Melbourne’s most ambitious Korean restaurant has closed. A little over a year since it first opened, the front door at Restaurant Shik, on Niagara Lane in the CBD, now holds a notice that the landlord has taken possession of the site. The restaurant’s last service was last Friday, April 5.
Chef and proprietor Peter Jo won very positive reviews for his cuisine, which combined a close and personal reading of Korean culinary history with a keen understanding of top-drawer Australian produce and wine. Saltbush provided a very convincing foil for raw Robbins Island beef with nashi pear and saltbush, for instance, while the restaurant’s plates of kimchi, jangajji and namul – variations on the themes of preserved and freshly cooked vegetables – exploded the idea that Korean cuisine is just about the meat.
“Shik is one of the most personal and idiosyncratic restaurants Melbourne has turned out in a long time,” wrote Gemima Cody for Good Food, while Michael Harden, in a review for Gourmet Traveller, saluted Shik’s “smart modern Korean food that balances authenticity with a keen sense of Melbourne here and now”.
Writing in the New York Times, Besha Rodell lauded its “ambitious, challenging and ingredient-driven cooking”, praising its takes on ssäm and banchan, and describing it as a restaurant that “would be exciting anywhere, even in cities where Korean food is wide-ranging and abundant”. But she also mentioned that the location was not without its challenges.
“It would be entirely possible to walk past Shik and not notice the business at all,” she wrote. “That enchanting speakeasy quality loses its shine if not enough people take the time to seek it out.”
Peter Jo says he’s still working out his next move beyond clearing his debts, though he says his passion for Korean cooking is in no way diminished by Shik’s closing. He’s been considering a return to the pop-ups that made his name, and perhaps a deli-style set-up, doing Korean counter meals and selling banchan and condiments during the day, with something more reminiscent of Shik’s food at night.
Though there are things he says he might’ve done differently with Shik in retrospect, Jo remains very proud of the way he tried to present Korean cooking in a manner more polished than is typical in Australia.
“I know I gave it a bloody good shot,” he says.
By Pat Nourse