Last Sunday I took my little bro (AW) out for dinner for a bite to eat and a bit of sisterly advice since the whole finishing school/starting real life thing seemed to be getting to him a little bit. After a bit of thought I decided on Corea Corea since it was in town and convenient to where we already were in the city. We headed up the escalators at Orchid Plaza and I was taken aback by just how many people were upstairs. I figured that they must be all spread out along the top floor at the different eateries that are up there but on closer inspection Corea Corea was the only one open. There was about 100 people or more there for Corea Corea on a Sunday night. I couldn’t believe it. And what’s more there was even a line of about 10 to 15 people deep. Not to be put off, we weren’t in a hurry so we headed to the back of the queue which seemed to be moving quickly.
The five minutes or so that we waited in the queue gave us ample time to decide on what we wanted to order from the large menu behind the counter. When we got to the front I asked AW to go and find a table to which he managed to find one up on the decking in the actual restaurant part of Corea Corea. A lot of other people were seated out in the Food Court waiting for or eating their meals. I waited at the counter a couple of minutes while the wait staff sorted themselves out watching them all frantically running around like chooks with their heads cut off as my nana would have said. And when I say running I literally mean ‘running’. One waiter in particular was bringing dishes out to various tables and virtually sprinting back to the kitchen to keep up with the demand. By this stage a man had come to the counter to serve me, I asked him if they were normally this busy to which he replied “most of the time”. Again I was surprised because I do go to Orchid Plaza quite a bit but have never seen it this busy, although I tend to go during the day.
I ordered a Spicy Chicken Pot (AU$13.95) for AW and while I was tempted to order the Charcoal Grilled Beef Ribs (AU$21.95) I had a bit of a craving for noodles so I went with the Spicy Cold Noodle (AU$13.95) instead. The prices at Corea Corea are hardly going to break the bank with only two items on the menu over AU$15.95. I took a seat at our table with the number I had been allocated and we waited for our meals to arrive. In the meantime I gave AW some advice on home, Mum, Dad, our sister, money, work, girls (one in particular), mother in-laws (one in particular), exercise and the future. That took about 5 minutes and then our meals arrived. Nah jokes, it took a little longer than that. Our meals arrived one after the other, firstly my Spicy Cold Noodle with a little container of Kimchi, a bowl of Miso Soup and a smaller container of what I am assuming was lemon juice. It looked like lemon juice and it tasted like lemon juice so let’s just call it lemon juice. Then AW’s Spicy Chicken Pot came out sizzling hot in its own little black pot. I seriously reckon that the Chef’s and the wait staff must burn themselves so damn much working with those things. I know I would seeing as how clumsy I am.
I dug into my Spicy Cold Noodle pretty much straight away although the Spicy Chicken Pot was so damn hot that AW couldn’t start eating it for a good 20 minutes when I was pretty much finished mine. The Cold Noodles (there was even ice cubes in there – maybe they should call it Icy Cold Noodles) were exactly what I needed on such a hot night and I ordered them not only because they taste awesome but also because I didn’t feel like sweating my ring out with something as searingly hot as a Korean Pot. The noodles are really long and a little hard to bite through making it difficult to swallow mouthfuls. I tend to end up with half of them down my throat and the other half in my mouth trying not to choke. Gee these Spicy Cold Noodles sound delicious don’t they. I have eaten them at Corea Corea before and they gave me a pair of kitchen scissors with my utensils assumedly to cut the noodles into more bite size friendly pieces. Maybe they had run out scissors this time around but I managed just fine. Don’t let that put you off especially if you love chilli and noodles like I do because these noodles are damn good! I love the julienned bits of cucumber over the top with the chilli. There also half a hard-boiled egg, a slice of beef and a bit diced chilli on top for decoration. I poured the ‘lemon juice’ over the top since that is what I am assuming you are supposed to do with it. Again my Spicy Noodle Bowl is a really yummy dish and I enjoyed it immensely.
It is pretty hard to have a big pot of yummy food sitting in front of you that you can’t eat because it’s too hot and after about 20 minute’s of burning himself with small bits of rice and chicken AW’s Spicy Chicken Pot had finally cooled down enough to actually eat it properly. On the top there was a generous amount of shredded cabbage and underneath a yummy mix of rice, chicken and veggies. The only problem is that because the whole mixture is sitting in the pot sizzling for such a long time it gets stuck to the bottom of the pot and gets a bit crunchy. I personally think that is the best part of the whole dish and AW seemed to agree while MS thought it was gross when I dined there with him once but who listens to him anyway (just kidding my love). AW practically inhaled his Spicy Chicken Pot when he realised it was cool enough to eat and seems he has developed a few family habits, not even leaving a grain of rice behind (I do the same and so does our dad). You could call us gutses but I just reckon we like our food.
Corea Corea is certainly a bit of a favourite haunt for locals and tourists in Cairns. Again the place is ridiculously busy for such a little place in the middle of a seemingly barren food court that most tourists probably only stumble across. I’m not sure that I agree with the statement on the Orchid Plaza website (apparently Orchid Plaza has ‘World Renowned Multi Cultural Eateries’) but what used to be a sleepy two storey shopping centre that was mainly just used as a way of getting from Abbott Street to Lake Street or vice versa has re-awakened and it’s a great place to go if you are looking for a Asian meal for lunch or dinner. My only problem with my dinner that night is that I had a bit of an upset stomach the next day. I could blame the chilli but since I’m half Sri Lankan chilli isn’t really a problem for me. AW didn’t seem to have a problem but that is probably because his meal was cooked in a hot-pot in ridiculously high temperatures (sort of on par with the temperatures Cairns has been experiencing lately). I’m not saying that it was the Spicy Cold Noodles but I am not saying that it wasn’t. I do sometimes question the cleanliness of Orchid Plaza as a whole with its open food court and birds roosting above so having sizzling hot meals that you can’t eat for the first 20 minutes can only be a good thing. Still like I said we both enjoyed our meals along with half of Cairns, the food tasty and cheap, and even though I may sometimes question the hygiene of such a place, like The Lillipad Cafe, it hasn’t stopped me going back again and again.
Shop 32, 79 Abbott St, Orchid Plaza, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4031 6655
Opening Hours: 7 days Lunch 11am – 4pm, Dinner 6pm – 9pm
A couple of weeks ago my new-to-Cairns friend Baking Myself Happy and I went for dinner at a place that I spotted when I popped into First Choice Liquor for a bottle of wine. After seeing what looked like a new Asian restaurant I sauntered over to check it out, peering inside to find a busy little Korean restaurant that I have never seen nor heard of before called The Asia Bar and Restaurant. Situated right underneath Bohemian Central Backpackers I was eager to check it out so I enlisted BMH to come to dinner with me so we could catch up and I could hear about her recent trip to Thailand. As it turns out BMH had never had Korean food before but said she would love to try it. We arrived together and parked in the First Choice Liquor carpark right near a lovely man that upon closer inspection was peeing on the wall. He didn’t seem to notice us as we walked past but I sure as hell noticed him – filthy man. Do not let my observations of this drunken individual deter you from visiting this delightful little restaurant since unfortunately this appears to be a regular sight in Cairns.
So we headed on into The Asia and found there wasn’t a vacant seat in the entire place which probably seats around 30 people. We also noticed that besides one other person we were the only non-Korean people in there. We both figured that any place that is full of traditional diners has to be good so we waited about 5 minutes for a table to be free and sat down. I have to admit it was a very awkward 5 minutes because we were not acknowledged nor spoken to by any of the wait staff. This didn’t deter us and after the waitress wiped down the table she handed us a couple of menus to have a look over before fetching us a bottle of water and a couple silver cups that made the ice cold water go down nicely.
We both ummed and ahhed over the menu and although everything on the menu sounded good there just wasn’t anything that particularly grabbed me. All except the Ttukbaegi Jjamppong Bap or as I like to call it Chinese-Style Earthen Pot with Vegetables and Seafood and Cellophane Noodles with Rice. Unfortunately for me this dish was only available on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Alas, I was a day late. In the end we both settled with the Bulgogi Deopbap or the Rice Topped with Beef for a mere AU$11. Can’t argue with that! I also ordered some Japanese Pickle to go with my dish – a steal for only AU$1!
While we waited BMH recounted wondrous stories of private plunge pools and endless amounts of Som Tum in Thailand. There were also not so wondrous stories of her nearly getting eaten alive by monkey’s on Monkey Beach near Phi Phi. When I went to Monkey Beach I didn’t get off the damn boat. I never liked monkey’s you can’t trust them and they also scare the sh*t out of me. While waiting for our main meals the waitress brought over the Japanese Pickle that I ordered along with a small dish of Kimchi (a traditional fermented Korean dish that tastes much nicer than it sounds). We only waited about 10 to 15 minutes for our meals to arrive and when they did they really weren’t too much to look at. To me all it looked like was some Beef and Veggies on top of some rice with a bit of salad on the side. Well maybe that is why it’s called Rice topped with Beef? D’uh.
Anyway turns out we were actually both pleasantly surprised with our meals despite their appearance. Okay the meals didn’t look bad just super boring I guess. The beef was really tender with a slightly sweet flavour to it. It was quite delicious! I added a bit of Kimchi to mine to give it a little bit more spice although there is a tray on each table with spices and sauces for you to add your own if you like. The serving size was quite large, almost too large for me to finish even though I picked all the onion out of it (I’m a sook, I know). The addition of the wedge of orange on the side was a nice touch to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal (at least that’s what I think it was for).
So it turns out that BMH really enjoyed her introduction to Korean food and I enjoyed introducing her. I would really love to go back on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday and try the ‘Chinese Earthen Pot’ or maybe even the Spicy Sausage Stew with Rice which is AU$25 for two people. The food was really yummy and cheap too costing only AU$25 for the two of us. The Asia is a little bit loud with the conversations of other diner’s being a little bit deafening at times. BMH and I did have trouble hearing parts of each others conversation so that we had to resort to the old smile and nod every now and then. Unless you are planning on an intimate dinner don’t let that deter you. The atmosphere at The Asia is a lot nicer than another popular Korean restaurant in Cairns, Corea Corea at Orchid Plaza and a hell of a lot cleaner too. The Asia Bar and Restaurant is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat before a catching movie in the city. That’s if you can get a table.
The Asia Bar and Restaurant
100 Sheridan St, Cairns QLD 4870 (underneath the Bohemian Central Backpackers)
Ph: 0407 974 338
Opening Hours: Mon, Wed & Thurs 5pm – 10pm, Fri & Sat 5pm – 12pm, Sun 5pm – 10pm