Dinner with the Korean Consul-General, Sangsoo Yoon, and his wife was the precursor to me finding 88 Pocha. After expressing my delight in chijeu-buldak or “fire chicken”, an extremely spicy dish of chicken and glutinous rice cakes (tteok) coated in a sauce made of soy sauce, gochugaru chilli powder, bright red gochujang chilli paste and garlic, all smothered with melted cheese, this is where they sent me...
Look for an unassuming, dark doorway in the busy part of K-town; you know the part of Pitt Street where you find Korean eateries like (almost) everyone’s favourite K.F.C. spot: NaruOne. Their signage is predominantly in Korean, so just look for the big 88. The dark, intimate interior boasts a single row of close-set, dark wood tables, though there’s also a louder upstairs level geared more towards hip Korean club-kids.
This Haymarket restaurant is a sister outlet to Stra Pocha in Strathfield. Both restaurant names are drawn from the Korean word: pojangmacha, which refers to a tented food stall selling popular Korean street foods. By night many of these pojangmacha also sell Korean booze, like soju or rice wine. I take the name as a reason to double-park with a Kloud Beer ($6) brewed in Chungju, South Korea, and my standard Kooksoondang ($12). While the former proved to be a pretty ordinary, slightly metallic pale lager, the latter is a highly quaffable cloudy makgeolli, made from rice and nuruk (a fermented wheat cake).
It’s definitely going to help ease the pain of your generous, sizzling platter of Chijeu-Buldak ($35). At 88 Pocha, the cheese-topped “fire chicken” is hot, but not quite as ballistic as the version I tried at Danjee.
Nonetheless, if you need more mouth-soothing than the makgeolli can provide, the squares of tofu encircling a tasty dish of Stir Fried Pork and Kimchi ($28), are a good place to look.
My only bugbear here is the banchan - those varied little sides so integral to Korean cuisine - have been replaced by a simple green salad and a bowl of edamame.
I resort to keeping my kimchi quotient up with a thick, eggy Bulgogi and Kimchi Pancake ($20), topped with even more melted cheese. See what no sides made me do?
Servings here are generous, flavours are great, and the foil-wrapped Choco-Pie when we paid our bill was a nice touch - I can see myself returning next time I feel like fire in the hole.
371 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9267 9842