Miga Restaurant opened last month at 1 Dixon St, Haymarket bringing a new style of Korean dining to Sydney. The street itself is lined with Asian restaurants and on this particular night a Hong Kong celebrity is signing autographs at the front of a neighboring restaurant. We have no idea who this guy is or what he does but push through a sea of young, excited Asian girls to reach a far more subdued Miga for tonights Secret Foodies.
Young gun restaurateur James Sun greets us at the door. He comes from a family of restaurant owners and this is his first solo venture. There is an open space for public dining and seven private dining rooms for a more intimate experience with friends.
Guests arrive and we chink our glasses and start introductions. Conversations bubble and James takes the time to welcome us and explain this evening’s menu. Tonight we are experiencing a number of signature dishes banquet style followed by a DIY Korean BBQ (with a little help from staff if needed). James exits and five minutes later a small army of pretty Korean waitresses flood into the small room arms bearing steamy plates and bowls.
Delicate bottles of soju cocktails are placed on the table with small shot glasses. Soju is similar to vodka though slightly sweeter. It’s very high in alcohol content around 30% so served with a mixer. Tonight we’re trying two popular flavours, strawberry and Yakult. Yes, Yakult, that little bottle you get from the diary aisle at the supermarket. I was skeptical but it’s actually really nice.
We start our banquet with soy beef short ribs, a signature dish at Miga. The meat is soft, tender and falls off the bone. It is my favourite dish of the evening. Pan-fried assortments including fried egg, fish and vegetables stack arrive next followed by small Angus beef mince patties with chewy rice cake in the centre. The Korean style mixed seafood pancake reminds me of a Spanish omelette. With so many tasty dishes to try it’s hard to leave room for the BBQ.
This style of dining has its pros and cons. On the positive side shared style banquets encourage a more social dining experience. Sharing with peers, swapping recommendations and politely debating who gets the last short rib are all good things. That inner Labrador that finds it hard to put the chopsticks down while there’s still food on the table is not so good.
Korean banquets are like football games. They need to be approached with tactic; endurance and a desire to win-lets smash this food. A half time break before the BBQing begins gives a moment to digest. Alas, no expensive commercial is aired or cheerleaders performing well rehearsed routines. Instead we’re served more Soju cocktails, this time it’s strawberry flavoured. It tastes like a melted pink zuper doper ice-block. I prefer the Yakult creations.
There is an element of kitsch about Miga that makes it cool. You’ll hear k-pop music playing in the background and occasionally Justin Bieber. There are plastic plants throughout the restaurant, most with big pink bows on them. A selection of meat is brought into the room along with sides and sauces. I find particular amusement in the plastic palm tree perched next to the Wagyu scotch fillet marbling score of 9+. Smoked duck, pork cheek and Angus marinated galbi are also presented. We cook our own thin strips of meat then add sauces and eat with rice. I try kimchi for the first time. Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish and staple in most Korean diets is made of vegetables and seasonings and chilli.
The fun thing about Miga is the interaction with food. They also offer crepe cooking classes, kimchi appreciation afternoons and soju cocktail masterclasses. Next time I’ll be trying one of their four-degustation menus sampling over 13 courses of carefully crafted chef selected dishes. I’ll have my game face on and be wearing some stretchy pants.