MELBOURNE | Whenever I’m invited to a venue, I do a bit of research to determine whether it’s a place that I’m interested, or indeed already on my list of places that I want to check. If it looks good, if I’d spend my own money there regardless, and if I have the capacity to squeeze it into my schedule, I’ll accept the invite.
Hong Dae is a place that I was invited to recently that there’s almost no information about online. Their social media is full of tasty looking Korean food, but searching for a menu, descriptions of more than a few dishes, and any kind of background info turns up blanks.
It’s easy to forget that for many small, family-run restaurants, this is the case. They don’t have the time to spend on PR and marketing, and maintaining a restaurant, and many of the owners don’t have a desire to have their name and story written about all over the place. There’s something to be said about anonymity, and letting the experience and food do the talking.
And so it is at Hong Dae, when I asked the owner, who I met on the night I dined, what he wanted people to know about his restaurant. The answer a simple one, that ticks a lot of boxes. Big servings, quality ingredients, a large variety of favourites and things you don’t see at other Korean restaurants in Melbourne, and reasonable prices. All topped off with great customer service.
Hong Dae is named after a neighbourhood in Seoul, near Hongik University, which is known for its arts school. As you’d expect, this has resulted in the neighbourhood being a youthful, vibrant place, with plenty of street art, live music venues, and independent shops and stalls.
The food at Hong Dae, the restaurant, is a reflection of what you might expect to eat if you’re in Hong Dae the neighbourhood, out with friends, after a day of classes or a live music gig. It’s focused around platters, available in two sizes, with your choice of original, pork, chicken, or seafood.
I opted for the original, which gets you an eclectic selection of bites. There’s bossam (thinly sliced, boiled pork belly), spicy grilled chicken, fried chicken, fried squid, garlic bread, fries, chicken nuggets, takoyaki, kimchi, salad, grilled prawns, cheese kransky, spicy seafood soup, and dipping sauces. It’s a selection that seems confusing at first, but makes sense in context. Importantly, it’s all tasty.
Supplementing the platters are an assortment of things. I went for the kimchi jeon (pancake), the new-to-the-menu volcano mala pork belly soup, and bingsu. Why’s there malatang at a Korean restaurant? Again, it’s a matter of context. Sichuan-style malatang has become very popular in South Korea in recent years, and you can easily find it in trendy neighbourhoods like Hong Dae.
To drink, it’s Korean sodas, cocktails, and beers, and an assortment of soju. Try “Jinro Is Back”, a smoother, less alcoholic version of one of Korea’s most popular soju, Jinro Chamisul (which is also on the menu).
100 Little Lonsdale Street
Telephone: 0493 541 320
Mon – Sun: 5:30pm to 1:30am