Don't be alarmed, no one is going to be assimilated tonight.
This expendable long metal tube is the most efficient smoke extraction fan I've ever come across in a Korean BBQ restaurant. If you have been to a Korean BBQ restaurant, then I am sure you will be familiar with the Eau de Grease aftershave when you walk out of the restaurant. Surprisingly, it is absolutely smoke free at O Bal Tan, a Korean BBQ restaurant that happens to be right next to Madang, another popular Korean BBQ joint in Pitt Street.
O Bal Tan, this hidden gem (as well as Madang next door) is tucked behind an alley on Pitt Street and can be easily missed especially if is not specifically searched for. It reminds me of restaurants in Japan, usually they are shy away from public and hidden in the nooks, only the locals would know where the good foods are.
As we arrived at the restaurant, the first thing I've noticed is the magnificent Harbour Bridge view you'll get "inside" the restaurant. Whoever knows me would well know that, I love my kitsch. I do have a T-shirt with cute fluffy kittens on the front just to prove it. But tonight, we showed up in a big group of 9 members and there is only one table upstairs that could fit us in. Otherwise, I would have loved to sit right in front of the harbour bridge, a view that money can't buy while slowly grilling my night away. But the extraction fans upstairs are just as impressive, so I am all good.
A2 sized booklet menu with lots of pictures of delicious food always makes me drool. It is always a chore to get everyone's full attentions to decide on what to order - especially when there is 9 of us spreading across two tables. Hence, those of us who sit outside take in charge of the food ordering and make sure there is enough meat to feed all the hungry eaters. I also ordered a bottle of Makkoli to share, a traditional rice wine that still haunts me since my first sip of the "homemade" one at Dashi restaurant with Helen a while back. This manufactured one is actually taste quite drinkable compared to the home brewed. It is slightly fizzy and sweeter in taste. But some Makkoli-virgins at our table are screwing their faces in disgust.
The waitress then returns with burning hot charcoals and fills up the two hollow holes in the center of our tables ready for grilling. The food also arrives almost instantly. An array of complimentary banchan side dishes are soon taking over the whole table. And then there is the meat...
The onslaught of meat including beef skirt (Jae Bi Chu Ri), beef brisket (Cha Dol Baeki), ox tongue (U-Seul), chili pork belly (Ju Mul Luk Sam Kyup Sal). To think of it, I don't remember seeing the chili pork belly at our table, they must have forgotten and we were also too busy grilling the meat away to really trying to identify the cuts of meat. What a shame, that's $35.00 of meat that we didn't get to eat.
I like it when someone else take control of the tongs, so I can just concentrate on consuming. I like the thinly sliced beef skirts, they simply melt in the mouth. I slowly developing a love hate relationship with ox tongue. They are tasty but also can be chewy sometimes.
Miss C&C Music Factory also ordered the marinated chili eel to share. A long, thick slice of eel fillet is heavily coated in Gochujang sauce with a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds on top. It is hard to tell whether the eel has already been cooked or not with it painted red. Just to make sure, we lay it flat on top of the griller anyway. Now by looking at the wide angle shot of our table again, there is really no Chili Pork Belly can be seen! I am upset! :(
If that's not enough meat, we ordered a plate of Bo Ssam too! The finely sliced steamed pork belly comes with a fresh garden of lettuce, carrots, cucumber, wong bok, and some kim chi. Simon kindly wraps the pork belly slices in lettuce leaves for everyone, that's how it should be eaten.
Last but not least, my favourite dish has to be the Pa Jeon. The doughy Korean pancake is sealed with lots of vegetables inside then pan fried to a nice crusty exterior while still soft inside.
I am full but not stuffed. Howard insisted that we should walk up the street and get a Korean Hot Dog afterwards. Helen who already had sampled the whole menu from the Korean snack food stand is also encouraging us to give it a go. So why not?
Look at my beautiful mustard squirting skill!
The Korean style hot dog looks just like a pluto pup you can get at the Easter Show but shorter. The hot dog is actually wrapped in a slice of compacted white bread, coated with Panko crumbs then deep fried. The white bread skin is surprisingly light compared to the usual flour batter.
Hmmm... I wish I can have one right now.
O Bal Tan 363 Pitt Street, Sydney
P: (02) 9269 0299
Open 7 days a week
12pm – 2am (Mon – Wed, Sun)
12pm – 4am (Thu – Sat)
Kana Express Food
359 Pitt Street, Sydney
(corner of Pitt Street and Central Street)
Monday to Saturday 11am-11pm