Jackie McMillan
10th Feb 2023

For a menu that eats like a narrative of the chef’s life, head up Loftus Lane to Kobo, an elegant glass-box 8-seater. Chef Jacob Lee transports guests to a Korean summer in episode 4 of his “omakase” adventures ($185/head). Across a flurry of snacks that starts with a salad of sun-dried tomato, stracciatella, figs and acorn jelly (dotori-muk) - something the Koreans began eating when rice was scarce - Lee paints a palatable picture of the muggy, monsoonal Korean summer. Lee describes his role as that of an ambassador, “infusing culture into our dishes” as we eat our way through Jeju Island-inspired raw snapper with gochujang sauce and a ridiculously good prawn hang gimbap, a risotto-filled sushi roll with raw prawns preserved in soy sauce spiked with dried anchovy, kelp and chilli. For the whelk taco, sea snails commonly eaten in Korea, have been softened in kelp butter for 4-hours before being grilled and served with Korean soy pickles in delicate spring roll pastry shells.

The Korean booze journey ($80/each) is just as exciting: from a delicate pink Camellia Jeju Wine (16% ABV) made using camellia flowers on Jeju Island, to Yosé Rosé, a bright red raspberry and omija (magnolia berry) infused cider served in a resonant goblet, it’s all excitingly unfamiliar. With Lee as your guide, it’s one matched drink package well worth signing up to. If you decide to go it alone, the Hwayo 41X Premium Soju ($13/glass) is a smart, accessible “rice whisky” aged in American oak for a soft caramel finish, or the slightly more adventurous drinker might enjoy Woorungi Cheongju ($84/bottle), a rice wine free from pesticides because the rice is grown with fresh water snails that eat any nasties. It is savoury with a hint of Vegemite.

Cold noodles are famous in the Korean summer. Here, Lee teams them with chickpea (rather than soybean), truffle and white sesame powder in a dish that suits Jangsoo makgeolli ($28). The samgye rice cake soup main riffs off a chicken soup Koreans eat at the beginning of summer “to make their bodies healthier”. The stuffing of the bird makes the filling for the dumplings you drag through a clever hot sauce between punctuating mouthfuls of radish root kimchi.

I’ve left plenty of dishes for you to uncover in situ, including a tuna tart tied to Lee’s nostalgic family holidays taken during the Korean summer. Kobo is one for diners who love to understand the story behind what chefs choose to put on the plate. As a bonus, it’s all delivered within a tight 90-minute window so there’s no chance to get bored.