Mabasa is a hidden gem on the quieter section of Balmain’s dining strip, serving up contemporary Korean cuisine in a rather unexpected location. We were given the tip by a friend of ours who recently moved into the area and found ourselves here for a Sunday dinner that did not disappoint.
It was quite a different experience to have Korean food in a quiet, neighbourhood restaurant setting in contrast to the usual bustling environment of Korean joints in the city or elsewhere in the suburbs where they’re more common, but the flavours here are no less authentic and thankfully, they still have side dishes on offer to keep you interested between dishes.
We started off with their pan-fried seafood pancake (Haemul-Pajeon) which was particularly crispy and was paired with a tasty soy and sesame sauce.
Next up, we dug into Mabasa’s take on Korean Fried Chicken (Yangnyeom Chicken), which featured middle wings covered in a sticky, spicy sauce which had a kick to it and a sprinkle of peanuts on top.
Yangnyeom Chicken, $24
Moving onto the mains – the slow cooked pork belly (Mabasa-Samgyeop) was an indulgent choice with the rich meat soaked in red wine and a delicious soy-honey marinade. It was served with a Korean chili bean paste for an extra flavour hit.
The Mabasa Sogogi was a bit of an unexpected dish, as we’ve never had this type of pan-fried beef coated in a light batter in a Korean restaurant before. The texture is actually reminiscent of a Chinese dish, though the thin slivers of scotch fillet are drizzled with Mabasa’s whole-grain mustard and served with some marinated shallots, for an interesting flavour combo that we haven’t tried before in Asian cooking.
Mabasa Sogogi, $31
We also enjoyed their classic Dolsot-Bibimbap – the steamed rice crisped up nicely in the stone hotpot, mixed through with minced beef and topped with seasoned vegies, egg, mushroom and served with gochujang (Korean chilli paste) for a flavoursome accompaniment to the mains.
Since it was winter when we visited, we couldn’t go past a traditional silken tofu soup for the comfort element – the Soon-dubu Jjigae had a spicy soup base, with the smooth silken tofu woven through with egg, kimchi and clams for a tasty winter warmer dish.
Soon-dubu Jjigae, $18
Mabasa is a quiet achiever of a restaurant, bringing home-style Korean cooking to Balmain with some unexpected twists thrown into the menu to keep things interesting. A nice spot for a catch up meal with family or friends – the cosy decor is complemented by the friendly service and the hearty food will leave your tastebuds feeling satisfied too.
390 Darling Street, Balmain NSW 2041
Phone: (02) 9555 6621