Insadong – Coquitlam, BC

Insadong Korean Barbecue and Seafood Restaurant
403 North Road
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 936 3778

Vancouver is blessed with a myriad of choices when it comes to Korean cuisine. Already, I’ve personally visited a selection of them, with related reports posted here on Foodosophy. By no means is this a complete listing, as many other known establishments such as Book Kyung Ban Jeom, Norboo, Seoul Royal House, etc. have yet to be visited and reviewed. In time, I will no doubt get to them.

Some background (and please, take it with a grain of salt – I am no demographer or population sociologist, so spare me any diatribe or anal nitpicking of the data)… the ethnic Korean population as noted in the 2006 census for the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Vancouver was published as being between 1% ~ 2%. This is the case for other ethnic groups as well, such as ‘Southeast Asian’, ‘West Asian’, ‘Latin American’, and others (with the largest communities being identified as ‘Chinese’ at 18.2%, followed by ‘South Asian’ at 9.9% and ‘Filipinos’ at 3.8%). Thus as you can see, they are not a large piece of the ethnic pie, so to speak.

On my recent visit to the neighboring city of Coquitlam when I dined at the satisfying Blue Sea, I spotted Insadong at the intersection of North Road and Lougheed Highway, as I was making the return drive home. If you’ve ever been to Coquitlam, perhaps you’ll feel as I did and think that a large part of this reported Korean population in the Vancouver CMA is all based here, given the prevalence of so many Korean businesses and signs in Hangul. Frankly, it could easily rival the likes of the Wilshire/Hancock Park neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and the Shin-Okubo area in Tokyo, for having a densely concentrated Korean community that manages to exist in its own little bubble all within another country’s society. A bit surprising, considering the small percentage of the population that are Korean.

Incidentally, Insadong is actually a neighborhood in Seoul that is best known for its drive to preserve Korean culture, with shops selling old antique wares and classic buildings such as tea houses that serve it in the old ways.  I’d visited one of these many years ago on one of my earliest visits to South Korea and found it to be an enlightening experience.  I think the operators of ‘Insadong, the restaurant’ have tried to incorporate some of these elements, with some Korean-themed artwork displayed in the glass cases in the front of the house.

Stepping inside the entrance that is situated on the side of the building that does not face Lougheed Highway, you are immediately drawn into a deceptively large space (if you were to envision the size from just from the exterior of the building)  From this waiting area, you can see the various tanks of live seafood (fish, crab, and lobster).  Upon being seated, I could still see the tanks from my table.  There are also several private rooms in the back of the restaurant which you pass by on the way to the restroom.  I think these are used most often for parties, celebrations, etc. and not something that you can use unreserved.

Completely famished, I went off the board and picked a non-traditional item as an appetizer in the sweet and spicy glazed, deep fried chicken wings.  They were larger than the standard size ones you get at say a local Canadian pub during happy hour, and thus a good amount of meat was on the bones, all encased in a nice crispy crust.  As expected, these wings got my taste buds yearning for a nice cold Korean beer.

A short while ago on a repeat visit to DBBG with some other friends, including one who had lived for a few years in several parts of Korea as a student, he had ordered this dish which intrigued me.  Not normally a big fan of bulgogi, as I prefer my meat to be seasoned more savory than sweet, I had not seen it done like this in a Korean restaurant before, soup-based and almost like a Japanese sukiyaki.  The broth was neither too light nor too heavy, and the slices of beef combined with the onions melded well in the sweeter flavored soup.  I would not say this dish blew me away, but would see it as a heartwarming meal as the days get colder in Vancouver’s autumn.

I’m beginning to sense that since the beginning of Foodosophy, that I’ve written about soondubu frequently.  The reason being, it is perhaps my most favorite spicy Korean jjigae (stew) dish.  In Insadong, I think I have discovered the most flavorful and authentic tasting version in the GVA.  The rich seafood flavor that is infused into the spicy gochujang-based soup was the best I’ve had outside of Korea.  The soft tofu was plentiful and combined with the green onions and mushrooms, made for a complex texture medley bite after bite.  I always prefer to eat this with a side of steamed white rice, scooping a spoonful of it into the broth.

I’d heard rumors that Insadong is quite popular and respected in the Korean community, with immigrants/new Canadians and short stay students alike, as well as with local media publications (e.g. ‘best Korean’ in the 2008 Golden Plates Readers Choice Awards by the Georgia Straight).   Word-of-mouth has been my introduction to this place, and I must thank those who recommended it to me, despite the needed drive out to Coquitlam.  I am sure there are other Korean gems in the neighborhood, as it has now been two-for-three in terms of satistifying dining experiences (the lone disappointment so far being the House of Tofu Soup).  If any readers have other suggestions in the area, please feel free to leave a note in the comments section.

Insadong Korean BBQ and Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

9 thoughts on “Insadong – Coquitlam, BC

  1. Hi shokutsu,

    Re: population statistics. It was quite interesting you posted those numbers. In fact, I had the odd feeling you listed them to also say the cuisine is not directly proportional to the ethnicity. For example, you listed Filipino, which is higher than Korean, yet, as far as I know, there are only a couple of them (Rekados and Goldilocks are the first ones that comes to my mind). Likewise, Japanese population seems to be smaller than Korean, yet the amount of Japanese (themed) restaurants are a lot larger than Koreans (and other ethnicities). But, then again, as you have mentioned before, probably that’s because it has become more mainstream.

    As for me, I have been to only a couple of Korean restaurants. Now, it is not that I don’t like them, in fact, I find it quite interesting. Rather, outside of “basic” dishes (e.g., dishes you can even find in stands in food courts in Richmond), I have felt intimidated (different eating etiquette compared to Chinese and Japanese and the fact some dishes are meant for at least 2 or more have something to do). That’s why, a lot of times, when it is a group visit, I am all for it…

    Having said all that, one of my first experiences with Korean was about 5 or so years ago and that was in Han Woo Ri (Imperial, near Kingsway). According to the organizer (whose wife is Korean; he himself, a fluent Korean speaker having lived years there) was one of the best Korean restaurants in Vancouver. Whether that still holds true I can’t say for certain. Are you volunteering, shokutsu? ^_^

  2. > KimHo

    Thanks for your thoughts. The stat was dropped in there just to suggest/say that although the percentage is relatively small, it does not seem directly proportional and that it feels that most of that ethnic group seemed to “feel” like it was concentrated heavily in Coquitlam. Interesting thing about Korean restaurants, they seem to always be run by Koreans, whereas the Japanese-branded ones, are not often that way, hence a reason behind why there are so many of them, along with the a fore mentioned popularity. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Chinese restaurants operated by Japanese or Koreans, have you? 🙂

    I wouldn’t feel intimidated about eating Korean food in pairs, or small groups KimHo. You can easily have a single dish and enjoy it with all the banchan that come with it. Can you elaborate on what you feel is the different eating etiquette, as I think all cuisines here can be eaten along, in pairs or larger groups just as easily as the others.

    Han Woo Ri, I have heard of but never been once. I will add it to my list – thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Hi shokutsu,

    Small groups or pairs is not the issue. The issue is going alone, as some of the dishes works better when you are going in groups. A prime example would be bulgogi – I am aware that, in some restaurants, unless the party is three or more, they won’t bring the burner out. Rather, they will cook it in the kitchen for you. To me, cooking it on the burner is part of the experience (although it might be a tiring in the long run).

    As for etiquette, here are some differences I have notice from watching my Korean friends/acquaintances: lifting your rice-bowl seems to be a no-no, usage of spoon (different from how it is use in Chinese eating), etc. This goes back to the note above. If I am on my own, I won’t care less what the owner, manager or other customers have to say about how I do things. I am more concerned of my meal companion: I don’t care if I make a fool out of myself; rather on what they have to endure… I guess I should go with other non-Koreans and make fools of ourselves!

  4. > KimHo

    I see what you were intending to say here now. Thanks for the clarification.

    Well with some dishes, especially the grilled meats (eg. kalbi), yes it is nice to have at least a minimum of two people (and most places will insist you need at least two for some to be cooked on the table). Bulgogi though, you can get as a stand alone dish for one, and it is never cooked on the table, as its something that’s more flavored and prepared in the kitchen.

    I wouldn’t fret so much about the eating style differences you note, which are indeed true from an etiquette point of view. But look at all the “mistakes” people make from all over who are eating an ethnic cuisine (eg. seeing people who actually dump a nigiri sushi into a soy sauce dipping plate, infusing ALL of the rice in it until it does not appear white anymore, etc.) so I am sure the servers won’t be too offended if you happen to cup your bowl of rice in a Korean restaurant, which will seem minor in comparison to my example. “When in Rome”, it is not always necessary to “be a Roman”. 😉

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  6. I ate at this restaurant before and I really liked their stuff….I am not really into seafood but the way they prepare it is really impressive. I really recommend that you all try and give it a go. Happy dining!


  7. Living and working in Vancouver, it’s great to see really excellent posts like this! As you said, there are a ton of great restaurants in the area, and it’s hard to find the really outstanding ones. Thanks for being a guiding light for Vancouver palates! I will be visiting this restaurant soon! Keep posting!

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