Donwoori

Posted on | May 1, 2011 | 24 Comments

I have a theory about Donwoori, a Korean restaurant on Victoria Street, North Melbourne (across the road from the Queen Victoria market). It has almost zero online presence: it’s not in the white pages and it’s not listed on Urbanspoon. (Update: it’s there now! But it wasn’t at the time of posting) The only places that I could find Donwoori mentioned was at blah blog blah, a comment that Erwin left on my Wooga post, and on Foursquare. Details are scant though, and I couldn’t find a phone number anywhere.

So my theory about Donwoori is that it doesn’t actually exist in real life. Sure, I’ve been there and eaten there, but it must’ve been because we crossed a portal into an alternate universe. That is surely the only explanation possible – who has zero online presence nowadays?

So how did we find this portal into the alternate universe? Alastair and I noticed it one night when eating at a restaurant a couple of doors down. Our meal was quite disappointing, and Donwoori was busy when we walked past, so I kept it in my mind to try another time. This week, we finally made the trip there for dinner, taking Bro with us.

It’s only a small restaurant, with about eight tables set up for Korean barbeque, and a long wooden counter to one side that can comfortably seat four couples. When we arrived, all tables were taken apart from a space at the counter. So the three of us squished together on a bench that’s really only meant for two. Fortunately the food was good, and worth the squishiness.

We decided against Korean barbeque for this meal, and ordered other items to share. Soon after ordering, three plates of banchan were brought to us – assorted pickles, pickled daikon, and kimchi. The banchan were EXCELLENT. I particularly loved the pickled daikon, which reminded me of Chinese pickles, all crunchy and sweet, and the kimchi, which was fantastic.

Throughout our meal, the staff kept asking if we wanted (free) refills of the banchan – yes, they asked US! And even after we refused, they still checked periodically. You could gorge yourself on kimchi and pickles if you wanted to!

We tried the seafood pancake ($12), which is a mixture of vegetables and seafood in batter, that’s then pan fried, and sprinkled with spring onions. The piece I ate seemed scant on seafood, but to be honest – I didn’t care. It was really pleasing, soft and doughy on the inside with a slightly crispy crust.

Whenever we eat at a Korean restaurant, I always love ordering a stew. The soft tofu kimchi stew ($13) was great, a bit spicy and fishy, and full of slippery silken tofu and clams. It came with a bowl of rice.

The pork bulgogi ($16) also came with a bowl of rice, and wasn’t bad. I did find the sauce on the sweet side, but the pork was nice and tender.

And finally, we shared the tempura skewer set ($18). On the skewers were slices of pumpkin, sweet potato, and zucchini, plus a couple of prawns and rice cakes, which had been crumbed and deep fried until the coating was crunchy.

Did I mention that beer is only $5?

We enjoyed our meal at Donwoori so much that we returned… the following evening! Yes, we went there for dinner two nights in a row – hah!

This time we decided to have Korean barbeque. You can order meat for the barbeque separately, but they also have three sets available (A, B, C). Sets A and C are for two people, and set B is for four people. Naturally, we chose set B, and assured our friendly waiter that the three of us could cope with a set meant for four. (We totally did too – we smashed it!)

Just like the previous evening, we received three plates of banchan – pickled vegetables, kimchi and pickled daikon.

The owner came out for a chat, and it turns out that they make all the banchan themselves. He makes a new batch of kimchi everyday, normally about 4-5 Chinese cabbages worth. That’s a lot of kimchi! I told him that his kimchi is fantastic (it really is). He modestly told me that it’s good because he makes it. :D

For Set B ($64), we received top grade beef rib, top side beef (with salt and pepper), marinated flank beef, scotch fillet, kimchi hot pot and rice.

It cracks me up that you get given token vegetables along with the meat.

Like the previous night, the kimchi hot pot was delicious.

This version had tons of cabbage, tofu, mushrooms and rice cakes. Salty, sour, spicy – swoon.

The marinated beef was almost too pretty to put on the barbeque.

Meat, meat and more meat. Their barbeques are quite interesting – they bring out a bucket of coals, but underneath the coals is a gas burner. Best of both worlds! From the meat, my favourite was the top side beef with salt and pepper, though they were all pretty good. I really enjoy it when the edges get all charred and chewy.

I’ve now eaten at all four Korean restaurants on that stretch of Victoria Street, and Donwoori is my definite favourite. The staff there are really friendly, prices are reasonable, the banchan is top notch, and so is the rest of the food. The only downside is walking out smelling like barbeque – ventilation is not that great.

As mentioned previously, it’s a small restaurant so I’d recommend not going in a large group (ie more than 4 or 5) as they don’t seem to take bookings. When we spoke to the owner, I asked him about a phone number, and he replied, “No, no phone. Just show up!”. So just take your chances and hope that you get a table. It’s totally worth it!

[googleMap name="Donwoori" width="600" height="300" directions_to="false"]276 Victoria Street, North Melbourne, VIC, Australia[/googleMap]

Donwoori
276 Victoria Street
North Melbourne
Phone: None as far as I’m aware!
Opening hours: Open from 5.30pm every day of the year (thanks to Thanh for scoping out the opening hours!)
Web: Zilch.

Donwoori on Urbanspoon

Comments

24 Responses to “Donwoori”

  1. Kat (Spatula, Spoon and Saturday)
    May 1st, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

    Haha I thought you said the restaurant is called ‘Don’t Worry’
    Kat (Spatula, Spoon and Saturday) recently posted..Melbourne Food Review- Liar Liar- Hawthorn

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Don’t worry!! That is hilarious. :D

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  2. leaf @ theindolentcook
    May 1st, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

    This sounds like a really great little place. And now that it’s on your blog, the secret is out! ;)
    leaf @ theindolentcook recently posted..balsamic portobello mushroom burger with bocconcini cheese- fried egg- lettuce and tomato

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    I know, I know! I just couldn’t keep it to myself :) Such a blabbermouth!

    [Reply]

  3. Thanh
    May 2nd, 2011 @ 12:03 am

    Now the secret is out. Excellent review. Spot on about everything. Those banchan are sensational. Loved the constant refills. BBQ meats were excellent too.

    I was thinking of trying the other three Koreans on that stretch but now you say this place is the best, guess there’s no need to try the others.

    Really have to go back again.

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    I quite liked Wooga next door, just not as much as this place. I didn’t rate the others.

    I’m really glad you liked it as well. Yay for #secretkorean!

    [Reply]

  4. penny aka jeroxie
    May 2nd, 2011 @ 12:18 am

    Awesome… love korean BBQ and endless refills of banchan…. SOLD
    penny aka jeroxie recently posted..Tadich Grill- San Francisco

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    I think you will love this place, Penny! I know you’re having a blast overseas, but hurry back so you can check it out. ;)

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  5. Injera
    May 2nd, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    Nooooooooo! The secret is out!

    I love this place. It seemed to go through a few different names (maybe different owners) in the months before it became Donwoori. If I recall correctly, one iteration was “fusion” (which seemed to mean you could get a kway teow as well as some Korean and Japanese style dishes. Then it was – briefly – a yakitori joint. So briefly that we didn’t get there, which was a bit disappointing, given my love for stuff on sticks. When it reincarnated as Donwoori, I thought the name might have come from “don’t worry, we’ll try Korean as that seems to be popular here”.

    Love the food, the friendly service… everything!
    Injera recently posted..Food TV – Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    I know! I just couldn’t keep it to myself!

    And HAH I love your explanation about the name! That is too funny. :D

    [Reply]

  6. Hannah
    May 2nd, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    *insert expected comment about wanting to gorge on pickles and banchan here*

    You might giggle at the token veggies with the meat, but I giggle at how the order of veggies themselves came deep-fried. Salad? WE SAY NAY!
    Hannah recently posted..Vosges Red Fire Bar

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Salad? What’s salad?? You don’t get salad in Asia. ;)

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  7. Celeste @ Berrytravels
    May 2nd, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

    It’s on the list for my winter hols!! XD

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Wait, you’re saying you have a spare slot in your winter holidays? I would have expected you to have filled it all already ;)

    [Reply]

  8. Conor @ Hold the Beef
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:44 am

    Haha, smash that meal for 4, baby! I would expect nothing less :D

    And I also have such thoughts when places are not to be found online. It’s weird.
    Conor @ Hold the Beef recently posted..Happy Mum Day

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Smashed it out of the park! :D

    Not being able to find any details of a restaurant online has never happened to me before. I initially thought I was searching under the wrong name, even though I tried different variations!

    [Reply]

  9. Iron Chef Shellie
    May 3rd, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

    I really should eat Korean food more often!

    I love the name of this place… it’s some what very aussie :P

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Yes, you should – and if you’re going to, you should eat here! :D

    [Reply]

  10. mademoiselle délicieuse
    May 4th, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Not sure I’ve ever been offered more banchan anywhere! Sometimes it’s hard enough just to flag someone down to order more.
    mademoiselle délicieuse recently posted..The quest for scones

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    I know! Just one reason why I love this place – they kept asking us if we wanted refills. It’s such a change to other restaurants.

    [Reply]

  11. Adrian (Food Rehab)
    May 4th, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

    Yuuuuurrrrm! I heart Korean BBQ. The last I had it a few weeks back. I love how you smell like BBQ days after…well, until you wash your clothes that is! My rule is never wear your best clothes at Korean BBQ!
    Adrian (Food Rehab) recently posted..An Edible Guide to Daylesford- Victoria

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Haha is that your rule, Adrian? Mine is throw all my clothes in the wash and shower after Korean BBQ! :p

    [Reply]

  12. FOOD
    May 5th, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

    Lovely!

    It’s really interesting that it has not been blogged about before. Should definitely check it out!

    Love Korean rice cake =)

    [Reply]

    Agnes Reply:

    Yes, check it out! It’s really good :)

    [Reply]

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