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Jang Mo Jib Korean Restaurant
1715 Robson Street
With the Foodosopher rapidly stacking up a solid collection of reports on Pho, I thought I would try to keep up with the master and add some more spice to the mix in the form of another Korean food experience.
Now Jang Mo Jib is what I’ll dub as a “once-you’ve-tried-it-you’ll-know-what-you’ll-get” type of joint. By that I mean, one visit will tell you all you need to know, and its a very safe bet you’ll get the same treatment on any subsequent trip. For me, through probably about six visits in total, this has generally averaged out to: a passable level of satisfaction on the taste side, and certain spotty service. My first ever stop at this well known Robson hangout must have been about eight years ago, back when there were much fewer Korean options in the west end, and it was more of a “no other choices available” reason to eat there. In recent years, after the explosion of choices for this cuisine in that part of downtown, Jang Mo Jib has become a decision based solely on pure convenience or reluctant resignation.
On my most recent visit this month, upon stepping inside after a tiring afternoon of shopping the strip, I knew right away the answer to the story. A man was at the cash register facing us, fiddling around with the cash inside, virtually oblivious to the fact that my dining partner and me were standing not one meter away. This went on for almost a minute before another customer came right in front of us asking for the bill, which immediately caught his attention. The payment transaction took another few minutes, and right after, he went back to messing around with the bills in the cash tray. I glanced at my companion, who gave me the knowing look of “what did you expect?”, having been here with me on basically all of my previous visits. Finally getting his attention he took us to a back table for two, and scuttled back to the front of the restaurant, without giving us any menus. Now I must admit, the younger staff are generally better at customer service here, but on this day there was only one other fellow who was waiting on tables. Getting his attention was a struggle even though the room was only about half full, and when we finally got the menus, I was on the verge of wanting to just leave.
The boy waiter brought out the banchan (side dishes) afterwards. Kimchi – horrible, hadn’t infused the flavored yet, much too “young”. But my hunger and fatigue got the better of me and I reluctantly turned the page on the dilapitated laminated menu seeking something safe as I knew I couldn’t expect anything outstanding. Kalbi, check. My dining partner elected the seafood soon dubu chigae (spicy silken tofu soup), with me laughing as I knew she was in for a serious miss. Ah, when you know what’s coming, its just too easy…
So the soon dubu chigae comes out first, and as expected pretty weak on the seafood flavor side of things, and really overloaded with the soft tofu to make it appear like there was more inside. The kalbi took a long time to come out, at least fifteen minutes after the chigae had reached the table – even though we made it clear we weren’t sharing. This was not bad, not overcooked, three big strips and the flavoring was acceptable, but not great. When you don’t have high expectations, it makes it a bit easier to handle but nonetheless the nagging though of wishing to have gone someplace else nearby, did creap into my head.
Compared to 2000, I know the quality of Korean food in town has improved, and my handful of trips to Seoul as well to try the real deal has made me a lot more demanding when it comes to Korean cuisine in Vancouver. Jang Mo Jib used to be a by-default place for Korean food while on Robson, but it won’t be anymore. I just see no real reason to want to go there by choice when I am on that part of the street, especially for mediocore food and disappointing attention to service. Previously reviewed Dae Bak Bon Ga, definitely gets my nod over this place.