My search for Sydney’s best fire chicken took me through a neon-lit hallway and up a shuddering old elevator into the barn-like expanse of Seoul-Ria.
This big Korean barbeque restaurant has overlooked George Street for more than a decade, though it’s the first time I’ve visited.
The Cheesy Bul Dak ($38) here is served on a circular cast iron grill pan. It arrives at your table with the spicy chicken perched on a bed of unmelted cheese in the centre compartment, which is surrounded by four narrow trays. One tray is full of a cheesy sweet corn mixture, another with bean sprouts, and the final two are filled with an egg mix poured from a jug at the table. The whole platter is placed on a burner, allowing us plenty of time to get stuck into some typical Korean beverages – shots of ChumChurum Soju ($15) and cloudy little bowls of Seng Makgeoli ($12) (rice wine).
As we do nearly every time in Korean restaurants, we over order, forgetting the larger dishes are designed as sharing dishes, rather that mains. Our table is quickly peppered with banchan (side dishes) and accompaniments for our second burner, upon which we’ll be cooking meat.
We also threw in an entirely unnecessary Gae Ran Jjim ($13) – steamed egg stew – because we didn’t realise both our barbeque and fire chicken would come with fluffy eggs in their surrounding trays. For the barbeque component of our meal, we chose Cha Dol Bak Gi ($19/180g), which is premium wagyu point-end brisket.
We turned our barbeque up to smoking hot, and instantly got a waiter rushing over to take control of rolling these thin slices of beef onto our grill.
For contrast we try Jae Bi Choo Ri ($19/100) – premium wagyu neck chain meat. They’re presented in thicker chunks, and are quite tender and juicy on the grill.
At this point the chicken is ready, and we’re literally overwhelmed with the amount of food on the table. Upon eating our fire chicken we find they’ve swapped out the more usual tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes) for pineapple chunks. They perform a similar job – giving your mouth a bit of a rest from the super-spicy chook – but I miss the unmistakable texture of the rice cakes. It's a good dish, and I love the trays of creamy contrasting sides, but I've had better fire chicken.
On the way out we offered the cashier a tip that we wanted given to our waiter. We explain he cooked our meal for us after it started going awry. "Oh the smoke," the cashier said with a giggle, pegging which table we were at instantly. It sent us waeguk-saram (foreigners) back into the rickety lift with smiles.
Level 2, 605-609 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9269 0222