After walking past Shilla Korean BBQ restaurant a few times when wandering around East Perth, I mentally took note, because it looked cool and always had a good crowd in there. The time came - a friday night! We rang up and made a booking and headed in on the train. The train turns out to be a bit further away than we thought, but its not that far, it took us about 10minutes to get there on foot, past posh apartments, pathside water features and some small cute bars and restaurants.
We got there and were seated straight away, and its got such a nice setting - right next to the water. We had quite a big table facing the water which started the night out well.
The decor was nice and clean, some quirky Korean bits and bobs along the side of the room, with ambient lighting and lots of wooden tones. S decided he liked it already! I opened my bottle of wine (its BYO with $9 corkage), and S ordered a Korean Beer (that was the name of it in the bottle!). The beer came out quickly, and we always had plenty of water on the table. S decided that its not a beer he'd order again, it was really watery and flavourless - we both decided it was a beginners beer! It was about $7 I think so no harm done, now we can say weve tried Korean beer!
S was a bit nervous about having only chopsticks and a spoon, and asked for a knife and fork! The waitress was very gracious and got them for him no problems - though I was determined not to use such western conviniences! Im pretty handy with chopsticks though so I wasnt worried. Metal chopsticks however are a little trickier to use! Bit more slippery, a challenge to those used to wooden or plastic ones!
Our waitress had given us some menus earlier and we were really spoiled for choice, however we've never really eaten Korean before so we were a bit lost. They know this though and there are plenty of explanations, and the staff are very happy to help you demysify the menu. We ended up going for an easy option, of the banquet. You get an entree, 3 kinds of meats + veg for the hot plate, sides, unlimited rice and dessert, for about $40. We also ordered lettuce leaves, which are used to wrap up the meat and various sauces, sides and rice - to be, according to SBS's Food Safari, eaten in one mouthful!
Our starter came out and had 3 different things on the plate, and each were packed with flavour!
There was sweet and sour chicken, a dumpling and a fruity chicken salad. The sweet and sour chicken was surprisingly nice - thankfully nothing like the generic chinese take away, bright orange abomination. It was really tangy and fresh, the chicken had been battered but it was very light and crispy. If youre going to have sweet and sour chicken - this is the way to have it! The dumpling was really good as well, I just wish I remember what was in it... A quick check of the online menu doesnt shed any light either. Sorry! The chicken salad was really fresh, it was fruity which was a surprise! The entree was light, full of different flavours and delicious. Its what an entree is meant to be, it totally stimulated our appetite without being too heavy or filling. Fresh, tangy, fruity.
Our meaty banquet came with chicken, beef and chilli pork, and our waitress delivered all the side dishes, the meat and then lit our on table bbq. She placed the veges on the hot plate and instructed us to start with the chicken, move to the beef and then the chilli pork as that was the strongest flavour. We were also told, when the veges start to sizzle, you put the meat on.
So when I said she bought the sides out - I didnt mention how many! There were heaps! I love variety and tapas is one of my favourite ways to eat - so having all these little condiments is heaven for me!
Firstly we had soybean paste - a Korean staple, and spread on the lettuce leaves you use to wrap up all your BBQ'ed goodness. It was quite a strong flavour but we both really liked it. There was sesame oil, garlic, soy... Something to be added to our cupboard of sauces and condiments for sure, it tasted like it would be extremely versatile and would add flavour to most asian dishes! Im not too sure how it goes being used in cooking, rather than a condiment? Any Korean foodies able to help me out there?
Another Korean staple, Kimchi - pickled cabbage in chilli, garlic, and a bunch of other things. Recipes vary from person to person, however one thing is certain, a Korean meal isnt complete without this! I loved it. It wasnt so spicy that it overpowered anything, it just gave a hum of chilli with that fresh pickled flavour, but again without overpowering anything. I actually got a chinese cabbage in my organic vege box today so I may just have a go!
This was just a simple salad with an asian style dressing. It was very light on, and it was a nice refreshing, cleansing bite between spiced meats and sauces!
Steamed potato with soy and sesame oil - pretty nice, though we werent sure what to do with it. Do we just eat it? Put it in the lettuce leaves? We did both.
This cute little container housed our perfectly cooked rice, which came free and unlimited. We only used one each, but if youre a big rice fan you can get as much as you like!
Marinated beansprouts - again Im pretty sure there was sesame oil in here, it seems to be an important part of Korean cooking! These were nice too, finished them up pretty quick!
Our veges started to sizzle, and we left them for a while because we wanted the veges to be cooked when the meat was done, as it was sliced really thinly. However our plan was thwarted, as our waitress came over and put the meat on for us. No biggie, it just meant that we ate our veges with the next meat! The chicken was first and it was pretty delicious. It wasnt marinated, just plain but when you team the golden chicken, rice, soybean paste and whatever other sides or condiments you like, its just delicious! The beef was the same, unseasoned, but delicious. The chilli pork was great - the chilli sauce that the meat had marinated in did overpower the flavour of the pork a bit, but pork is a great carrier of flavour I think. Its not really amazingly flavoursome and needs a bit of a pushalong sometimes. It wasnt too spicy, just moreish and made you feel all warm inside!
We polished off the lot, and were feeling a bit full and satisfied! The great thing about this meal was that we certainly ate our fill, but we felt good, the food was really healthy but still delicious. This was something we loved about the place, and about our first time eating Korean food!
Our dessert was a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, and a deep fried dumpling. We werent sure what was in it but I think it was some kind of ochre/red coloured bean paste, as well as something else sweet. Not helpful I know... If it helps, it was nice. We had no idea really what we were eating but we liked it! Again, Korean foodies - help!
To sum up our Shilla experience - we LOVED it and we definately want to come back. It was all so fresh and tasty, we felt good after we left, well fed and satisfied. It was a touch pricey, the bill all together came to $110 for 2 banquets, 2 beers, lettuce leaves and corkage. But the service was impeccable, they were polite, attentive and professional, and you hardly knew they were there most of the time. They had really cute outfits on too! By the time we left it was packed, tables full of Koreans, who seemed to come with their whole families and packs of friends, as well as Aussies.
We will go back for sure, the hotpots that I spied on other peoples tables looked so so good, and I want to try that! As well as the bulgogi and bibimbap. Maybe Ill book for tomorrow night.........