With offerings such as K-pop inspired sandwiches, bulgogi sliders and Korean Fashioned, Dari Korean Café offers its unique take on Korean pop food.
Dari Korean Café’s frontage is a well-polished steel and glass lattice, through which one can see the restaurant staff working the kitchen – grilling buns, reducing stews, frying pancakes and assembling sandwiches, all flurry and bustling efficiency.
The space inside is clean, well-lit and comfy. With the wonderful scents of food simmering and the sound of clinking cutlery in close proximity, it feels like one is dining at a friend’s place. Chef owner Yoon Ji, ever warm and welcoming, certainly makes guests feel at home, ushering them to their seats while offering chilled corn tea.
Dari Korean café isn’t your typical Korean restaurant serving up Korean BBQ and soju or KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) and Hite beer. A bistro would be a more apt description. The food at Dari Korean Café is a collection of Yoon Ji’s favourite dishes which remind her of childhood in the countryside of Incheon, Seoul. Sandwiches, a popular street food in Korea since the 1980s, feature heavily in the restaurant’s menu. There’s the Mama’s toast – an egg, ham and cheese sandwich which Yoon Ji said her mother used to prepare for her lunch. A sandwich especially popular amongst the guests is the idol sandwich – a three-tiered sweet and savoury sandwich of Mexican salad, egg-potato salad and strawberry jam.
The bulgogi slider available for dinner is just the dish to start off your visit. Pick between bulgogi beef sautéed in caramelised onions, or spicy bulgogi pork lightly seared and topped with shreds of spring onions. Our recommendation is to get one of each. Served with crisp cos lettuce and tucked into soft milk buns.
Another sharing dish to order is the Jan – one bite savoury pancakes traditionally eaten by Koreans during New Year and special occasions. The tofu and meat pancake is a juicy, well-seasoned patty dotted with finely chopped spring onions. Another option is the calamari pancake, a flavour-packed golden brown parcel of chopped calamari and onions. Our favourite is the prawns pancake – tangy and succulent with the right touch of saltiness. Do yourself a favour and order a set of five pancakes (or 10, for that matter). Accompanied by soy, chili and sesame dip.
For mains, the soy sauce ribs comes highly recommended. Beef ribs is slow marinated, boiled in a sweet soy and ginger sauce in a large wok and simmered to aromatic perfection. The bone-on beef ribs is firm and flavourful, basted in the umami sweet and savoury sauce. Served with caramelised carrots and daikon, a refreshing house-made cucumber kimchi, and a mound of white rice.
The Korean fashioned is an interesting take on the classic cocktail. A combination of grapefruit syrup, su-jung-gua (ginger and cinnamon) and Jim Beam white makes for a decidedly punchy and cinnamon-flavoured concoction which is intriguingly addictive.
To end your meal on a sweet note, treat yourself to a sweet soy and rice cake toast. The crisp white toast and the chewy rice cake is a lovely play of texture. Topped with soy powder, slivers of almond, honey and condensed milk.
Dari Korean Café
27 Hardware Lane, Melbourne City
T: (+61) 9917 2299
Prices $ (inexpensive)
Cuisine Popular Korean Cuisine
Verdict We’ve been told that the Misugaru (Korean roasted cereal shake), custom-roasted weekly, is absolutely scrumptious