The first thing you’ll notice after stepping into Damda, beyond the strong design aesthetic, is the monstrous, smoke-belching oven. It’s admirably manned by a smiling, tattooed, Korean coal-master. As your salivary glands kick into overdrive, you’ll begin to appreciate that this is a modern reinterpretation of Korean barbecue – the name means ‘resemble’ – doing things a little differently. Instead of cooking at your table, you’ll sit back and enjoy Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage, soju, in sharing-sized, icy cocktail carafes, from delicate Green Seoul ($25) with mint, grape and lemon, to the more fragrant and interesting Yuzu Punch ($25). Drinking snacks, like sticky-sweet chilli rice cake skewers, Ddeok Ggochi ($8/10 pieces), are great against Korean beers from Hite ($6) to Cass ($6). Despite being tempted by Korean fried chicken and thematic nachos and tacos, I sensibly avoided loading up on entrees. Lucky, because the outstandingly tender and smoky Kalbi Beef Ribs ($35.50) arrived in a large metal tray, laden with gochujang noodle salad, cornballs, lotus root chips and house-made kimchi. The BBQ is fully customisable, from additional meat options like Bossam ($17) (pork belly), to three different accompanying Korean sauces. They cover all preferences from sweet to heat, though for me it’s all about that intriguing blend of chilli (gochujang) and fermented soybean paste (doenjang) called ssamjang.
166 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9560 0527 facebook.com/damda2015