A Korean Journey at Atto

A Korean Journey at Atto

Considering that Australia is part of the Asia-Pacific region, it’s surprising that it has taken as long as it has for Korean cuisine to have its time in the sun.

Personally, I have to admit that I’m a K-novice, my experience limited to bibimbap and barbecue. But here we are falling in love with K-chicken, 12-hour-cooked beef short ribs, and the best Bingsu we’ve ever eaten. It’s a revelation.

It’s all due to the chef, really. In this case, it’s Stefano (Yongsul) Lee, who shares with us his passion for food, expanding our horizons of Asian cuisine beyond sushi trains, Chinese dumplings, and sweetened Thai with an elevated take on modern Korean cuisine that we can relate to.

Born in Korea, the unassuming former civil engineer migrated to Australia about twenty years ago, meeting his wife at an English language school in Sydney.  

Following his passion for food, a career change saw him working in some of our best kitchens (Spice Temple, Apollo, hôntô, Stanley, Rick Shores, and Etsu Izakaya) before opening his own venue in November 2023.

Located in the suburban village of Chirn Park, Stefano’s Atto is truly a culinary ‘gift’ to the neighbourhood. Seating forty, the former café has been transformed into a minimalistic, industrial space illustrated by Korean art and bright cushions, its transformation into an intimate dining room still in progress.  

Although the service is attentive and the environs comfortable, nothing detracts from the elegance of Stefano’s food, the star of the establishment.

The menu comprises a range of share plates suitable to eat over several courses. While giving a nod to the traditional Korean dishes of Stefano’s childhood, this is modern Korean-inspired food, borrowing techniques, presentation ideas and other influences to bring his own twist. The resulting menu is approachable for the Aussie palate yet exciting, as it introduces new flavour profiles.

We begin with starters of oysters (with a tangy green plum vinaigrette or natural), Kingfish sashimi in green shallot oil and a perfectly balanced fermented chilli sauce that begs to be bottled, and Black Angus tartare (Yookhwe) with julienned nashi pear that we bundle into nori squares. 

Next, we delve into one of Seoul’s most famous dishes: K-chicken. It’s an absolute hit: traditional Korean crispy fried chicken coated in a sweet sauce offset by pickled daikon and crushed pepita seeds, so delicious that we find ourselves licking our fingers as the bowl empties. While K-chicken is known for its many sauces, at Atto there’s a choice of two: spicy or soy-garlic. The dish is accompanied by radish and cucumber kimchi for balance.

Garlic chive pancake is a dish we’ve seen before in a different version, its flavour boosted by a soy and vinegar dipping sauce. Yum!

If we were to pick a favourite savoury dish, though, it would be the Hibachi grilled Galbi, a Black Angus short rib cooked over the smoky coals of a hibachi grill then served with spring onion salad, lettuce and ssamjang (house chilli jam). The beef is so tender that even picking it up to stuff in gem lettuce leaves is a task. The beef is a testament to the skill of the chef, and the various processes employed over 12 hours of cooking to create such a fine dish.

Moreton Bay bugs, grilled fish and braised pork belly form the remainder of the mains, together with Korean spicy soft tofu stew, several wok-fried dishes and fried rice.

Be sure to save a space for dessert, Black sesame ice cream mochi or the Mango Bingsu, a delectable combination of shaved milky snow ice, candied mango and the chef’s flambéed lime meringue. Dig deep so you get all three layers on your spoon. It’s sensational!

Atto is fully licensed, serving Australian wines, beer, and traditional Korean beverages. The handmade sparkling ‘yuzuade’ is also a winner.

If you’re wondering about whether to try Korean cuisine, Atto is the best introduction you could ever get. Our waitress, Hannah, is keen to explain each dish, making recommendations for us to enjoy a delicious feast. Leaving the restaurant, we don’t claim to be experts, but we feel as though we’ve taken a little step on what might be a long culinary journey to Korea.

Atto Korean Cuisine, 1/55 Brooke Ave, Southport, QLD 4215 Ph: 0478 779 474 Open: Wed 5pm-9pm, Thurs -Sun 11am-2:30pm and 5pm-9:30pm

NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Atto Korean Cuisine.

Wed 5pm-9pm, Thurs -Sun 11am-2:30pm and 5pm-9:30pm
1/55 Brooke Ave, Southport, QLD 4215