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shinara grill & lounge

March 25, 2009

shinara business cardHis Baikness had invited us to dinner. He wouldn’t say where, he would hardly say when. But we were invited, albeit via a code-like voicemail message on Miss Shiny’s phone. “Dinner Thursday?” it said “Korean.” I was a little apprehensive, only having had a small (very small) handful of good, enjoyable Korean food experiences in my fairly short life, and having had a significantly larger handful of ok-but-not-so-great ones. But when His Baikness calls, we hop. He can be hard to catch at times and so every opportunity for dinner is a good one. And His Baikness, it was later revealed, was friends with the owner.

SuperDanny, Miss Shiny, His Baikness & I met just by the QVB at 6:30pm. There was no sign as to where we were going, as yet. But, armed with the knowledge that it was a “Korean Barbecue place”, we were relieved of all questions and looking forward to meat.

Shinara Grill & Lounge sits on Pitt Street, a short stroll from Town Hall Station and located just before you World Square. “It’s only been around for a couple of months” explains His Baikness. And when we arrive, I realise that this is the very place that I’d been eyeing off and making mental notes to visit. Signs outside advertise the Korean Barbecue option and lunchtime Korean Yum Cha.

shinara interior
booths upstairs

Shinara Grill doesn’t look like your average Pitt St eatery. For starters, there’s a distinct lack of laminated colour printouts adorning the walls. Ditto the pink paper advertising the specials. Instead, we are greeted by a slick, dark lounge at which various drinks can be ordered (Miss Shiny squeals & points out the Galiano) and then a short flight of stairs to what I fondly dub “the food zone”.

“Where would you like to sit?” we are asked. We have arrived early and there is plenty of room. “In the corner, so we can make heaps of noise. No. Under the light, so I can take photos. No, over here. Wait. No, back there.” I reply. His Baikness groans. But I am so enamoured with these little boothy things that sit four, or eight, or, if you are in the corner, maybe fifteen or more, that I don’t even notice the groaning behind me.

We decide to sup on the normal banquet menu. At $26.50 per head, you can eat as much as you like for as long as you like. There are limitations (only one serve of scallops, prawns and beef ribs per person) but we hardly noticed these, what with everything else we ate. Of course, if you’re that way inclined, the $36.50 Premium Buffet meny will more likely be for you. It comes with extras like Wagyu Beef, mixed sushi & sashimi and two kinds of ice cream for dessert. SuperDanny looked at the choices. “No time limit?” he asked. A resounding head shake. “Awesooomeee!”

shinara place setting
super cute place setting

So we extracted our menu from its receptacle at the side of the table (so smart! it doesn’t get dirty, or in the way, but is always there when you need it) and ordered our first round of food.

AH-HAH! I knew it! You were wondering where the table was, weren’t you? Yes, that one. With the buffet style top and the raw meat all sitting and oxidising and growing bacteria colonies. But no. Not here. At Shinara Grill, you push the little green button on the table, point at the menu items you would like and they are brought out to you on little red and yellow and blue plates for your cooking delight! Let me say this again, just because I loved it so. No horrible shiny silver meat oxidising buffet! YEAH!

bohae plum wine
bohae plum wine

And while we waited for the dishes to arrive, we decided to get some soju. His Baikness taught us the rules of serving soju. Two hands on the bottle if it’s someone older. One hand on the bottle, the other resting on the pouring arm, for a recipient of equivalent age. One hand on the bottle if the recipient is younger. The other hand? Do whatever you like with it I guess… Hand rules go similarly for the recipient.

Oh. And you can’t pour your own drink. Period. His Baikness, ever the gracious host, poured drinks for all. And had so much patience in doing so, especially seeing as he would often look up from his plate to see me, arms extended, both hands around my cup, and a big ol’ grin on my face.

shinara starters
cooked starters clockwise from top left: waitress making pancakes, pancakes all done!, kimchee soup, gyoza

It doesn’t take long for the food to arrive, and His Baikness, our resident Korean, has taken care of the orders. A selection of meats to grill and cooked food for now. So we don’t have to wait for the meat to be cooked, you see. And here’s another thing I loved. Well another two things.

First, you see the pale pancake, second from the left? It is egg. Fried. And inside there is fish! No? Miss Shiny pretended to catch my enthusiasm but was more taken by the sweet potato pancakes on the far left. She was less taken by the kimchee ones (far right) but only because they were spicy. SuperDanny, on the other hand, likes spicy. So was rather happy with them. Oh, and the green one? Herbilicious. The other thing I liked about these was the lady that wheeled the trolley over to cook them to order for us each time. More eggy fish, less kimchee? Sure! It’s so can do around here, it hurts.

And secondly, the soup. His Baikness informed us that we should drink spoonfuls of it in between the meat-carnage, to help us with digestion. I took this to heart and very possibly ended up out eating the boys – and with none of the belly-full-of-meat discomfort that normally accompanies an action such as this. Soup. Do it.

(And while I’m here, the gyoza we good too – so good that we ordered three served of them.)

bimbimbab
bimbimbab

Now, most Korean barbecue packages include rice. But this korean barbecue package included bimbimbab. And such good bimbimbab it was. All warm and eggy and kimchee-ey and with bits of vegetable and beef all swirled through it. And (conveniently) accompanied by a separate receptacle of sauce, so you could control the heat level. Thoughtful, and tasty.

meats on the grill
meat on the grill clockwise from top left: scallops, prawns, beef & pork on the grill, raw prawns & pork belly, raw beef

While all this was happening (ie me exclaiming “There’s bimbimbab! Oh yum… Oi you, try the fishy eggy one. It’s good… I didn’t eat the last one!… Oh, maybe I did… Can we get more gyoza? Please?” and gesticulating wildly) His Baikness had taken it upon himself to start the cookin.

We got heaps. And the meat? It was good quality stuff. The pork belly was deliciously pink and fatty. The various cuts of beef were all tender and juicy. The prawns were a little finicky, peeling wise, but SuperDanny solved that problem by eating them whole. Head & all. And the scallops? Deliciously fresh, but, unfortunately, suffered at the hands of too much soju in our systems and too much avid conversation. We ate them anyway. Can’t waste food y’know.

eating korean barbecue
how to eat korean barbecue

I think the reason I’d never really enjoyed Korean Barbecue til now is that I’d never really known how to eat it properly. So here’s His Baikness’ 101 on how to make it work best.

  1. Take some lettuce in your hand. Yes lettuce. Yes, I realise we’re at a barbecue. *sigh* Just take some lettuce ok? Good.
  2. Top said lettuce with fermented miso paste. The red one. No, not the chilli. The other red one. Ok. Reddy-Orangey. Happy?
  3. Grab a bit of meat. Use the scissors to chop it up fool. Don’t cram it all in your mouth at once. Put it on top of the miso paste.
  4. Top with the marinated spring onion. No, more of it. A bit more. Good. Now eat.

We are, as you may gather, not the easiest people to instruct when drinking soju. But the flavours! The crisp, fresh lettuce! The warm, smoky meat! The tang of the tofu and the crunch of the spring onion! “And,” says His Baikness “as an extra tip, I like to grill the kimchee and then put that on top too”. Here, I almost fainted with glee.

shinara beef spare ribs
beef spare ribs

So we ate, and ate, and ate some more. And then we got some beef spare ribs. Not the finger lickin’ Texan style. Oh no. These ribs came like this: one big bone at the end, one long long long ribbon of meat trailing off it. Miss Shiny declared this her favourite dish of the evening. I ate. SuperDanny ate. His Baikness ate. “Oh! They’re just so tasty!” said Miss Shiny “tender and sweet and juicy!” And we didn’t disagree with her. But we didn’t reply either, because secretly, we were hoping that she wouldn’t notice that while she was talking, we were eating, and this way, we were getting just that little bit more than our share.

the aftermath
the aftermath

Three bottle of soju, endless plates of meat, countless button pushing and “Please can we have more of…. Thankyou!”s later, we looked at each other and realised that we were, indeed, full. So full, in fact, that the soup was no longer doing its extra-stomach-growing magic. Which was a pity, because we’d hardly eaten through half the menu. But we’d had fun. Three hours of it. And we had a table full of bits and bobs to prove it. (That wasn’t all we ate, oh no! For the kindly waiters and waitresses were very good at clearing plates that were done with.)

green tea ice cream
green tea ice cream

His Baikness, having wandered off for a chat, returned with Shinara Grill’s owner, Daniel Bae, who promptly offered us ice cream. Our eyes lit up. “Yes please! Green tea?” said we and soon after, four glasses with scoops of green tea appeared at our table. Later, I told him about the blog (this blog!) and asked if I could take a photo of him at the bar. He was, as ever, most obliging, and this was one of this things that has made me love Shinara Grill all the more. Because he wasn’t the only one. Far from the sometimes surly, oddly incompetent service one will normally receive up this end of the city, the waiters & waitresses here are just so obliging. Grills are replaced as soon as they start to smoke (at no extra charge, no less!), food is brought promptly to the table, empty plates are cleared and water is refilled. We never once felt rushed, or too noisy, or too anything-that-shouldn’t-be-here.

And even later, I danced down the street with the kids, arm in arm and smelling like meat. His Baikness reckons its a sure fire way for me to catch the eye (or nose) of a cute Korean boy. SuperDanny reckons I was lucky to not have been chased by dogs on the way home.

Shianra's Owner
owner Daniel Bae at the bar

Shinara Grill
Shop 1, 338 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph (02) 9262 9218


  • #1
    JacJacJacqui
    March 25th, 2009

    It’s so colourful… and so so tasty.

  • #2
    FFichiban
    March 26th, 2009

    Ahh this is my kinda place! Everything looks good yummm! Hee hee at Baikness’ 101 and wtg at lettuce indeed 😛

  • #3
    Simon
    March 26th, 2009

    PHWARR! All you can eat for as long as you want? In the city?? At least that’s how my initial reaction went. Once I hit the one plate of beef ribs, all the magic was lost. *sigh*

    In all seriousness, it sounds like a great place, all things considered. Will have to check it out with some Korean friends of mine. Anything that you recommend as a must-have or better-to-avoid?

  • #4
    shez
    March 26th, 2009

    JacJacJacqui: I want to go again. Can we go again?

    FFichiban: i know right? i never knew why they gave us lettuce at Korean bbq until now. i feel enlightened.

    Simon: oh but the rest of the meat is so good that you don’t even notice the limitations. honestly, i enjoyed everything, but if you must (must!) get something, i’d say get some bimbimbap to balance the meat out and go the beefy things, because they’re so delish!

  • #5
    Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella
    March 26th, 2009

    Wow, sounds great and that’s such an amazing price for a Korean BBQ buffet! His Baikness is a great guide and host! BTW what does Baikness mean?

  • #6
    shez
    March 26th, 2009

    Lorraine: i’m such a fan of this place – it’s brilliant pricing for the city too 🙂 Baik is his surname, which coincidentally also means “good” in Indonesian.

  • #7
    Anita
    March 26th, 2009

    Great range of food you got to try – looks like a fun place 🙂

  • #8
    cookingschoolconfidential.com
    March 28th, 2009

    Korean. Yum, yum. Next week we’ll be making Thai curry from scratch (I’m a culinary school student) and I can’t wait. But we won’t really get into international cooking for another semester. I can’t wait.

    Cheers!

  • #9
    evy
    March 29th, 2009

    i’m going with my friends on Saturday. This review is too good not to go and see it for myself

  • #10
    Linda
    March 29th, 2009

    This place looks awesome, it’s definitely on my growing list of must go places.. this would be a great place with a group of people.

  • #11
    shez
    March 30th, 2009

    Anita: and we only got through half of what was offered on the menu! it’s a really fun place to eat. great for friendly crazy catchup dinners 🙂

    cookingschoolconfidential.com: Korean yum yum indeed! i’m a convert!

    evy: oh! that’s fantastic. i really hope you enjoy yourselves!

    Linda: it really is. grab a drink, a handful of meat, and everyone’s buzzing 🙂

  • #12
    Betty
    March 31st, 2009

    Hi! i love your photos! it all looks so yummy 🙂
    such great value as well! i’m impressed.

  • #13
    smileona @pigged-out
    April 2nd, 2009

    shez this place looks awesomeee
    Mmmm korean BBQQqq

    wow the beef spareribs look yummyyyyyy
    love ur entry once again!

  • #14
    Chris
    April 16th, 2009

    Hum, I went again on Wednesday, and they said there was a 1 1/2 hour time limit *pouts* I guess they’re changing their business model as they’re going..it seems the serving sizes are getting smaller too =(
    On another note though, the LA ribs are awesome, once you run out of the yummilicious spare ribs!

  • #15
    Amanda
    April 29th, 2009

    will definitely give this place a try!

  • #16
    May 23rd, 2010

    […] all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. (note: O Bal Tan and Madang don’t offer AYCE.) This place has been blogged by our lovely friend Shez on her site, and I remember that I was intrigued but had never gotten to […]

Shez