Over the past few years West Melbourne has developed a growing cluster of Korean restaurants. Side-by-side on Victoria St is a row of Korean BBQ stores - Yeonga, Donwoori, Wooga, Hallah, Toudoori. A little further down Peel St is Chimac, which serves Korean chicken and beer. In Melbourne, Korean fried chicken has an immediate association with Gami, for good reason too, since Gami's outlets (near Parliament, Flagstaff, and now King St) have really popularised the concept. Chimac is less well known, at least for now.
|From a better angle, it would be chicken|
Location: Shop 1, 39-47 Peel St, West Melbourne (opposite Victoria Markets)
Website: just an urbanspoon page. Urbanspoon is good, but I think any restaurant would do well to set up a simple webpage with opening hours, contact details and a menu, which would be particularly helpful for takeaway patrons.
Price: fried chicken is essentially the same price as Gami - $30 for whole. I actually like a simple two paged menu. Saves you from wading through pages and pages of unfamiliar items.
Sorry about the poor photo quality with these black walls and dim lighting.
Deep fried raw spaghetti - I thought this was table decoration, and wouldn't have thought to munch on it. But it's edible, crunchy, spaghetti. Interesting, but too salty and raw.
Spicy pork belly - from the "sizzling on iron" plate section of the menu. As far as I could tell this was your standard pork bulgolgi (dwaeji bulgolgi), and not particularly outstanding for the price of half a fried chicken. Bulgolgi is a common dish found in Korean restaurants, consisting of grilled marinated meat, usually cooked with onions in a sweetish soy sauce. Sprinkled sesame seeds is half the magic.
Seared tofu stack - "tofu, cheese and caramalised kimchi". We thought perhaps, they meant, tofu steak? I liked the texture of the grilled soft tofu and melted cheese. I think crisp sharp cold kimchi, as well as stews and soups made with kimchi are flavoursome and great. But the layer of kimchi with this dish tasted like soggy Chinese cabbage, and I didn't enjoy it. My main issue here too is that I don't understand how tofu is more expensive ($20+) than the pork belly sizzling plate ($15) because even a large slab of tofu can be purchased at minimum costs. And surely, you can't go too wrong with grilling tofu as there is no expectation of hitting a particular point on the spectrum between "rare" and "well done".
Spicy pork ta-kor (Korean style taco) - I wasn't sure what to expect, whether it would be soft or hard tacos, and I'm suspicious about fusion cuisine anyway. But this was delicious, and reminded me of the only dish I was really impressed about at Mamasita, which was the amazing $6 tacos. Lovely light wraps, hot spicy pork, crunchy salad, hot sauce and creamy mayonnaise. Will be back for more.
Half & half Chimac chicken - served with salad and pickled daikon. The chicken here is great, delightfully crunchy and juicy inside. It comes in three flavours - original, sweet soy, or Korean harissa. I'm not saying Korean fried chicken is somehow more acceptable than fast food fried chicken, but the original reminds me too much of KFC to really be enjoyable. Korean harissa, sticky sweet hot chilli sauce is my favourite. And sweet soy is rather tasty too. How does it compare to Gami? It's been awhile, but this batter seemed a little less dry and hard, but just as crunchy.
On a side note, whilst reading about Korean fried chicken, I came across this fascinating "Food Lab" series. In this particular article, he systematically tries different mixture of batters and their outcomes. Similar to my friend's "Systematic Review of Marshmallows". Evidence based cooking is great.
Rating: 4/5 fried chicken at least as good as Gami. The tacos were a welcome surprise, and I'm keen to try some of the other "urban snacks" on the menu! I would avoid those first few dishes though.