After an afternoon visit to Beerfest and realising we were not twenty-something anymore, we decided to go and have a civilised meal somewhere close to the Cloud. There were a number of places on Commerce street which had excellent Cheap Eats potential but we settled on Sanchun Bamboo. They had a favourable snippet from Metro proudly pasted to the front window, as well a picture of Peta Mathias having an introduction to Korean meal on one of her TV programs, so we thought it was at least worth a look.
It certainly was worth the look. After agonising over all the choices we actually went for the one thing that was just outside Cheap Eats budget (but only by $4). It was part of the section which contained traditional family meals and was $48 for two people. The reason we went with it was because all the Korean people in the restaurant had ordered it and our curiosity was just too much. If you wanted to stay strictly under $20/head it wouldn’t be difficult with most mains between $13-$16.
We were not disappointed. Out came a plate of perfectly cooked Korean beef with its typical sweet/soy flavour tossed with onions, carrots and beansprouts. I love its thin-sliced nature rather than eating huge chunks of cow, as we so often do in Western cuisine.
Next to this came a huge platter of various leaves: lettuce, pickled cabbage, steamed cabbage, Chinese cabbage and others. There was a bowl of a strong salty miso-flavoured sauce in the middle and another more runny milder miso/kimchi/spring onion one on the side as well as rice and the usual assortment of delightful Korean side dishes (kimchi, sweet potatoes, garlic beansprouts, brocolli with a lovely Asian dressing)
The charming, friendly owner showed us what to do. Use the leaves as a boat and load up with rice, beef, pickled cabbage and sauce. Then consume. It was amazing. The combination of the heartiness of the beef and rice was offset by the freshness of the leaves and touch of vinegar from the pickled cabbage. I didn’t fancy the straight miso sauce too much but the other one provided the perfect final piece to the puzzle. It’s the same concept as a good taco I guess. You have to have the fresh, the slightly sweet, the salty, the soft, the crunchy and the spice on the top to create the perfect bite.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and ate till we couldn’t move. The Kimchi was particularly good with a lemony hint I hadn’t come across before. It wasn’t the usual blow-your-head-off spicy pickled cabbage but still had a good kick and the waitress kindly brought us more when we’d demolished our side dish.
This was great value for money and wonderful home-cooked Korean food with friendly service. As the only non Koreans, we struggled a bit initially but the staff were only too happy to help. While the interior wasn’t flash, it wasn’t sterile either and – like the food – had a wonderful family feel. We highly recommend a visit to this little piece of Korea downtown.