Hallah, 268 Victoria St, North Melbourne. Phone: 9329 4293
Our neighbour and mate Rob may be on the verge of moving to hipster Fitzroy, but he’s been on food adventures with us often enough to know our style.
So it phases him not at all that we park in the vicinity of Vic Market and then set about deciding where to eat.
The night market is rocking and the numbers are big.
Bennie pricks his ears up, but his two companions firmly nix that idea quick smart.
A couple of likely places are closed, so we end up stumbling into Hallah and enjoy a good Korean meal.
Like everywhere around here on this night, it’s busy.
The staff cope well but the service is a little perfunctory.
That’s OK – we’re happy to eat and split, so the swiftness with which our food appears is appreciated.
As we’re right into catching up, covering a fascinating range of conversational topics and don’t want to pore over the menu, we quickly settle on the least expensive of the three set menus – the Hallah assorted BBQ set for two people ($56), and throw in another dish from the broader menu to make up for the fact we’re a threesome.
Presumably the pork belly, beef short rib fillets and chicken thigh are meant to be the highlight of our meal.
The meat is fine, juicy and tender, and enjoyable with the three dipping sauces – one soy, one oil-salt-pepper, and another that seems to be a slightly spicy miso mash.
But I, at least, am a little underwhelmed. It’s at this point I’m thinking that ordering some of the more prosaic one-bowl dishes earlier in the menu may have been wiser.
But the bells and whistles that come with our meal impress much more and are much more fun.
For me there is a breakthrough here.
I’ve always been indifferent or unswayed by the charms of kimchi, so am delighted to find this is the first – ever – I can say I truly enjoyed it.
The shredded cabbage and bean sprouts are plain and perhaps in need of more seasoning, but we all three pounce on the beautifully pickled onion.
The seafood pancake is a delight – stuffed with seafood and greenery, its texture and flavour is far superior to the dry, starchy version we’ve often had as green onion pancake in Chinese places.
“Soybean past soup” packs an intense flavour hit and is chockers with vegetableses and baby clams.
Our “extra” dish to complement the set menu is dragon cheese chicken ($16, top photograph).
Listed as spicy, it seems to us hardened chilli warriors anything but.
It IS very cheesy and strikes me as odd verging on weird.
But there you go.
The set menu option has served our purposes for this particular social outing.
But we reckon a closer, more discerning examination of the menu may reap fine dividends – it’s packed with many options.
The $28 plates of fried chicken we see sailing past us look especially hot.
The Hallah website is here.