Level 1, 34b Redfern Street (entry via Elizabeth Street), Redfern, NSW (map)
02 9690 0111
Open Lunch Fri & Sun noon-3pm, Dinner Tues-Sat 5:30-11pm
On my most recent trip to Sydney I had dinner at Moon Park, and months later I'm still thinking about that meal.
It's modern Korean, but not modern Korean as you know it. The young trio behind Moon Park have created a restaurant that feels different to every other Korean restaurant in Australia. Formerly at Melbourne's Cutler & Co before his move to Sydney, Ben Sears became head chef at Claude's in Woollahra. He met his girlfriend Eun Hee Ann while they were both working in the Claude's kitchen, and late last year they opened Moon Park as chefs and co-owners with their friend Ned Brooks (ex-MoVida and one half of wine agency Brooks & Amos), who runs front of house. The wine list is supersmart, favouring natural wines from Australia and France without going overboard. My favourite was the Patrick Sullivan 'Breakfast Wine' 2012, a naturalish skin contact Sauvignon Blanc from the Yarra Valley (not a wine I would ever have chosen off my own bat) that went brilliantly with the elegant food.
Ah, the food. While some dishes on the menu are quite traditional ("This recipe is so Korean, my partner won't let me make it - only she is allowed to make it", joked Ben to me at one point), others reinvent Korean dishes quite radically. Yeah there's fried chicken on the menu, but it's shrimp brined; yeah there's bindaedduk, but instead of being a mung bean pancake here it consists of narrow bricks of fried chickpea cake ($5, pictured above next to the cucumber kimchi). The Bibim ($20) blends includes pearl barley, asparagus, corn, crab, cured egg and nori served with gochujang (pictured below - NB in our case the crab was served separately because my dinner date was vegetarian).
In addition to tasting good, the dishes are beautifully plated. The whipped tofu is served with technicolor carrots, buckwheat and shiitake crisps ($15). Carrots also put in an appearance in the imjasutang ($17): traditionally a soup served to royalty, here a salad of delicately poached chicken, pinenut, mushroom, date puree, sesame paste and pickled rose.
Ben was Andrew McConnell's pastry chef at Cutler, so we ordered both desserts. The patbingsu ($13) consists of tiny sugared donuts served with strawberry, fig leaf shaved milk, red bean and omija (five-flavour tea). The "moon pie" ($14) is a deconstructed, utterly delicious combination of poached pear, maesil (green plum) marshmallow, ginger jelly and graham cracker crumbs.
The venue is a little tricky to find: the corner building faces Redfern Park, but entry is via Elizabeth Street and the low-key restaurant space is hidden above a decorative arts showroom. My list of places to visit on my next Sydney trip is long, but DAMN it will be hard to resist revisiting Moon Park.
The other standout meal on my last trip to Sydney? Cafe Paci. I didn't write about it, but judging from his review (which I highly recommend you read), Mr Lethlean and I had a very similar set menu. They only have a 12 month lease, so make a reservation quicksticks.