Funda is a Korean restaurant in the city dishing up modern takes of classic Korean dishes and DJ tunes in the background. There's a delicious version of traditional tempura seaweed rolls, burrata paired with soy cured prawns, a cheesy potato and cheese pancake and fun cocktails in a bright, neon lit restaurant that is designed to give Y2K vibes.
I'm standing in front of Funda restaurant and I'm slightly transfixed by the projections on the archway that go from strobing lights to neonscapes of South Korea. Funda's Executive Chef, Jung-su Chang and Head Chef, Chris Kim have worked at Michelin starred restaurants Jungsik Seoul, L’amant Secret and Pierre Gagnaire à Séoul between them.
Funda is fun. And the first syllable is pronounced like the word "Fun" while the Da comes from the Korean word that means all and many. There's a DJ spinning tunes from Thursday to Saturday nights so plan accordingly for the noise level that you want. I was warned that the music is loud and it's loud but the DJ's tunes span the decades like You're The One That I Want, Walk This Way or even Get On Up so that nobody feels that old. Mr NQN and I take a seat at one of their many booths. Service is friendly from all of the staff and you get that enthusiastic "new restaurant" vibe (they've been open for just 2 weeks).
We order some cocktails, or in our case a mocktail and a cocktail. There's the Cherry Blossom with raspberry, salted verjuice and Strangelove lemonade. The Korea Bloom has Poor Tom's strawberry gin, cherry blossom, wild cranberry, salted verjuice and lime leaf and is tangy and salty with a light touch of sweetness.
Whatever you do, you have to get the seaweed roll. I love the regular version of seaweed rolls filled with vermicelli noodles but this is an upgrade. Instead of noodles there's a prawn and scallop mousse filling with perilla leaf and yuzu kosho wrapped in seaweed and tempura batter and deep fried. It's served with a pot of mayonnaise and soy sauce (it's my favourite dipping condiment at Japanese restaurants) and it's just a series of luscious bites with your teeth sinking into the accordion textured roll.
The beef tartare is served as a ball with a pine nut foam on top. It's seasoned with Chojang sauce and there's cucumber and nashi pear that gives Korean beef tartare or Yukhoe a slight wetness to it compared with a French beef tartare. You mix it up yourself and spread it on top of the crisp pappadums provided.
The soy cured prawns is another dish that you mix up at the table. The burrata bursts and cream and curds spill out over the soy cured prawns. When I first take a bite of this I do a double take as the soy curing of the prawns gives the prawns an almost meaty texture to them. This comes with a couple of focaccia crusts to dip it in but I can't believe I'm saying this but this might have too many prawns in it. Between the two of us we can't finish it and that's a shame. I think this is a dish best shared between 3-4 people.
The bibimmyun is their version of the cold noodle dish using rice noodles rather than sweet potato noodles. The dry noodles are served with slices of soy cured bluefin tuna, mushroom sauce and cucumber. The texture of the noodles is absolutely perfect and they're chewy and al dente. You just mix it up with the mushroom soy sauce, cucumber and tuna. I think it might have been better if the tuna was diced so that you get a bit of tuna in each bite but otherwise Mr NQN very happily polishes this off and declares it his favourite dish.
The crispy potato pancake is like a cross between roesti and a Korean pancake with parmesan cheese, grated potato and a sweet beef bulgogi topping. They recommend cutting it into squares but it's a bit hard to do that with the knife provided so we just cut it into pizza slices and treat it as a delicious, crunchy roesti pizza.
There's a bit of a wait between the entrees that landed quickly and our main. The wagyu steak is cooked medium as the chef recommends and is served with an anchovy ssamjang sauce, radish kimchi and dressed soft lettuce , herbs and perilla leaves. Our waiter described this as a ssamjang wrap but the lettuce is cut up into small pieces so it isn't possible to wrap it up. I dunk the beef into the ssamjang, add some kimchi and salad and take a bite. The beef is so succulent and juicy and the anchovy ssamjang gives it such a boost of umami flavour while the salad and kimchi adds a freshness.
We always leave room for dessert and I wanted the jujube cake while Mr NQN wanted the pavlova and the tomato sorbet so we decided to get one of each. The jujube cake is a double layer cake with a cake base, jujube date mousse on top, butterscotch caramel and shards of crisp katiafi pastry. This is like the upmarket Korean version of a sticky date pudding in terms of flavours but has so much more going on texturally with the mousse and kataifi and surprise pops of finger lime caviar.
Mr NQN's choice is the pavlova which is an interesting yeast pavlova. It's paired with Makgeolli ice cream and dried soybean rice cake and deep fried rice paper on top. You smash the shell to find a layer of diced baked yeast and soy rice cake and the makgeolli, that delicious sparkling rice wine drink really pulls the whole pavlova together.
The restaurant manager who we recognised from another restaurant stopped by for a quick chat and he recommended the seasonal sorbet. He explains that in Korea where he is from, they serve tomatoes two ways: either with salt or with sugar and today's sorbet is a sweet tomato one. It's definitely interesting in that it absolutely tastes of tomato but sweetened. It isn't like when you get a sweet, sun ripened tomato though, it's definitely sweet enough to be a tomato dessert.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever been to Korea? Do you like it when a restaurant has a DJ?
NQN and Mr NQN were guests of Funda but all opinions remain her own.
2 & 3/50 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Monday to Wednesday 5:30–10 pm
Thursday to Saturday
Phone: (02) 7233 2660