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October 31, 2018
Habits

Adelaide’s most under-rated Korean food

Beneath Grenfell Centre sits a Korean eatery you'll want to add to your must-try list.

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  • Words and pictures: Johnny von Einem

At the base of the Black Stump there is a red brick oasis.

Though not geographically far from Pirie and Grenfell Street, the sunken courtyard is a world away from the concrete, steel and glass business district (though cleverly disguised by the building above), and removed just enough from the four-lane thoroughfare to its north that the thrumming of buses paused at Stop U1 evaporates before breaking the calm.

Remarks

Plus 82 Pocha

Shop 3, 25 Grenfell Street

Tues-Thurs: 11:30am to 2:30 pm, 5:30pm to 11:30pm
Fri: 11:30am to 2:30 pm, 5:30pm to 2am
Sat: 5:30pm to 2am
Sun: 5:30pm to 11pm

Office workers congregate at almost every time of day, in temporary escape, peering beyond the fringe of elevated palm trees to their designated boxes, stacked in whatever high-rise they descended from, and to which they must shortly return.

There is peace beneath the Black Stump.

But it is not just reprieve on offer; at 11:30am, the glass façade of Plus 82 Pocha swings open and tables and stools are dragged out and quickly occupied by workers on lunch break.

For the last 15 months, Pocha has been serving up its Korean fare – a combination of traditional Korean flavours and co-owning head chef Janghoon Choi’s Le Cordon Bleu training and background working in kitchens as diverse as Spanish, Japanese, and “some really high quality cafés.”

Janghoon Choi.

Janghoon started his career in his native Korea and long aspired to work as a fusion chef, but he and his business partners, Steven Lee and Hyunwoo Kang (who all met while studying at Le Cordon Bleu) saw opportunity in Adelaide’s growing appetite for Asian food and the distinct lack of Korean available at the time.

“Honestly, because there were not many Korean restaurants we felt like we had a chance,” Janghoon says.

“I like to look at the culture, how it’s changed: ok, Chinese culture’s popular, Japan’s culture popular, Thai, and I was thinking – why? The people start to like low calorie, more flavour, so I thought ‘Ok, next time it has to be Korean. I got this! It’s time.’”

Plus 82 Pocha caught the zeitgeist at the right time, leading a minor surge of Korean eateries in the city, and before long extended its reach to nearby Gawler Place, where they opened a small takeaway store six months ago. And by mid-November the Plus 82 family will expand further to include Mimi, a Modern Asian eatery on Sturt Street (formerly East of Norman) and Gogi, a Korean BBQ restaurant moving into Eliza Street (formerly Mama Jambo).

Steven Lee.

Pocha’s menu plays to Janghoon’s strengths – it is, of course, heavily influenced by the three owners’ country of origin, but at the same time they were conscious not to create something “too traditional”.

“A lot of restaurants in Adelaide are more traditional, that sort of look and vibe. We wanted to build something fun and unique as well,” Steven says.

“[And] because it’s new cuisine in Adelaide… we brought in bulgogi arancini to introduce to Adelaide people, especially the locals.”

Janghoon cooks the slow-cooked beef rib sous vide for the galbi jjim and bakes his braised ham hock in an oven for crispier skin – neither of which are traditionally Korean techniques.

“In Korea we don’t do that, but I love that I’m making that combination and then try to make next level food,” he says.

While it was important to the owners that their venture be seen as approachable – denoted by the restaurants name, which is a Korean term for street food – Janghoon also sees Plus 82 Pocha as an opportunity to educate Adelaide diners about Korean culture.

Not all red caps are bad red caps.

 

He recalls experiences in kitchens not long past where he was greeted by well-meaning colleagues with “‘Oh, you’re Korean, so you eat sushi?’”

“I picked up that people don’t know, they don’t understand, but they’re curious about it, so it’s a good chance to educate the market,” Janghoon says.

“Lucky that K-pop is getting popular (laughs), so it helps actually. People start to like Korean culture so they start to know about it.”

It’s this curiosity that saw Pocha boom from the moment its doors opened over a year ago, and its popularity amongst city residents and workers in the area has sustained ever since.

Korean fried chicken. This image supplied.

The restaurant closes briefly from 2:30pm and reopens at 5:30pm for dinner trade, and as the daytime bustle melts away, the paradise beneath the Black Stump echoes out onto emptied Grenfell Street – diners laughing over beer and fried chicken or their kimchi hotpot late into the evening.

“Honestly, I want people to know about Korea, because Korea is quite a small country in Asia and it has many stories inside. And when I talk to other people ‘What do you know about Korea?’ Psy, Kim Jong Un, kimchi, only those things,” Janghoon laughs.

“Maybe that’s what they can easily experience through the TV. Come and experience Korean, taste Korean, and then maybe you start to get interested.”

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