Seoul Bistro is an eatery in Sunnybank that serves up Korean and Japanese food, with the star being the fried chicken. Korean fried chicken has taken off in Melbourne, and we figured it would only be a matter of time before it caught on in Brisbane. We were fortunate enough to be invited to visit.
The restaurant is located away from the popular food hub around that junction of Mains Road and McCullough Street, but as past experience has proven, there are lots of other great places to eat outside of that. Seoul Bistro sits at the corner of a small row of neighbourhood shops in a residential area. It was surprisingly busy when we went there on a weeknight, with most of the inside tables filled. That sort of popularity generally bodes well.
The interior has simple, modern decor. It has black tiled walls on one side, and white tiled walls near the service counter. White and red partitions create more seating sections so that customers can feel like they have a bit more privacy without being crowded in. They have both fans and airconditioning inside, keeping things at a comfortable temperature (important when eating hot food). K-pop music videos play on a television on the wall, so while you’re waiting you can brush up on your dance moves. There is more seating outside in a covered outdoor area. The wooden tables are comfortably wide, so there is enough room for the lineup of dishes you will no doubt order without having to worry that plates will be pushed off the edge.
Menus and water were brought to the table soon after we were seated. The water came in a brushed metal flask from the refridgerator, and was pleasantly chilled. It was accompanied by metal cups. Metal utensils and dishes are a typical Korean thing, and I have heard various explanations for this, from it being the belief that it would either show up the presence of poison or could purify food (that only applied to the actual silver ones), to it being a demonstration of status. The stand of disposable wooden chopsticks at the table detracted from that, but I can see why they were chosen from a convenience point of view. Also, given previous encounters with the traditional flat metal korean chopsticks, the typically shaped wooden chopsticks were easier to use.
The laminated menus listed the available dishes in English on one side, and in Korean on the other. They looked to be the same items, not hiding secret insider options for those in the know. Chicken is their thing, and you can have your fried chicken in an assortment of flavours: original crispy fried, yang nyum, honey soy, honey wasabi, peri peri, buffalo (with blue cheese sauce), or hot and spicy. They have many other rice and noodle dishes with Korean and Japanese influences available (you can have karage, katsu, kimchi, or bulgogi items, among others) if the chicken somehow doesn’t appeal. There is also a buffet option in which you get all the chicken you can eat, as well as iced tea, chips, omelette, garlic bread, and dessert. They have a separate drink menu, which includes creations like an Oreo cookies and cream frappe, a triple berry fruit tingle crush, and milkshake and matcha items.
We ordered a Pink princess lychee lemonade to drink, a kimchi pancake, and a couple of serves of the famous chicken wings in different flavours (you can choose up to two flavours in a small serve, up to three in a medium, and up to six in a large). We asked for chicken wings in yang nyum sauce and honey soy, and boneless chicken in original crispy fried and honey wasabi flavours.
The Pink princess lychee lemonade was indeed vibrantly pink. It was cold and fizzy, and definitely had lychee flavour. Quite refreshing, if a touch sweet.
The kimchi pancake had a generous kimchi to batter ratio. There was enough batter to hold the ingredients together so that it didn’t fall apart as you tried to pick sections up. There was good contrast between the crunchy cabbage and the slightly chewy batter. It came with a little dish of sauce that tasted of soy sauce and spring onions to drizzle on it. It was a dish that definitely packed a punch, and isn’t for the faint of heart. Kimchi fans, however, will love it.
The fried chicken soon arrived, served in steamer baskets lined with greaseproof paper, and a pair of tongs for each so that we could transfer the chicken onto our own metal plates.
The original crispy fried chicken had a thin layer of crunchy batter on the outside. They had somehow managed to deep fry it without it being oily. The chicken inside remained juicy. We could see a light dusting of seasoning across the chicken pieces, which gave it a nice saltiness, without being overpowering. It was tasty and moreish, but didn’t make you feel like you had to reach for water after every other bite.
The honey wasabi fried chicken was generously sauced. It was sweet, but not artificially so. The wasabi on it was not too strong, so there wasn’t crying or sniffing at the table. Oddly enough, the combination of the honey and wasabi had almost a minty flavour when put together. Again, the chicken was nicely done.
The honey soy fried chicken had a good crunchy skin. It was likely that a thicker batter had been used so that it could have the sauce on it without getting soggy, and this worked very well. The honey soy sauce was sweet and salty, in just the right balance.
The yang nyum fried chicken was a glistening sunset-red. The sauce was sticky and the messiest of the lot, but full of flavour. It had hints of tomato, sweetness, and a fierce spiciness. Looking up the components of yang nyum sauce, it is a mix mainly of red chilli pepper paste, tomato ketchup, garlic, and honey or corn syrup, which explains the flavours. Again, not for the faint of heart, but rewarding for those who like it hot.
Seoul Bistro definitely does good fried chicken. Occasional messages on the television screen inform patrons that they only use fresh chicken, never frozen. They have the secrets to crispy batter that withstands sauce, and maintaining tender, juicy meat in the middle. If you like fried chicken, this should be a place that goes on your list. We didn’t have space to try many of their other dishes this time, but perhaps next time..if we can go past the fried chicken.
The waitstaff were friendly, cheerful, and efficient.
Price point: $11.90 for a small serve of chicken wings, $15.90 for a small serve of the boneless chicken (each of the baskets in the pictures holds a small serve). Buffet for $21.90 per person. Sides $5.90 to $14.90 (kimchi pancake is a side). See the menu on their site for more.
Value: Not bad. May depend on how much chicken you can eat..
Address: Shop 2, 152 Turton Street, Sunnybank
Phone: 07 3345 6360
Website: Seoul Bistro