With the addition of a few bright menu boards depicting colourful Korean soul food, like the wartime hangover favourite, Korean army stew, Nighthawk Diner has morphed rather seamlessly into Bibimbar.
Staffed by a friendly young floor team in orange-and-white striped tees and sneakers, this Chippendale restaurant has kept most of the same décor, but swapped out Bloody Marys and Tabasco, for soju cocktails and gochujang.
Fancying a bit of a pick-me-up, I hit up the Pink Floss Frozen Sogarita ($17) expecting something over-sweet.
Despite arriving under a sunset cloud of fairy floss, once I poured in the soda water to lengthen it, the spun sugar dissolved into a pithy, tart grapefruit, lime and soju-based drink that made for a perfect hot day aperitif.
For an accompanying drinking snack, we wanted K.F.C. but were talked down from a Whole Chook ($35) or Half Bird ($19) into a steamer basket of Wing Wing ($16/12 pieces) as we were just dining as a party of two.
Presented in two flavours, the sticky ginger soy wings edged out the plain Korean fried chook, which ate a bit dry though improved when dragged through Creamy Onion ($2) dipping sauce.
Moving onto Makgeolli ($12) (soothing Korean rice wine) to accompany our shared main, we watched eagerly as it was assembled over a burner at our table. The metal-handled pot of Tteokbokki with Toppings ($32) buries lightly spicy Korean rice cakes (tteokbokki) under five toppings, which make the dish textural and fun to explore.
While the toppings – boiled eggs, mandu (pork and kimchi dumplings), popcorn K.F.C. (boneless Korean fried chicken), fish cakes, shredded shallots and fried seaweed rolls – are all ready to eat, give the dish about ten minutes to get the cheese nice and melty, and the underlying, chewy rice cakes, time to get hot.
With more prompt table-clearing we might have tried Bibimbar’s only dessert – Honey Hotteok ($12) – popular Korean street-food pancakes; however after being left too long staring at empty plates, we escaped them by leaving our seats to pay and leave.
69 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale
Ph: (02) 8964 0900