The Korean chicken and beer joint Gunbae has landed in Union Street, drawing inspiration from owner Yunji Kim's childhood memories of 'Korean soul food.'
Introducing Gunbae Chicken and Beer on Union Street
When the owner of Gunbae Chicken and Beer, Yunji Kim, was a child, she would eagerly wait for the days when her father received his pay cheque. On those days, the family ate chicken.
“Everyone would be waiting and he’d bring [home] a paper bag with a chicken sign on it. We loved that. I still remember that taste. That was kind of a treat, a big treat,” she says.
Yunji grew up in Korea enjoying the fried chicken made popular by American soldiers during the Korean War. When she moved to Adelaide – via Brisbane – some 35 years later, she wanted to share her love for the crispy poultry snack with her new home.
“People don’t know much about Korea, because it was a kind of under a veil … But I think now it’s time for Korean cuisine,” she says.
“And [fried chicken] is kind of a soul food for Koreans because we all grew up with this kind of food. When we watch soccer, when we catch up with friends, we always have chicken and beer. It never fails.”
Gunbae Chicken and Beer offers four flavours of fried chicken, all of which are based on the the restaurant’s star dish – Gunbae chicken, a 12-hour brined chook, dusted with a mix of secret herbs and spices (not unlike a mainstream fried chicken chain).
It’s a recipe Yunji brought over from Korea and which took six weeks to refine.
The house-named chicken is a base for the three other flavours of chicken: soy and garlic, yang nyeom – a sweet and spicy version – and sticky soy – which is topped with a thick, sweet marinade.
All of the flavours are served with house slaw and pickled radish and are available with or without bones.
Bulking up the menu is a selection of Korean small plates, including kimchi jeon (three pan-fried kimchi pancakes), mandoo (lightly fried dumplings drizzled with sesame soy sauce) and joomukbap (which means ‘fist-rice’ in English and is a compact ball of crunchy seaweed, cucumber, carrot and seasoned rice).
To drink there are, of course, an array of beers as well as wines, cocktails and gins.
Yunji says she’s hoping to add the Korean ice dessert Bingsu to the menu as well.
“It’s a Korean shaved ice dessert. We’re going to have a strawberry version and a traditional Korean version,” she says.
The icy treat is topped with fruit syrups, condensed milk and red beans.
The restaurant itself opened in December, replacing Jekyll & Hyde wine and dessert bar on Union Street.
Walls have been refreshed with pink and black paint and timber chairs, tables and shelving run throughout.
The long, 40-seater lunch and dinner joint is Yunji’s first restaurant, which she says would not have been possible without the support of her partner and parents.
“Mum and dad are here from Korea helping to set up the kitchen … [they] had a lot of business experience in Korea in restaurants and businesses. I’d be too scared without my parents help and support,” she says.