Tucked away on the corner of 10th Street and Elizabeth Avenue in Parkmore, family-owned eatery Banchan, meaning ‘side dish’ in Korean, offers a feeling of warm familiarity like old friends welcoming you to share a meal in their home.
This unassuming Korean barbecue spot is a genre of restaurant found few and far between in Johannesburg’s diverse food scene. The intimate space hosts a limited number of tables that include built-in gas grills, where guests are able to prepare their own gogi-gui (meat roast).
The minimalist interior focuses on natural elements with a rustic undertone. Inky walls embellished with an abundance of hanging plants invite a sense of serenity into the humble space, while the large windows allow natural light to illuminate the room beautifully during the day. In the evenings, you’ll catch a twinkle from the street lights, which lend themselves to being the perfect backdrop for a sensational experience to follow.
Don’t let the quaintness of Banchan fool you. The food being turned out of the kitchen by Chef Jeongsuk Choi is giant in flavour. With the restaurant staying true to its name, guests are served a trio of side dishes to nibble on while their order is being prepared. If there was ever a question on how to make waiting for your food so enjoyable, the collection of homemade kimchi, sprouts and black beans is most definitely the answer.
Dining at Banchan without trying the Korean barbecue seems unlawful. Centred around the culture of sharing, the built-in grills and a carefully curated selection of meats create an interactive and playful barbecue experience. The importance of texture is driven into every dish served. Crisp lettuce cups and piquant pickles are a refreshing contrast to the buttery, rich samgyeopsal (pork belly). Homemade sauces like Ssamjang add a fiery, bright note to the already intricate flavour profile of each meal.
The menu showcases a comprehensive selection of traditional Korean dishes, with one of the heroes being Korean fried chicken. Crunchy yet tender pieces of chicken doused in a spicy sweet dressing, soar to the top of the list of favourites on offer.
Banchan is a delightful celebration of Korean food and is worth as many visits as there are menu options — plenty.
Words by Ashlea Hackner