My friend V and I decided it was time to head far North-side to try out some food. It was a cold winter weekend, so hot Korean food seemed like a good idea. We walked into Arirang Korean restaurant in Gungahlin (no booking made) and there were a few spare tables available. After sitting down, a plastic water jug and plastic cups were immediately provided. The restaurant is small and probably only seats about 30 people – this made it nice and cosy that cold day. The menu looked enticing with plenty of soups, stews, noodles and rice dishes mostly around the $12-$17 mark. Dishes that are spicy are characterised with either one chilli or two chillis next to the name. The Chef’s Specials range from $25 to $55, considerably more expensive than the other dishes. I did notice that a couple at another table were sharing a very large hotpot / steam boat between them so I’m guessing that’s the reason behind the higher prices (it’s a serve for two). But I’m just guessing, best to ask staff. Korean Fried Chicken, around the $35 mark (again quite expensive), comes five ways – original, hot and crispy, spring onion, sweet chilli and boneless sweet chilli.
First out were the Korean condiments of kimchi, sweet chilli soft tofu, bean curd strips and other pickled items. I love that about Korean food! It’s like getting multiple freebies with your food. The only thing that I wouldn’t go back for would be the sweet chilli tofu. I love tofu but this still tasted bland and the chilli had no impact on me.
We shared an entree of Korean fried vegetable dumplings goonmandu ($9 for 6 pieces). These were long dumplings with slightly crispy skin. They were noticeably oily but I didn’t care as I was cold and hungry. The filling was delicate but flavoursome for vegetable dumplings with a bit of colour from grated carrots in the mix.
For my main, I knew I wanted something warm and noodley. So I ordered the home style wheat flour noodles in seafood soup ($14). This came out in a very tall and hot ceramic bowl sitting on a hotplate. There was a very generous amount of soup topped with freshly chopped spring onion and some dried seaweed. I enjoyed the noodles which didn’t taste store bought. They were still chewy and didn’t break when lifting them out of the bowl. Noodles cooked to perfection!
The seafood consisted of lots of small mussels, one very large mussel still in its shell, one prawn and some calamari rings. The soup is mixed with veggies such as cabbage, carrot, zucchini and onion but was dominated by pepper, and sadly that was all I could taste. Apart from that, I thought this noodle soup was filling (plenty of soup and noodles), very hot in terms of both temperature (hotplate win) and pepperiness, and good value for money.
V felt like the kimchi stew with pork ($16.50). This had two chillis next to it and consisted of kimchi, pork belly and vegetables in a beef bone soup. It came served in a black ceramic bowl still boiling and looking very red. V mentioned there wasn’t much pork and it was really just a kimchi stew. I had a taste and the spiciness was on par with my noodle soup. Spicier than I would have liked but not as spicy as some people prefer, especially when indicating two chillis. I guess you could always ask for extra chilli on the side, or freshly cut chilli, if that’s your thing.
The no nonsense service is quick – water supplied after we sat down, menus provided and orders taken promptly. It didn’t take long for the condiments and dumplings to arrive, however it was a bit of a wait (about 25 minutes) for our mains to arrive. Probably due to all that stewing! I found that staff were only there because they had to be and not that smiley, hence the no nonsense ‘order, eat and get out’ vibe I got. When paying the bill, the staff member was clearly not impressed when I used my Entertainment Book to take 25% off the bill. Maybe it was just a bad day. Other diners in the restaurant were predominantly Asian (always a good sign). The restaurant’s plain fit out is nothing special but the range of food offered warms the belly (the hotplates are great during Canberra winter!), prices are cheap plus the Korean condiments are a bonus.
Value for money 8/10
FPJ score 19/30
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