What is contemporary Korean food, I hear you ask? Well, we asked the same question of the friendly, helpful staff. The self-taught chef, Chung Jae, is a Korean man who came to Australia to work in another industry. He bemoaned the lack of decent South Korean food. This motivated him to open his own restaurant, which focuses on fresh, Australian produce, and South Korean flavours. The menu is divided into two sections - a large contemporary section, and a smaller list of authentic South Korean dishes.
The first entree to catch our eye was Yook Hwe ($14.90), which is fine slivers of raw beef (from the tri-tip, under the shoulder blade) served on in a mound, with a raw egg cracked over top, over a bed of julienne Fuji apple. In South Korea they would use Nashi Pear, but apparently the ones we get in Australia are not juicy enough, so Fuji makes a good substitute. The flavour base of this dish was sesame, soy, chilli and shallots. It was the best dish of the night by far, and a little challenging, but very similar to eating carpaccio. I will remember it for a very long time.
The second entree was a fabulous bit of fusion cooking - Tempura Bugtails ($14.90) - combining great, fresh Australian bug tails with a creamy, sweet Korean style home made tartare sauce on a rather DIVINE bed of apple mash.
The best main we had was called Jaeyuk Gui ($22.90) and it was probably because of the bed of apple and potato mash - a rather amazing combination of mashed apples and mashed potatoes, gently combined so you get pockets of apple and pockets of potato. On top was a mountain of thin slices of pork belly , which had been char-grilled and then tossed in a chilli suace.
We finished off with Coffee Pork Spare Ribs ($26.90) which were a very well-presented tower of succulent marinated java pork ribs, grilled over hot coals and drizzled with sweet coffee dressing, served over a bowl of fresh Asian salad.
We drank some lovely wines by the glass with our meal, all under $7.00 per glass.
This meal was an absolute pleasure - from the warm, friendly staff, to the absolutely, exceptional, innovative food - I wish they were in Sydney so I could go more often!
Mapo Korean Restaurant
113 Gouger Street, Adelaide SA 5000
Ph: (08) 8211-6042
Fax: (08) 8211-6042