After years of pop-ups, research trips to Korea and cooking in some of Sydney's best kitchens, Peter Jo – affectionately known as "kimchi Pete" on social media – has just opened his first solo restaurant in Melbourne. Restaurant Shik, named for a character in the Korean language that can mean celebration, knowledge, a meal or a technique, will attempt to break the mould of what's classified as Korean food in Australia.
That means no fried chicken. Instead, Jo's applying Korean technique to more commonly seen Australian ingredients such as lamb, beetroot, coriander and even Brussels sprouts.
"I'm taking the journey that Italian food took 10 years ago when it used to be just pizza and pasta, and now there's regional restaurants," Jo says.
Jo brings his years of experience working at Sydney restaurants Momofuku Seiobo, Vini and Berta to the Shik menu, as well as drawing on the family pedigree of running stand-out spots Madang and Danjee in Sydney's Koreatown.
The Shik dishes are easily shared and divided into starters, grilled dishes and braises. Choose from crisp jeon of oysters or seasonal vegetables, tackle the tartare-like yukhoe served with Korean pear and witlof for wrapping, and stay for the oxtail jjim with beef from David Blackmore. Jo is working closely with Vic's Meats to source lesser-known cuts for the grill such as short plate, intercostal and chuck tail flap. He's not ruling out offal, either.
As for the fermented stuff, there's a classic cabbage kimchi, of course, but don't be surprised if beetroot, Brussels sprout or fennel and coriander ferments appear, too.
"I feel like I'm opening a Korean restaurant not knowing what Korean food is anymore," he jokes. "My understanding keeps changing."
High-quality soju ("not the ghetto soju you see everywhere in the green bottles") made with organic rice and aged in onggi is used as a house spirit in the likes of Martinis and Negronis, as well as being available by the bottle, while beers lean mostly Korean with a few European sours in the mix. The wine list beckons, too, with bottles selected by Jo, Liz Carey (ex-MoVida) and sommelier Josh Begbie that will please wine nerds and casual punters alike. Expect plenty of small producers from Piedmonte, the Jura and regions closer to home.
Restaurant Shik, 30 Niagara Ln, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9670 5195, restaurantshik.com. Mon-Sat, 5pm-11pm.