. “I only recommend particular dishes I tried at restaurants which I thought to be good” I added.
“And if there are 9 of us tonight, I would suggest a Korean BBQ which not many people know about”
Located on Parramatta road in Homebush, Tosung Firewood BBQ is a Korean BBQ restaurant which has ample firewood stacked up at the entrance to stake their claim.
The dining room is bright, spacious and equipped with water bottle, silver chopsticks and spoons sanitised by a paper wrapper.
The wooden dining tables and chairs make you feel like you’re in a steakhouse if you discount the bright white lights and the silver exhaust fans that hang over each table.
Unlike many other Korean BBQ restaurants in Sydney, I like this bigger space and the exhaust fans are supposed to minimize the remnants of a delicious BBQ meal on your clothes.
The heat from the BBQ is purely from glowing red hot firewood. On a cold night, this contraption is perfect to warm your hands before the cooking begins.
There is no gas appliance to support this flame and food aside, pure charcoal or wood fire is the benchmark that I would judge all Korean BBQ restaurants.
My friends are quite serious with their wines this evening.
Three reputable pinot noir from some of best pinot regions in Australia and a cabernet sauvignon from the famed Coonawarra region on the Limestone Coast of South Australia.
I think we are set for the evening as far as wine is concerned and corkage is a reasonable $3 per person.
Korean BBQ restaurants are delightful with the surprise of their banchan – small plates of appetizers and entrees which are complimentary with multiple refills upon request. These appetizers may vary from day to day.
I am enjoying this Korean style mashed potato which is slightly sweet but so creamy with chunks of potato and the texture of raw onions. On last count, I order at least 3 refills of this banchan.
A portion of shredded lettuce salad is served for each diner. It is dressed with sesame oil and vinegar which I find a little too sour but very appetizing all the same.
The table setting does not come with individual plates and the incentive is to finish off your shredded lettuce salad so you can use the bowl as your own plate.
What is a Korean BBQ without its kimchi?
I like the fresh crunch of this iconic Korean staple and despite the fiery red chilli paste that Koreans love, this dish is always mild and tasty.
So Gal Bi or marinated beef ribs are one of the most popular dishes for a Korean BBQ.
When cooked properly over an open flame, this cut of meat is tender, juicy and best of all, I love that wonderful smoky aroma.
Although I love red meat, the marinated chicken with chilli sauce is a “must order” dish at Tosung.
Don’t let the look of this dish scare you though.
Slabs of chicken thigh and breast meat are smothered with a generous amount of red chilli paste.
Although it looks spicy, it is far from it.
Some Korean BBQ restaurants use a gas grill and the flavours are never quite as smoky as those using charcoal or firewood.
Here are some of my quick tips for a tasty Korean BBQ:
- Place the meat directly over the hot grill leave it alone for a few minutes, depending on the thickness and cut of meat.
- Resist the temptation of turning the meat too soon. Have a drink, chat with your friends and watch the meat cook. The idea of a good Korean BBQ is to have the meat slightly charred for the smoky aromas.
- The middle section of the BBQ grill is usually the hottest and if the meat is cooking too intensely, place the meat towards the side of the BBQ.
- Turn the meat over and cook the other side until slightly charred.
- Wrapped the meat with lettuce leaves, raw garlic, green chilli and some chilli paste and pop the whole thing into your mouth.
Korean hotpots are delicious especially in winter and this Gochujang Jjige is no exception.
Again, don’t let the look of this dish fool you. It may look spicy but slices of beef, onions, shallots, tofu and chilli is a delicious mix in this tasty hotpot.
There are two types of duck on the menu and our waiter recommends the smoked duck. Half a duck comes in thinly sliced fillets. The golden brown glaze on the duck skin catches our eye.
As the duck is already smoked, all one needs to do is to gently warm it on the BBQ.
This dish is well recommended as the smoky aromas are enticing and going down extremely well with the pinot noir. Another “must try” dish at this restaurant.
U-Seul or ox tongue is very popular and I suspect people like it for its slightly chewy texture.
The Samkyup Sal or marinated pork belly gets the thumbs up from every one. Succulent and tender, the smoky flavours are quite unbeatable and its a delicious mouthful in a lettuce wrap.
If you like the slightly chewy texure of O-Jing Eo, then this whole squid is for you.
There is no marinade for the squid and the sesame dip and sweet soy sauce go well with the squid rings although I doubt I will order this dish the next time round.
Skewers of king prawns are here to satisfy any seafood cravings. Frankly, peeling the shells are disrupting my concentration on the marinated pork belly and chicken.
Nothing out of the ordinary with these raw prawns so it’s another dish I would pass on my next visit.
All of us are enjoying this meal. I think the corkage charge is also very reasonable so this restaurant is good if you want to drink your favourite wines with some smoky char-grilled meat from the BBQ.
Korean BBQ is a tasty feed and no matter how good the ventilation exhaust is, you also get to wear the aromas to reminisce after the meal.
The restaurant seems to be quite proud of some “famous” guests which none of us seem to know who they are.
Then again, it’s the food and not the Tosung gallery that you should come here for.
Another thing I like about this restaurant is there is ample private parking at the premises which is part of a complex housing a cafe and other businesses.
So dear readers, what is your criteria for a good Korean BBQ? And do you prefer to recommend restaurants or specific dishes to friends?
Tosung Firewood BBQ
17 – 35 Parramatta road
Homebush, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 8756 5252
Opening hours: Lunch and dinner 11am – 11pm 7 days