The major traffic thoroughfare of Kingsway that connects the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, is also home to many ethnic eateries and food related businesses, especially of the Asian persuasion. Driving up the strip, I spotted numerous Vietnamese cafes and restaurants, as well as Chinese and Indian. As I don’t often travel this road, it will certainly warrant some repeat trips when I can make it out there, as the variety certainly intrigued me and there is still lots to audition.
Initially thinking of driving much further towards Burnaby for some Korean food at Cho Sun Korean Restaurant, a quick glance out my side window grabbed my attention when I saw some Korean text protruding from a sign, with English noting it was Seoul Dookbegi. Not knowing what it said, I guessed it might be a restaurant and quickly pulled over for a closer inspection. The exterior facade of the building isn’t that eye-catching, it almost appeared like an old world rural residence with its dark wooden look. The lights were on and stepping inside, it was immediately clear there was food to be had here, in this brightly lit and spacious room, with the wonderful aromas permeating the air. There were already a few other couples eating as we walked inside.
Throughout the left side of the restaurant were wooden tables that could seat pairs and larger groups. To the right were some more private, partitioned off, floor-only seating rooms. The use of light colored wood in the tables and chairs, as well as the wood paneling in the walls, made it feel very clean and well maintained.
A motherly figure appeared to be handling the front of house duties, and was busy shuffling back and forth to the kitchen that was housed in the backside. After being seated, she brought out some hot barley tea and gave us our menus. Along the top of the walls were framed pictures of many popular Korean dishes, complete with some English descriptions. They looked to be commercially done, so part of me wondered if this place was part of a chain, or perhaps an offshoot of a restaurant from South Korea itself. Alongside another wall was a bulletin board of sorts, filled with pieces of paper with autographs in Korean. Not sure if they are from anyone famous.
After placing our orders, a few more minutes passed and she came out with a tray of the banchan, interesting that there was steamed broccoli flavored in garlic within this combination – I have never seen that before in a banchan set, so was nice to get some variation. The cabbage kimchi was ultra spicy! No diluting for local tastes here, so that was a good sign.
The menu featured quite prominently, the Seolleongtang (or Sullungtang), which is basically a soup made from ox bones that are cooked for hours thus extracting the flavor from the marrow inside. Seoul Doogbaegi offered some variations on this by adding in other ingredients such as sliced beef, beef tripe, beef tongue, and noodles. I chose the version with sliced beef and noodles (that turned out to be a skinny, straight, wheat variety). I also love dumping in a whole bowl of steamed rice right into the soup, to make it that much more filling, and that’s what I did.
The standard topping of sliced green onions that go with this dish were on hand, as well as the coarse sea salt to help flavor the light creamy soup, that fortunately had none of that pungent and sometimes classified as stinky scent that comes from pork bone-based soups. As such, in my opinion it was hands-down, the best Seollengtang I’ve had in the city! And at just $7.95, a great deal as well.
My dining companion had the Kimchijigae. It was disappointing to say the least [sorry no pictures taken of it], with its unbalanced flavor. Speaking to our server, it turned out that their house specialty is their Soondubu. There was a table of six elderly Koreans sitting next to us, and they all ordered this dish, and it seemed to varying degrees of spiciness as they gave individual comments to the waitress as she took it all down on a pad of paper. We regretted not getting this instead of the Kimchijigae.
We also shared a large-sized seafood Pajeon. Unfortunately, the second it appeared on our table, we noticed it had a strange twist to it – shredded artificial crab meat was scattered all over. This just overwhelmed the flavors here, and we wished they hadn’t done this. For $14.95, it was a huge pie, that we decided to take home as take-out, but ended up eating very little of it the following day. Pajeon is best eaten when its still nice and crispy, and most of all hot. No re-heating can help it recover after its cooled down and falled into that soggy state.
So overall, a mixed outing. I scored the Seolleongtang very high and it will have me coming back again. As well, I’m curious about the popular Soondubu, as its a favorite of mine within Korean cuisine. The Kimchijigae and Pajeon though, are not recommended. It seemed to be a place visited by people who knew about it already, as from the street, its fairly nondescript and easy to miss. No doubt the more visible Cho Sun about ten, fifteen more minutes down the same road has a wider base of customers.
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#1031, 1033 Kingsway