PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Eight years ago, Chung Jae Lee and his wife Sam introduced Mapo to the city's Asian dining scene. Theirs is not entirely classic fare; more a considered blend of contemporary and authentic South Korean cuisine. Likewise, the decor is not traditional. The room is darkly elegant with deep brown wooden tables dressed in black linen. At the rear, sunken tatmi-style seating welcomes a traditional dining experience. Autographed white canvasses hung throughout also cater to mixed tastes, with visitors' signatures ranging from Aussie rock bands to Korean movie stars. Ultimately, the menu provides the best read. It is rich and sophisticated with alluring dish descriptions.
"Pork volcano" suggests an eruption of flavour. It presents as a mound of thin-sliced pork belly, tossed with streaky bacon in a coconut teriyaki sauce. "Coffee spare ribs" is another pork dish with bite. This time the theme is Java not lava. Marinated in coffee, the ribs are grilled over coal and moistened with sweet soy. "Kinky chicken" sure grabs attention. This eyebrow raiser is a lip-smacking threesome of tempura chicken breast, baby spinach and the titillating tang of lime-infused honey mustard mayonnaise. Chef Lee values regional produce so expect South Australian Angus scotch fillet marinated in nashi pear, in a dish of "fire in beef". Try not to weep over the tenderness of the Wagyu beef Lee uses in "crying tiger". From Mayura Station in Millicent, the skewered meat has a marbling score of nine. Local tiger prawns are found in coats of shredded coconut, presented tempura-style with Korean tartare sauce. On the authentic side of the menu dullsot bibimbap awaits. Steamed rice, marinated vegetables and egg are served with fillings such as eel in a stone bowl which continues to cook the rice to a joyful crispiness as it rests on your table.