Last Saturday, my friend Megga and I decided to catch up over lunch at Ondo, a Korean restaurant that’s been creating quite a buzz since its opening in Armadale around late last year. Good news is, now they’re finally opening a new branch right in the heart of Melbourne CBD, and I just couldn’t wait to try it!
the Trio Behind Ondo
Ondo was the brainchild of chef
Levi Eun, his business partner
Crush Yang, and front-of-house manager
Ryan Kim. According to Seasoned Traveler’s blog post, these three met while working at Hawker Hall in Richmond, and the rest is history. With a blend of Michelin-starred experience (both in South Korea and Australia), business savvy, and a whip of excellent service, makes Ondo a must-visit. Their dream is to bring Melbourne a taste of authentic Korean cooking that’s made from seasonal, fresh ingredient; setting a high bar for traditional Korean cuisine establishments.
Getting to Ondo is a breeze for anyone familiar with Melbourne’s public transportation. Hop on any tram that runs on Swanston St, get off at Melbourne Central, and then walk for about 7-8 minutes down Little Lonsdale St. Look out for Operator Diner; Ondo is just a shop away, right across from The League of Honest Coffee Shop.
I visited Ondo on a Saturday afternoon, and boy, was the place buzzing. I literally had to be on a waiting list for 20 minutes to get a table inside. At first glance, you might mistake Ondo for a hip brunch spot, but it’s not. With enough natural light filtering in through the glass windows and a high ceiling, it feels roomier than it looks from the outside.
The décor blends modern and traditional Korean flair—think white marble benches, white coffee equipment, floating open shelves, high ceilings, and sunlit windows, blended with bamboo accents on the walls, wooden tables, dark chairs, and pendant lights.
Their seating arrangements offers a little something for everyone—from benches by the windows, to table seatings, a sofa area, and a communal table at the back. I’d estimate they can comfortably accommodate around 40 diners indoors. They also have a few outdoor seats, likely designed for people waiting for tables or takeaway coffee.
If you think you know Korean food, let Ondo re-introduce you to it in a way that only the OG experts can. Their one-sheet menu reads like a love letter to traditional Korean home cooking. They specialize in traditional Korean meals, or ‘bansang,’ presented in a more refined, homey manner. You can order them individually or as sets, complete with banchan (side dishes). From rice congee and noodle dishes to raw beef tartare bibimbap, they’ve got it covered. And if you’re into unique lattes, their Korean-inspired drinks like mugwort, black sesame, or date latte are definitely worth trying.
The bansang prices range from AUD $19-$26, and the set meals range from $25-$35 AUD. Drinks will set you back around AUD $4.5-$8. Megga and I each spent around AUD $35-$37 for our lunch.
What We Ordered
I ordered the Mandu Guk Set—a bowl of Zucchini & Prawn Dumplings in an anchovy broth with wombok, accompanied by side dishes like steamed egg, kimchi, and pickled cucumber. My friend Meg opted for the
TongDak Set, which includes fried chicken thigh fillets, drenched in garlic soy sauce, served with a cabbage salad, creamy tartar sauce, the same side dishes as mine, and a small bowl of soup.
About our drinks—Megga and I were quite adventurous, opting for Mugwort Latte and Black Sesame Latte. While Mugwort was an acquired taste—just a heads-up, mugwort is not like matcha; it’s nuttier!—the Black Sesame was more universally palatable. A small note for the staff—a teaspoon would have been useful for stirring those sediment layers at the bottom.
The Mandu Guk Set felt like a wholesome nutritional cleanse for my tummy—no artificial flavors, just pure, clean ingredients. Though it could have benefited from an extra dumpling, it was a lovely subtle dish. The TongDak Set, on the other hand, was all about indulgence, and Meg was happy with the generous portion. On a side note, while we enjoyed our dishes, we wouldn’t have minded a spicy kick; perhaps a side of chili sauce could be a great addition in the future.
The staff were friendly, attentive and deserved a shout-out. They took time to answer my queries; at one point, I asked about the garlic content in one of the dishes, and instead of giving me a vague answer, they actually went to the kitchen to double-check. Now that’s service!
My time at Ondo was almost flawless. The only slight hiccup was that our lattes could have used teaspoons for stirring as the mugwort and black sesame powders settled at the bottom. And for those who like a little heat, offering a side of chili sauce would be a welcome addition.
Despite these minor points, I’d absolutely go back for either the bibimbap, rice congee, or buckwheat noodles.
If you’re in Melbourne CBD and in the mood for some authentic, delicious Korean food, Ondo should be your go-to. Just make sure you try their set menus; trust me, it’s fulfilling. Till then, Ondo, you lived up to the hype!
- Mon – Fri : 07:00 AM – 03:00 PM
- Sat – Sun : 08:00 AM
- Type : Restaurant / Korean Cuisine
- Price : $$
- Coffee : Yes
- Alcohol : No
- Dessert : Yes (Cake)
- Indoor Capacity : +-40
- Outdoor Capacity : +-8
- RSVP : Walk-in Only
- Waiting Time : 15 minutes
- Toilet : Yes
- Wifi : Not sure