MELBOURNE | Little Oscar Brunswick East is what happens when the former owner of a Chapel Street fashion label decides to open a bar serving Korean and American fusion food. An odd and unexpected combination but one that owner Lorance Darwish is confident will appeal to Melburnian taste-buds. You might assume that it all sounds too “cool for school” but you’d be wrong. We spoke to Lorance just after Little Oscar opened in December and he stressed to us that he wanted Little Oscar to be a homely spot that appeals to locals. We’ve been back several times since our first visit and we’ve noticed little tweaks here and there as Little Oscar settles into its place as a Brunswick local’s joint.
The space is small and long, with concrete and exposed brick mixing with large ropes giving a ship-like touch to the space. It’s all very casual and chilled out, with the eclectic soundtrack being supplemented in the afternoons and evenings by regular DJs and live musicians.
On the drinks side it’s Nail beers on tap along with an eclectic assortment of local and international beers. Wines are mostly local and from New Zealand while the focused cocktail menu provides slight twists on the classics, as well as featuring a few bespoke creations.
London dry gin, fresh lemon, St Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh thyme and cucumber combine in this light and refreshing cocktail. It’s one of the best cocktails on the menu in our opinion.
Stormy Old Fashioned ($18.00)
Featuring Bermudian black rum, house made ginger syrup and aromatic bitters, the Stormy Old Fashioned takes the best of 2 classic cocktails and combines them to create a tasty tipple.
The Korean American fusion food is prepared at the open kitchen, and if you grab a seat at the bar you’ll be in prime position to see it in action. The burgers are unsurprisingly one of the most popular items on the menu.
KFC – Korean Fried Chicken ($13.00)
Korean Fried Chicken is an inevitability on any menu in Melbourne that purports to serve Korean food or American food so it’s no surprise to find it on the menu at Little Oscar. This version hits all of the right spots, with a nicely seasoned, crispy coating and beautifully tender chicken. Don’t worry if the chicken has a slight pinkish tinge – this is just marrow leeching out of the young, porous bones and is common when the chicken is of good quality and cooked on the bone, as is the case at Little Oscar.
Spring Rolls With Thai Sauce ($7.00)
Is this American? Is it Korean? What’s with the Thai sauce? All valid questions but all irrelevant to the most important question – does it taste good? The answer is a resounding yes. The spring rolls at Little Oscar are unashamedly fusion and are all the better for it – crispy and full of flavour.
Kim Jong Un’s Chips ($11.00)
Beer battered chips with caramalised kimchi and gochujang beef covered in cheong-gochu, sour cream and spring onions. We could wax lyrical about these chips, but it’s easier just to say that whatever you’re thinking about them right now based on the description and photo is true. This messy thing of wonder is a must order menu item.
Little Oscar Burger ($13.00 for 2)
The Little Oscar Burger cosists of a wagyu beef patty, cheese, lettuce, onion jam, house cured pickles, tomato and house made sauce. A decent burger that delivers what you expect, with the quality of the ingredients evident. Simple and delicious.
Gangnam Style ($16.50)
This combination of Korean fried chicken with Asian slaw, kimchi and roasted sesame seeds sums up everything that Little Oscar is all about. The fried chicken is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, the kimchi has a nice kick to it and the Asian slaw mellows things out. The flavours work really well together here, making the Gangnam Style another must order dish.
Korean-Style Beef Ribs ($15.00)
The slow cooked beef ribs in bulgogi marinade and very tasty and tender, but make sure that the sprinkled coating is evenly on each piece of beef – you really need a bit of everything in each bite to get the full effect of these.
We don’t exactly know what the inspiration was behind this sweet wekame seaweed and sesame jelly with mango, coconut ice-cream, pomegranate (we had strawberries as the pomegranate was out) and desiccated coconut, but it all works really well. Unlike the beef ribs this is one of those dishes where the components work well together and individually. There are some really contrasting flavours here thanks to the seaweed and sesame jelly and it works beautifully.
Little Oscar is in an odd location, just past the Brunswick Road intersection on Lygon Street in Brunswick, but not quite up where most of the action in this part of town is centred. It’s a great bar with excellent drinks, interesting tasty food, top notch service and a fun local’s atmosphere. If you make the effort and pay Lorance and the team a visit, you might just become a regular yourself.
41 Lygon Street
Brunswick East 3057