New outpost and Seoul sister of Balmain's popular (and now-closed) Mabasa, Sáng by Mabasa trades up the barbecued short rib and vats of melted cheese for plates that are delicate and well-balanced — and unlike those found at any other Korean restaurant in Sydney.
Established and run by a Korean family, the tiny, pared back restaurant seats just 22, with counter seating to the right, and two wide communal tables that let you spill your food down the middle.
In the open kitchen you'll find self-taught chefs, Seung Kee Son and Jin Sun Son, who have barricaded themselves behind glass jars of pickles, while their son Kenny Yong-Soo Son and his partner Youmee Jeon, run the front of house and floor.
The clean, minimalist space reveals a tasteful aesthetic, thanks to artful objects in deliberate places and rustic clusters of native branches. It's little surprise, really, with Kenny also the owner (and maker) of contemporary design studio Studiokyss.
Open for both lunch and dinner, Sáng's menu is a lineup of classic Korean dishes, but those on the hunt for lesser-known flavours will make plenty of new friends, too. Perhaps not too adventurous, but still highly rewarding, are the kun mandu ($14). Crisp and golden to the pleats, each pan-fried purse contains a steaming treasure chest of pork mince, glass noodles and crumbled tofu, with a pickled soy and sesame sauce that's electrifyingly good.
While you may already know bibimbap quite well, Sáng's menu also includes a dolsot version ($20), which is served in a hot stone bowl and left to fry away on the table. Listening to the delicious hissing can be torturous at times; however, the reward for your patience is a crisp rice crust that adds texture to the raw tumble of egg yolk and slippery veg. Other delights include the pig's trotters ($28), soft and jellied in a saline-sweet sauce, and the tender joints of Korean fried chicken ($28), encased in a thick, pancake-y batter, like an old-school pluto pup.
More than just artistic dots and dashes on the plate, a serve of buttery, nutty, yak gwa ($15), honey cookies, on black pools of sesame and seed cream, manage to be both gourmet and Gorman.
The drinks list is small, but don't sweat it, there's still good stuff here. Sáng hasn't included any of the more watery Korean lagers, like Cass and Hite, but the rich and malty Kloud does make the cut. It's also BYO wine for an entirely reasonable $4 a bottle — not that you needed another reason to drop by.
Images: Trent van der Jagt.