If you've never tried bibimbap – that Korean dish of rice with a neat moat of braised meat, vegetables, fried egg and pickles for DIY mixing – Seoul Soul is the place to hit it. Not because it's the best bib in town, although the tangy mix is excellent if a little sweet, but because the crew here are just so unabashedly thrilled to be showing off So-Ko cuisine.
Pickles, crunchy shelled pork dumplings and sticky barbecued ribs are all presented with the sort of puff-chested pride usually reserved for nailing parking manoeuvres – and finishing really hard Sodukus. It’s so nice, we’d be going back even if they weren’t selling meal buckets. But they are, and you want one. Dosirak ($13) is all your bibimbak bits (rice, pickles, braised pork or spicy tofu) plus fried snacks like spring rolls and KFC (Korean fried chicken), all served in a bucket with an orange-slice toting salad any 1980s housewife would be proud of.
Embellish at will with all your Korean condiments including pink pickled daikon and kimchi – that awesomely stanky combination of fermented cabbage and chilli. Some say it cures cancer. We say it’s best cooked in a zippy pancake starter ($6).
Amidst the many Laminex tables and air-punching cats of Victoria Street, Seoul Soul’s slick fitout of recycled woods, open kitchen and personal bag hooks makes it well-posher than its neighbours. But don't let that stop you ordering a big ole side of dduk bok ki ($12). The bowl is almost 50-50 lavafied cheese and thick rice noodles chilling in a light chilli-paste sauce. It’s just rakishly unhealthy enough to compensate for the fact that there’s no booze or BYO. Still, you can always pre-fuel at the Vic Hotel, and since you won’t be working up a thirst barbecuing (the grills here are just for show) sikhye rice punch should cut the mustard. Although warning to the squeamish: the sweet rice flavoured water still has the odd grain floating about.
Dinner in a date-worthy venue for less that $20 a head? We can go for that.