The hungry Friday night crowd at Namoo
Perth’s newest Korean restaurant, Namoo, may only be five days old, but I’m already predicting a long and delicious friendship in our future.
My husband J spotted Namoo this week during his commute home, and suggested we drop in for dinner on Friday night.
We were greeted by the smoky aroma of sizzling meat and the sharp, sinus clearing tang of chili. Forget the typical melamine ware and sticky tables you may have encountered at other Korean barbecue restaurants, as you won’t find them at Namoo.
We’re shown to our table, which is pleasingly wide with a charcoal and butane powered grill. The comfortable stools are ‘industrial chic’, made from re-purposed steel drums. Unglazed black ceramic dishes are a nice touch, particularly for those of us at dinner with a soft spot for flatware.
J grins when I mention that the extra-wide table space is perfect for fitting all the food we plan to order – plus the ubiquitous banchan or side dishes, which come complimentary with most Korean barbecue meals and almost never seem to fit on the table.
The banchan at Namoo is among the best I’ve sampled in Perth. Generous dishes of bean sprouts lightly sauteed in sesame oil, lightly pickled daikon and house-made kimchi are placed on the table with our bowls of rice and dipping sauces.
We’re impressed by the sweet and sour daikon, and enjoying the subtle crunch of the sprouts, but it’s the kimchi that wins me over. We’re told it’s made on the premises daily, explaining its fresh almost ‘clean’ flavour.
As it’s not been fermented long, this kimchi is light in texture with a satisfying crunch. Large flecks of bright red chili offer a gentle tingle that keep me coming back for more.
Luckily for the kimchi fans, Namoo’s house-made kimchi features prominently across the menu, in a number of dishes including the Kimchi jigae (kimchi soup).
This hearty soup features (you guessed it) kimchi, simmered with chunky pieces of tender pork, soft tofu, onions and spring onions in a fish-based broth. Thickly sliced green and red chilis add colour and more than their share of punch.
We greedily scoop out chunks of pork, tofu and kimchi, enjoying the tongue-numbing qualities of the flavourful broth. Despite the chili burn, I notice the broth is well balanced with the sweet flavour of pork and what I’m quite sure is the traditional anchovy and kombu (seaweed) stock.
The pieces of pork are tender and delicious on their own, or topped off with rice and a generous spoonful of kimchi. Even though I’m not a huge tofu fiend, I’m impressed by the freshness and texture of the tofu used here.
Marinated flank steak on the grill
We found it hard to resist the ‘Beef combo A’, which is sized to serve two. At $43, it’s great value, featuring a selection of three beef variations for barbecuing at your table, fresh vegetables (some for grilling, and some for enjoying with a light garlicky salad dressing), rice, banchan and your choice of jigae – doenjang jigae (soybean paste soup, with pork and tofu) or kimchi jigae (kimchi soup, with pork and tofu).
The cuts of beef include marinated flank steak, marinated beef tenderloin and boneless beef rib.
J grilling the flank steak
The flank steak is extremely flavoursome, and surprisingly tender even after rapid-fire cooking on the searingly hot table top grill. It’s sliced across the grain, making it easy to eat, and only barely chewy.
The beef tenderloin is sprinkled with finely sliced onion, sesame seeds and marinated in a slightly sweet, salty marinade. It’s lightly swirled with fat, making each mouthful a tender bite.
We pause for a few moments to enjoy our side salad with tender smoky rings of onion, which are soft and sweet, along with grilled sweet potato and a lone button mushroom.
We’re advised by our helpful waitress that she needs to switch our grill plate before we enjoy our final beef offering for the evening – the ribbon-cut beef ribs.
These boneless strips of beef rib are generously rippled with fat, which worries me at first, until I watch, mesmerised, as the fat renders away on the searing hot solid grill plate.
Shaped like an upturned shallow bowl, the recessed rim of the grill plate helpfully catches all the grease, leaving only well rendered, slightly charred tender ribbons of beef.
I’m well and truly salivating as I watch J turn each piece. They’re deliciously tender with a deep golden crust, thanks to the Bulgogi-style marinade that’s been caramelising over the hot grill.
By the end of our meal at Namoo, we’re both well and truly stuffed – but not so full that we’re not already contemplating our next visit.
Equus arcade, Shop 1, 580 Hay Street (enter off Barrack Street)
Open for lunch and dinner daily, until late.