Giwa - Korean fusion, or Konfusion?

Giwa Korean Restaurant - 113-115 King William Road, Hyde Park

Giwa Korean Restaurant invited all members of the Chopping Board to review their menu.  All meals were provided free of charge by Giwa.

Korean Restaurants are a rare thing in Adelaide.  A handful of them exist and many of those are the traditional Korean BBQ style setting.  Giwa sets itself from the rest by creating Korean food with fusion influences from Japan, Italian and French style cuisines.  

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Front door signage

Greeted by Giwa's friendly manager Lleyton Yoon when we arrived, we were seated near the window, adjacent to a fancy wallpapered wall possibly left over from the old Feast Cafe.  On late night shopping Thursday at 7:30pm there were 4 tables with patrons, with Lleyton seemingly the only waiting staff on the floor.

Lleyton suggested that we try as many of the dishes on the menu as possible so that we could provide a more thorough review and to fully appreciate all the different flavours his restaurant can offer.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Korean Hite Beer to start the night
Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Korean Fried Chicken - KFC $16.90
Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Glass Noodle $15.90
We opted for the 'Feed me' option on the menu which, as described, provides a plethora of dishes. Luckily, the 'Feed Me' option can cater for dietary requirements so we let Lleyton know that Tom is our resident vegan and with slight hesitation, in the end he seemed confident he could be catered for.

The first dish, Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) tasted a lot like Chinese Sweet and Sour dishes or Peking style Shredded beef.  Definitely a dish that has been transformed to suit the Western palate and sure to please the locals.

The glass noodles or Chap Chae was a very nicely presented dish topped with shredded egg.  This dish was full of flavour and very easy to eat.  Many Chap Chae dishes elsewhere have an overly strong sesame oil taste or are too oily but Giwa has done this dish very well, albeit the serving size is a little small for $15.90.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Korean Pancake with Salmon $14.90
Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Korean Pancake - vegetarian $14.90
The next two dishes were the Korean Pancakes.  Each dish had around 3 palm sized pancakes topped with either vegetables or salmon, cheese and sweet soy sauce. These pancakes were ok, nothing exciting but nothing bad either. The toppings were fresh and crunchy, which provided some nice texture. The cheese was strong in flavour and the salmon was the belly cut and had a nice, fatty texture. A few of us were confused with the combination of flavours, raw onions were sometimes too overpowering, while sometimes it tasted quite bland.

The first two "vegan" dishes were the glass noodles (topped with shredded egg) and the Korean pancake (with cheese). Tom's not a super strict vegan and we were happy to help him pick egg and cheese off these plates knowing that the full flavours of the dish may be compromised without them.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Dulsot Bibimbap - Vegetarian $24.90
Next up, was the iconic dish that makes or breaks a Korean restaurant. The Dulsot bibimbap. The idea of having a stone pot is to heat the bottom of the rice with intense heat so that rice is usually golden brown and crisp by the time you reach the bottom. Giwa's version was full of shiitake flavour and loaded with lots of vegetables. However we noticed the rice, when mixed with the vegetables, was a bit too moist and that there was no browning or sizzling of the rice.

We questioned Lleyton why this was the case and he responded that many of his customers prefer it this way. If this was the case, we'd probably suggest that Giwa provide an option to either have soggy rice, or crisp and crackling rice. We know which one we'd pick. As for the pricing of this dish, a $24.90 Bibimbap seems a little steep, knowing that many other restaurants (including food courts) sell similar dishes for under $15.00.

Three different sauces were provided with the Bibimbap which made it difficult to mix sauce into the bibimbap. We would have preferred the standard gochujang (Korean hot sauce) that is expected with this dish.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Side dish - Bean Sprouts $5.00
Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Side Dish - Kim Chi $5.00
Side dishes are always a favourite for Korean food but these were nothing to rave about, just the standard bean sprouts and Kim Chi. If you are ordering the Kim Chi and you like chilli punch, ask for the Korean hot version.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Ssam - wraps with seaweed salad, soup and a main $27.80
Next came a dish that had about 10 pieces of lettuce, a small serving of seaweed salad and spicy dipping sauce.  Lleyton indicated that this dish can be combined with any other dish by placing the ingredients into the lettuce along with the seaweed and sauce to make your own wrappings. Eating with hands is always a great way to enjoy food and this dish was one of our favourites. It was a good palate cleanser as the ingredients were fresh and light.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Seafood Stir fry
The seafood stir fry was another dish we tried. The scallops were the best item on this dish, they were slightly under cooked, moist and were fresh. The rest of the dish was pretty average and we were disappointed that the muscles were still bearded. The squid and prawns were in abundance, cooked in a chilli like sauce and were nice to have with the lettuce leaves (Ssam).

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Pan Fried Tofu
The pan fried tofu was another good option for eating with the lettuce leaves. We definitely needed some sauce though, as otherwise it was quite bland.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Galbi Jjim - Braised beef cheeks with potato $28.90
The beef cheek was unanimously the dish of the night. In a sticky dark sauce, the beef cheek was soft and moist and had a great depth from the sauce. We all (apart from vegan Tom) agreed that this dish was brilliant and would return for this dish alone. With some plain rice and a nice Korean beer, you'd go home content. The potatoes served with it were described as a 'potato and garlic combination' - they certainly had some garlic on them! They had been pan fried and had a nice crunchy outer, a great compliment to the soft beef cheek.

Giwa Korean Restaurant - Adelaide
Dinner is served!
Giwa - Korean restaurant, Adelaide
The affogato was a pleasant way to finish off the meal, with the quality of the vanilla ice cream - the standout of the dish. Coffee was strong but had a slight burnt aftertaste. Frangelico was frangelico. The affogato was served with a Korean wafer biscuit (confirmed by Lleyton to be from a packet). I would've preferred  something made in-house to tie in with Korean cuisine, perhaps a small red bean and green tea mochi on the side.
Giwa - Korean restaurant, Adelaide
Honey Nut Pancake
The Honey Nut pancake was an interesting dish to finish off the night. Korean pancake (similar to mochi) encrusted with nuts, smothered with sweet sweet sweet marmalade syrup, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with a few slices of fruit. With each bite it just got sweeter and sweeter. If you love sugary things, this will be your highlight.    

We all agreed that Giwa's dishes seemed confused or lost by the fact that they tried to sway away from traditional Korean flavours and cooking methods. Some dishes felt half complete resulting in the end product being bland and frankly, substandard.

Price wise, Giwa's entrees and mains are pretty much on par with mid-to-high end Adelaide dining venues. When the majority of the dishes we tried can be had from elsewhere at a fraction of the price and in some cases better quality, one must ask why they would visit Giwa?

Despite putting on a valiant effort and providing pleasing service, Giwa just falls short of presenting themselves as a restaurant that has a strong vision or identity for it's cuisine.

NB: Giwa does not promote itself as a vegan restaurant, nor does the menu have vegan options, some of the dishes are accidentally vegan.

Giwa Modern Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. I agree. I felt the same. if you like authentic style korean food - sushi gallery does them really well. If you want fusion korean food i recommend mapo :)


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