Strathfield Sports Club is in the grips of a major renovation. In its new form, their ever-popular Red Pepper Bistro takes pride of place on the ground floor with a brand new commercial kitchen, just after the busy sign-in desk.
The now mostly neutral-toned dining room is set right beside their pair of well-lit, 5-a-side soccer fields.
With the dining room sitting about a metre below the field height, it’s footwork central, with the ball flying into goal nets right at head height. Against bowls of Kook Soon Dang ($13/bottle) draft makgeolli we take in the sport and the energetic dining room.
Having to dance around the building works created by this Nicholas Architects redesign doesn’t seem to have dampened the enthusiasm for this Korean bistro, with large groups of youthful athletic types, families with small kids, and dating couples making up the bulk of the crowd.
The rowdier groups are throwing back beer and soju against giant platters of Korean fried chicken from the Incredible Chicken menu. We join the fray using the smaller serve setting that better caters to those dining in pairs.
While we ordered hot and spicy gangjung bone-in chicken, I suspect what we actually received was the cinnamon and soy-based Incredible Gangjung ($18) as our twice-fried chook arrived drenched in a sticky sweet soy sauce accompanied by just a few fragrant, fresh green chilli slices.
As a result, our Cream Cheese Fiery ($19), also ordered bone-in, was hotter, stickier and tastier, especially with its clever two-buck, chewy tteok-bokki (rice cake) add on. When your mouth got overloaded with heat, this version comes with a salty, tangy cream cheese dipping sauce that has a flavour profile that reminds me of French onion soup powder, to help put out the flames. Both of these fried chicken renditions are quite sweet, so the salty dipping sauce also helps to balance the flavour of our second kind of chook.
By also ordering a dish from the wider Red Pepper menu, we get banchan, the little Korean side dishes so essential when you're eating spicy food. We opted for the Spicy Pork Rib Hot Pot ($45/small), which feels pricy, but upon reflection would easily feed four people and seem quite economical that way.
The spicy, peppery broth simmers away beside us, dragging down the mountain of shaved shallots and glassy noodles into the bubbling mass below. It's made up of pork ribs on the bone, potato, tteok-bokki, shimeji and enoki mushrooms.
We’re soon tucking into the soupy combination against small bowls of rice, marveling at how easily the tender chunks of pork meat fall from the shiny rib bones.
Hot, spicy, and MSG-laden fried chicken really works up a thirst, so we hit up more makgeolli and order dessert. The Mango Shave Ice ($18.50) seems very pricy until we see that, like the fried chicken, the bowl is predicated upon sharing. It’s a wacky mix of cream cheese, canned mango and super frothy mango shaved ice, topped with a lovely ice-crystal free scoop of vanilla ice cream and scattered with crumbled freeze-dried raspberries. There’s way too much for even two thirsty, capsaicin-affected folk. Oh, and that chilli burn, which crept up slowly through the meal, lingered persistently all the way home, so I advise you to know your own limit!
Red Pepper Bistro
Strathfield Sports Club, 4A Lyons Road, Strathfield
Ph: (02) 9747 5055