The first thing you’ll notice after stepping into Damda, beyond the strong design aesthetic, is the monstrous, smoke-belching oven.
It’s admirably manned by a smiling, tattooed, Korean coal-master.
As your salivary glands kick into overdrive, you’ll begin to appreciate that this is a modern reinterpretation of Korean barbecue - the name means ‘resemble’ - doing things a little differently.
Instead of cooking at your table, you’ll sit back and enjoy Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage, soju, in sharing-sized, icy cocktail carafes, from delicate Green Seoul ($25) with mint, grape and lemon, to the more fragrant and interesting Yuzu Punch ($25).
Drinking snacks, like sticky-sweet chilli rice cake skewers, Ddeok Ggochi ($10/8 pieces), are great against Korean beers from Hite ($6) to Cass ($6).
Despite being tempted by Korean fried chicken and thematic nachos and tacos, I sensibly avoided loading up on entrees.
Lucky, because the outstandingly tender and smoky Kalbi Beef Ribs ($35.50) arrived in a large metal tray, laden with gochujang noodle salad, cornballs, lotus root chips and house-made kimchi.
The BBQ is fully customisable, from additional meat options like Bossam ($17) (pork belly), to three different accompanying Korean sauces.
They cover all preferences from sweet to heat; though for me it’s all about that intriguing blend of chilli (gochujang) and fermented soybean paste (doenjang) called ssamjang.
166 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9560 0527