Toe Dam Korean Fusion BBQ
#250-329 North Road
Original post below:
The further and deeper that I explore Coquitlam’s exploding community of Korean restaurants, the more I realize there are still hidden spots yet uncovered and also some that I’ve seen many times but have yet to venture inside. Toe Dam Korean Fusion BBQ was one of these latter types, until I finally made a dinner visit this month after missing the dinner cut off time at nearby Mi-Ae Deli (another recent favorite haunt of mine here)…
It is located in the same shopping complex as the mega H-Mart grocery store, as well as a few other places reported about here on foodosophy. So parking is generally ample, if you make your way further down into the lot away from the entrance of H-Mart and avoid the many shoppers there.
Inside, the space is narrow and long. Flanked on one side by several private rooms with sliding doors, and on the other with booth table seating. The kitchen is way in the back, as well as what appears to be the bar area where drinks are stored/prepared. In Korean, a “toedam” is like an earthen/stone wall that surrounds a house like a fence, so I was half expecting something like that visible inside, but no such thing.
Now if you’ve ever been in a barbecue place, you know the inevitable will happen. Either you will get lots of flying sauces, oil, even meat onto your clothing, or come away smelling like something a stray dog will want to attack. With the latter, frankly there isn’t much you can do about it despite ample ventilation systems in place. But to keep yourself clean, there is always some protective covering, as in the form of this apron hanging on the wall to cover yourself up with. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing any white colored clothing on this night, otherwise I would have grabbed it to wear during my meal.
Though its a personal preference, I find a good Korean barbecue just wouldn’t feel right without a bottle of Korean brew. Hite is the brand you usually find in North America, and its refreshing and light bodied, making it a good fit with the heavier, fatty food about to follow it down into the stomach.
A medley of side dishes were complementary with our meal. Including this finely sliced plate of seasoned green onions – to be used in a wrap-like context with the accompanying lettuce to package slices of barbecue. You can probably make out the small bowl of a powder in the lower right. It was a finely ground soybean flower that has a faint peanut butter-like flavour. It was an optional flavoring to add to the dipping sauce for the barbecue.
A mid-sized bowl of a very common household dish, vegetable and tofu soybean soup (doengjang jjigae) helped balance out the flavors and provided the requisite soup element typical of a Korean meal. The distinctly pungent and earthy characteristics of this soup coming from the soy clearly differentiate this with a the more commonly known miso soup of Japanese cuisine. It may be for some, that this is just too much in terms of savory tastes within a single meal when you consider barbecue, but for me it works.
Enclosed in these chilled rolls of tinfoil was our main course – the wine & herb marinated sliced pork belly (samgyoepsal). The server brought it out on this wooden board, along with some mushrooms and slices of onions. Earlier, the hot circular plate on which it was all to be grilled on had been brought to our table as well.
Each roll contained three thick slices of pork. There was a distinct floral scent as they were unwrapped, which was something I hadn’t experienced with samgyeopsal in a long time (my memory is faint, but believe I’ve tried this in Seoul before many moons ago). As it heated through, the scent became what you’d normally expect from cooking pork, mouthwatering and refreshingly enticing with the herbs heightening in scent and the alcohol burning off at the same time. At first glance, I thought just two rolls wouldn’t be enough for two people to eat, but in the end, it ended up being just right in terms of volume.
Scissors are provided to cut up the cooked portions of meat as the fat is rendered off. At this stage, with the crisp texture and golden brown color, you know its ready to eat! Straight up, dipping in some sauce, spiced up with kimchi or enclosed into a pocket envelope of green veg, its up to you. Rest assured though, its tasty any way you choose to eat it…