Meok Ja Gol
4992 Newton Street
Original post here:
On the prowl in my car for new places to eat, I find that strong visibility from the road always plays a strong role in first my ability to spot them, and also my decision to actually check them out. The major artery of Kingsway is probably one of the best examples of this…
Way back in 2005, I can remember dining at Meok Ja Gol and having the barbecue. With those faint memories in my mind, during a weekday out in Burnaby for some meetings, I came across this restaurant once again. As I alluded to earlier, had it not been for the sight lines from the road, I probably would have missed it and not recalled my first visit years ago.
Funny thing is, customer parking is in the back and I had to loop to the backside and it was here where I gazed upon the bold lunch special sign.
Despite having an incredible amount of flexibility in when I take my lunch hour and where during the work week, I admit I don’t often take advantage of that freedom. So whenever I happen to be out and in places near restaurants that seemingly cater to the office lunch hour crowd, I am intrigued by what could possibly be on offer.
At this establishment, as the banner inside showed, it contained a fairly standard and popular list of Korean dishes such as bulgogi, bibimbap, and reimyung. With most at the advertised $6.95 price point, I thought it was a very reasonable value for lunch, and if I lived/worked in the area, I’m sure I’d frequent it more often.
Perhaps it was because I was there well after the lunch hour, the place was not as busy as I had expected it might be. A few other tables were occupied and I had noticed the interior had changed since my last visit. It was much more brighter and seemingly cleaner in physical appearance. Previously, it reminded me more of the smoky and somewhat dimly lit Korean barbecue joints I have frequented in Seoul.
The day was still a hot one and keeping with that, one of the dishes ordered was the summer season-favoured kalguksu. These hand-cut noodles are of the chewy variety and are often very long. I believe there is a Korean custom that is related to this (perhaps to symbolize long life or long love).
The rich, somewhat salty broth is usually a mixture of seafood (from anchovies) and chicken stock. Given the relatively simple ingredients, you can see some other variations of this, which include other haemul (seafood) items, as pictured above. This is probably one of my favourite home-style, comfort foods and I often request it when I am back in Korea. And Meok Ja Gol does it well.
Now I know that I saw just a trio of young, twenty-something employees shuffling in and out of the kitchen area. But my guess is that there is a magical wand waving older Korean woman who prepares these dishes, as I can’t believe it could have been these kids who brought me this wonderful tasting soondubu jjigae (soft tofu stew).
With a strong spicy flavour, the broth was richly enhanced as well with a strong seafood essence. The volume and texture of the tofu was excellent as well, not too delicate but not too firm at the same time. I have to say, this version here ranks right up there in my personal favourite list for this dish in B.C., with Insadong.