MELBOURNE | They say that good things come to those who wait, and in this case I have to agree. After my February and May bookings at Chae had to be canned due to lockdowns, I finally made it for a midweek lunch, last Tuesday, and wow.
Chae is, for those who are unaware, a six seat Korean restaurant run by owner/chef Jung Eun Chae out of her Brunswick apartment. Chae, who moved to Australia from South Korea at the age of 20, and trained at William Angliss Institute, plied her trade in some of Melbourne’s top fine dining restaurants until a car accident set her on a different path.
Moving back to Korea to reassess her future, Chae got in touch with some of South Korea’s most respected food people, such as Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan, who you might remember from the Netflix series Chef’s Table. This led Chae back to the cooking of her mother, and in particular traditional Korean techniques of fermenting. And so the idea of Chae, the restaurant, was born.
I’ve been a fan of Korean BBQ since I was a teen, and have had my mind opened enjoying meals at places like Sang By Mabasa, Pete Joe’s now closed restaurant Shik, and several meals in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to the cuisine, however, and eating at Chae shows why.
There are things on the seasonal, always rotating menu, that I’m sure most Australians would have never tried before. Traditional regional and family dishes, tasting at different stages of fermentation, and the use of specific enzymes extracted from fruits and vegetables from scratch in lieu of sugar, just to name a few. The experience, guided by the ever humble Chae, full of passion and eager to inform, is something special.
I’m more excited that ever to revive the itinerary I had booked for South Korea last year until COVID intervened. I need to eat and Keane more. Until then, and I’m sure after then too, there’s Chae. An essential Melbourne dining experience.
288 Albert Street
Thu – Wed: 12:30pm to 2:30pm
Fri – Sat: 7:00pm to 9:00pm