There’s a new Melbourne restaurant challenging the traditional process of cooking Korean barbecue.
Instead of using the conventional flat plate barbecue, Hinoak has opted for a vertical cooker, tells owner Jason Lee.
“There are quite a few Korean restaurants in Glen Waverley, but no one who offers vertical cookers like us. As far as I’m aware, we’re the first restaurant in Melbourne to offer this alternative barbecue plate,” says Lee.
He is referring to a Korean-designed vertical cooker, which is best described as a barbecue toaster. It features two hot vertical elements that cook the food placed between them through air heat.
“South Korea has undergone multiple studies investigating carbon monoxide poisonings. Many accidents are caused by the exceeded use of charcoal briquettes, grills and gasoline-powered generators.
“If you’re cooking meat on a flat plate, the meat basically ferments in its own oils... The vertical cooker allows the juice and oil from the meat to drop down into a separate plate,” Lee clarifies.
Health claims aside, Lee settled on the name ‘Hinoak’ for a couple of reasons: Hin is a play on huin saeg, which means ‘white’ in Korean, while ‘oak’ links it to white oak, an earlier type of wood used to fuel Korean barbecue.
“The ‘white’ within the name also symbolises new beginnings and a new way of eating Korean barbecue,” says Lee.
A mix of traditional and modern dishes forms the extensive menu at Hinoak. Starters include seafood pancakes, fried lotus root, pan-fried mandu (dumplings), tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) and Korean fried chicken. When it comes to the actual barbecue, there are sets to make ordering all too easy, including the Miss Korea set – a selection of Wagyu cuts such as chuck tail flaps, short beef rib, scotch fillet and oyster blade.
If you’re not in the mood for an interactive cooking-dining experience, you can leave it to the kitchen to whip up your mains. Seafood stews, sizzling plates of beef bulgogi and bi bim bap (either in a regular bowl or a hot stone pot) all await.
Korean restaurants are known to be generous, and Hinoak is no different; like many eateries in South Korea, it offers complimentary small plates to accompany your order. These change regularly but commonly include bean shoots, kimchi, pickled vegetables, chestnut jelly and sautéed spinach.
If you’re after an authentic Korean experience, look to the soju, Korea’s national drink. The white spirit made from rice, potatoes and other starches has a neutral flavour profile, making it an ideal meal accompaniment. Hinoak houses a collection of classic soju, alongside peach, apple and moscato variations of the spirit.
“We want to make a statement,” says Lee about his first major dining venture. His efforts are not only seen in the vertical cooker but also in Hinoak’s design. He employed Melbourne-based design studio Biasol to conceive the space, whose team has created a distinctive facade made up of thin timber battens, inspired by the traditional houses and stores of South Korea.
But Hinoak’s design doesn’t really give away that this is a Korean restaurant; the only element that slightly hints at this is the character for ‘fire’ (hwa) cut out on the exterior’s battens and debossed on one of the walls inside. Hinoak is a modern dining experience with traditional roots – one that is leading the vanguard for contemporary Korean restaurants in Melbourne.
Hinoak is open daily, 5pm - 11pm
7 Coleman Parade, Glen Waverley, VIC