Blooming Garden is a breath of fresh air on Hamilton's Beaumont Street, otherwise known as "eat street". It's also chef and owner Sunny Chae's first restaurant and dream come true.
Chae's story begins in a small town in South Korea, where he was born.
"My father was worn out from a long day of work and my mother, who looked equally tired, smiled when she saw me and turned around to prepare dinner for our family," he told Food & Wine.
Newcastle Herald: News from Newcastle's foodie scene
"We wouldn't always gather around the dinner table, but the days we did were my absolute favorite. One day, I felt the urge to contribute. I made an extremely simple meal. It was not the best, but a magical thing that happened: I learned that the dinner table was not just about having tasty food. It was more about sitting down with the people that I loved to share the day and have conversations. I guess that's how I discovered my love for cooking."
Chae completed a stint with the army and started studying civil engineering at university. But his passion for cooking dominated his thoughts.
"I realised that the prerequisite to a lifetime job was to love it. I enjoyed looking at blueprints for building and bridges, but I loved cooking."
He quit his engineering studies and re-enrolled at university to study cooking. After graduating, he worked for 18 months at the Sheraton Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort before returning to South Korea to work at the Sheraton Hotel and the Park Hyatt. Then a sous chef position became available at MGM Mirage Hotel in the US. Chae took it.
He enjoyed learning from some of the best in the business but his ambition told him it was time to move on - to Australia. He saw it as a land "rich in natural food and resources" with "the opportunity to produce better recipes". Chae, who in 2006 won two gold medals at the Korea International Culinary Competition, lived and worked on the Central Coast for eight years before deciding the time was right to open his own restaurant.
"I wanted to cook my own recipes and bring a new experience to Newcastle. I chose Hamilton because it is popular with food enthusiasts," Chae said.
"Some people are familiar with Korean BBQ and Korean fried chicken, but the struggle is to get traditional Korean food on the table. This is why we chose to open a fusion restaurant, carefully picking out the best of both worlds. For example, our pork belly plate is a Western dish at first sight, using a sous vide cooking method to keep the meat tender and contain juiciness. It is marinated in traditional Korean BBQ sauce for 24 hours and then cooked for 24 hours and just melts in your mouth. It is accompanied by a special bulgogi sauce, which I learnt from my Mum.
"Also, we have a pork belly dish served on kimchi gel and crackling. This one dish gives you a lot of experiences - two different textures of pork belly and sweet, spicy and sour flavours with crunch from the crackling and a good balance with fried kimchi.
"I like using Western cuisine technique and plating mixed with Asian flavour."
Some of the most popular dishes with diners at Blooming Garden include: Sunny's Korean fried chicken; 24 hour sous vide cooked pork belly in Korean BBQ sauce; slow cooked Korean beef ribs with vegetable noodle salad; Kimchi cheese wagyu steak sandwich; and sweet miso sauce braised lamb shoulder.
- Blooming Garden restaurant is at 2/50 Beaumont Street, Hamilton. Ph: 4906 8051.
While you're with us, did you know Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here.
IN NEWS TODAY: