Chungdam Ahn – Vancouver, BC
832 Cardero Street
It has been a few years now since I last visited this popular Korean lounge off one of the side streets of Robson. Hidden away from the main strip, its not always been on my radar so I was pleased to find Chungdam Ahn was still around after all this time. With a few boisterous friends in tow in search of some unique food and drink combinations, we headed to this part of Cardero Street and tucked inside to a pretty full room. With some lively music and a vibe that only excited, young twenty-somethings can bring to a place, it had all the markings of a good night to be had…
Fortunately, we were able to squeeze into the bigger corner table of the place, almost as if it was waiting for us all this time. Scanning around with my eyes, it was clear we weren’t the only group out for a hard night of eating and drinking, although there were some tables occupied just by couples on an evening out. A pair of female servers were buzzing from table to table, collecting orders and bringing out food from the kitchen area.
We smashed right into this plate of gungjung tteokbokki (stir fried rice cake, with beef and vegetables). The chewy pillows of rice cake here are really all about the soft texture, and the other ingredients are really just dressing for me. These anju dishes are well constructed and a perfect fit for going with alcoholic beverages. A little bit of something in each bite.
Raising up the heat notch a few levels was the order of golbaengi muchim (sea snail noodle salad) which requires a bit of table side mixing and melding of all the ingredients, not to mention making everything a lovely and fiery red hued tangle of noodles. If you’ve never had things like escargot or the kind of snails that are in this dish too, you might find them an acquired taste. Kind of chewy, rubbery perhaps if not done right, but a meatiness that makes you crave more. With so much going on here with the other vegetables and not to mention the heat from the paste that colors this all a bright red, its a pretty filling “main” kind of dish. Despite the pain it was causing to my lips and mouth, I kept digging in for more, albeit between sips of beer to help cool me down.
Now you might know I’m a big fan of Korean-style, double fried crispy chicken, so there was no way I was going to pass on trying out what Chungdam Ahn had to offer in this department. What we got was a lighter colored and coated bunch of boneless chicken chunks. As well as lightly seasoned too in the traditional Korean form, where its more of a dip (with salt/sesame oil and/or mustard) that serves as the flavoring agent, when its not made into the full blown yangnyeom chicken.
The huge hot plate on which this kimchi chijimi came out on was not captured on my cell phone, but this little piece of it was from my plate. As you can see, a very simple construction, cabbage kimchi layered in between, with some charred bits of the green onion on the outside giving off a bit of a smokey flavor.
And last but not least, I must comment on the makgeolli (Korean rice wine) that we indulged in heavily this evening. In terms of what you can get in Vancouver, this is perhaps a shade below the one I like better over at Bukchigo Jangguchigo. For the uninitiated, this unfiltered rice wine has a white milky appearance and tastes both a touch sweet and sour. Served cold or room temperature (but never heated), it is most commonly served in bowls as opposed to cups. Have one too many and you’ll be buzzing fast, but in a good way.