91 Elizabeth St, Brisbane
Walking along Elizabeth St one day, I nearly jumped in shock when I saw this new restaurant. This might be an OTT reaction to most people but I'm such a city bum - I wander around the CBD almost on a day-to-day basis so I was surprised they managed to sneak a new restaurant in without me realizing.
The outside shopfitting hadn't been completed but they were already filled with people so I thought... this much hype must be a good thing. It wasn't long after that when I found an excuse to go with a couple of friends.
The restaurant is sort of sunken below the ground with the top half of the windows peeping out... not sure if this makes much sense but it's quite nicely decorated.
Obaltan specializes in Korean charcoal barbecue. Each table has a flexible air-vent above it that sucks smoke and fumes before it suffocates everyone. Ingenious! Antarctic circle would do well to learn from this. The menu also offers more standard Korean dishes plus hotpots.
After much deliberation, we decided to let our resident Korean girl do the choosing. We got a seafood hotpot, some fried dumplings and a sweet potato noodle stir-fry to share.
The hotpot was massive and came with 2 bowls of rice which was more than enough for us. It's got a lovely, strong flavor - slightly chili and full of garlic. Great for Winter. There's loads of noodles, seafood bits and veggies in it. I don't normally eat rice but the soup goes nicely with rice.
I really liked the fried dumplings with the dipping sauce. I've had Japanese gyoza before but not the Korean-style. They were yum!
The potato noodles had great flavors too. It was a bit oily but that didn't stop me from going back for more. I love how the noodle is really soft and tender but still with bite. When I made them at home, it's kinda hard and overly chewy but then again, I buy the really thick variety.
Service at Obaltan was a bit chaotic. They were beyond busy when we got there (it was late on a Friday night and there was a queue) but that's not really an excuse. Extra staffing, guys!! There's a button on each table that you can push for service but they started ignoring ours... so we had to grab random waiters for such simple necessities as water and menus.
In summary, the restaurant is a bit more upmarket than most eateries in that area but that's reflected in the price. I think service will improve as they become more established. I have no real complaints about taste.