Korean barbecue is one of those foods that I find myself craving again and again and again (and again). It’s just so damn good.
I mean you’re getting the best of both worlds: perfectly char-grilled meats at the table, a hearty bubbling stew to warm your soul, an endless supply of Korean side dishes and a generous helping of rice to soak up all of this goodness.
Now, if you haven’t already tried Korean barbeque in Melbourne, you’re really missing out. Because Melbourne has such a wide range of authentic spots with both great food and great vibes.
I’ve eaten my way through almost all of these, but a few of them truly hold a special place in my heart. So, whether pork belly is your game or kimchi stew is for you, here’s a list of my picks for the best K-bbq in Melbourne.
Forget barbeque, Yeonga is on a whole other league of its own. What stands out about this place is the truly spectacular meats they use, which are some of the highest-grade, tender stuff you can get on the market. Whatever you order, you can count on being transported to meaty heaven upon taking your first bite.
Our recommendation for food has to be the ‘What the Pork!’ set. This includes three different cuts of the meat: pork belly, pork neck and a sweet sticky marinated pork that I dream about. All sets come with Korean banchan and a hot plate of mashed potatoes, rice cake, kimchi and Korean corn cheese.
ChangGo is a fantastic place to take your pals if you’re entertaining or just in the mood for a feast. Hot tip: Get there by 5:30 pm when they open, or waltz in for a fashionably late meal around 8 or 9 pm. If not, you’ll risk being stuck in the queue for a while.
ChangGo’s most popular yet irresistibly Instagram-able item is the ‘Palsaik’ set, which translates to eight colours in Korean. This set includes, you guessed it, eight different types of pork belly marinated eight different ways. Not only is this a feast for your tastebuds, but it is as much a feast for your eyes.
Guhng offers a premium K-bbq experience that really excels in its top of the range ingredients and a wonderful warm ambience. For those of you who care about plate presentation, you’ve come to the right place. Each dish here is made with such care and attention to detail.
I recommend the cheesy tteokbokki, which is Korean rice cakes that have been mixed in a spicy red pepper paste sauce and topped with cheese. This pillowy soft dish also has excellent cheese pull. I also recommend the sticky pork ribs dressed with sesame seeds. On the lighter side of things, the cucumber side dish is a nice palate cleanser.
Wagyu One is the quiet, calm and relaxed K-bbq experience that you’ve been looking for. This is the place you take someone for a truly special experience. The service here is phenomenal and as soon as you walk you’ll feel welcome.
I really recommend the B-bbq Big Hakomori, which is a delicious selection of Wagyu One’s best meat offerings. The Wagyu Mille Feuille katsu is also divine and is a melt in your mouth situation for sure.
Hwaro Korean BBQ
Hwaro is the place you go if you’re just looking for great food and nothing pretentious. The ambience here is completely laid-back and ever so comfortable. You’re going to have to make a booking though, it can get pretty packed in peak hour.
What I like about this place, is that you’re not getting clumsy slabs of meat being chucked on to the grill; each dish is a delicate delight that uses the highest quality ingredients. The service here is also very prompt, which is what you want in a Korean barbeque spot. Try the chilli pork belly or the marinated Gal-bi beef ribs. If you’re feeling game, try the thinly cut ox tongue—it's well worth getting out of your comfort zone for.
G2 Korean BBQ
G2 is a stellar location in the heart of the city, overlooking busy Elizabeth street. In terms of the indoor ambience, G2 has it all. And by ambience, I mean an intimate, smoky environment, where you’re crammed up against your neighbour—the best way Korean barbeque should be eaten.
Pour up some soju, clink glasses with your fellow diners, and eat and until you regret. Here, I recommend the pork set, which includes two types of pork belly, pork scotch, sweet soy pork scotch and spicy pork scotch, all for a great price.
Barbeque at Woo Ga will tick all of your boxes. They’ve got intimate vibes that still give you breathing room, high-quality meat product, a great price point as well as a wide range of drinks.
I recommend the ‘B Combo’ which shows off a selection of Wooga’s finest beef and pork. It also comes with a perfectly crisp seafood pancake and a bubbly Kimchi-pork stew that boils and bubbles as your meal goes along. Wooga is also very generous with their banchan servings and is proactive in making sure you’re never short of side dishes.
Located in the heart of the CBD, Oriental Spoon is the perfect place to take groups—especially if your group likes to get loud and messy. Oriental Spoon somehow feels like a relaxed family restaurant while also being refined in its food and drink options. Don’t be deceived by appearance though, this place truly brings the goods.
The food here is fantastic and will somehow leave you over-eating every time. Oriental Spoon offers exceptional Korean barbeque as well as a wide a la carte menu. On a cold day, we recommend you try their wide variety of hot stews. Our favourite though has to be the Bu-Dae Hot Pot, which is a spicy, porky and cheesy stew that really hits the spot.
Melbourne Bornga serves up the real deal. If you’re ducking in for a quick lunch, go their colourful stonepot fried rice (bibimbap-style) with beef and a rainbow assortment of vegies. For lovers of kimchi, try their spiced kimchi stew with pork and mushrooms. Their sizzling bulgogi plates cover a variety of meats, from the usual beef to baby octopus, marinated in soy garlic and ginger.
For more of the best Melbourne has to offer, check out our Best Of Guides section.
Image credit: Bornga | Griffin Simm