Wang Ga Ma Restaurant
#450 – 329 North Road
Coquitlam, BC V3K 3V8
(604) 936 6866
I’m often torn when I am head out for grocery shopping. Do I eat at home before I leave, partly to help control any sudden pangs of hunger that may arise and cause me to exceed my planned purchases? Or do I go on an empty stomach, as an excuse to visit another restaurant that I’ve been hoping to try and that is located near the store? Either way, I figure I can’t lose so my dilemma is not much of one in the end.
Wang Ga Ma Restaurant is located in a U-shaped strip mall complex that houses the popular Han Ah Reum (or H-Mart) Korean supermarket chain, just off North Road as you enter the city of Coquitlam. At the H-Mart, its easy to satisfy one’s hunger through the ready-to-eat food items in this market – from the take away kimbap rolls, sets of nigiri sushi, and other Korean fast foods available from the in-store kitchen located along the east wall of the building. I’ve previously dined in some of the restaurants in this same strip mall (Blue Sea Seafood) and general area (Insadong, House of Tofu Soup). But there are still others that I have yet to step inside of, and on this occasion, I was able to strike another one off the hit list. All in the name of Foodosophy, of course!
With the dominance of Korean cuisine in just a few block radius of this location, I am sure the competition are all wary of each other and try to do their best to capture a loyal following in the community. While others seem to try and focus on one particular dish, Wang Ga Ma is more of an all-encompassing place, featuring staples such as noodles, soups, and hot pots – in other words, Korean comfort foods. Deceptively large as a result of the wall of mirrors filling an entire wall as you enter the doors, you’re immediately put at home as it does feel very casual with its partitioned off seating areas, from tables of two up to larger tables that could accommodate up to eight people. The kitchen is visible through a window on one wall, with a large walk-in space to it also seen from the seating area, through which the servers scurry back and forth, often using a rolling cart to bring out hot steaming dishes of food that are too hot to carry by hand.
As it seems I am close to exhausting the hunt for the best Soondubu dish in greater Vancouver, I decided to switch my focus to Seolleongtang. For those new to Korean cuisine, and for those who are not very fond of spicy dishes, Seolleongtang is probably a very safe bet. After all, its a simple combination of a mild ox bone broth (though my guess is that pork bones are used as a replacement as well in Canada), that is seasoned with green onions and your own discretionary amount of sea salt to help flavor the broth. The version of this dish here was just average in my opinion. I think the broth is much richer and therefore better tasting at Seoul Dookbegi.
Thin wheat noodles or steamed white rice is often added to give it more volume. At Wang Ga Ma, the Seolleongtang comes with a special treat – hot stone bowl steamed rice. There’s just something about rice cooked in such vessels, as it adds a difference taste component to it, making each rice kernel seem that much more moist and tender.
The kimchi plate came in a very rustic form – with each strand of the cabbage uncut, as was each length of the daikon version. For the uninitiated, some sharp scissors and a serrated knife are provided to cut it into smaller pieces which you need to do yourself. I was quite impressed with the flavor that had been incorporated into each variant, a strong kick of heat, and the daikon was particularly fresh and crisp when bit into. The above photo was taken after I had made a significant dent into the plate before I realized my over eagerness.
The plate of sliced boiled pork belly (known as ‘Bossam‘) was our other selection during this meal. Served with the usual sides of blanched lettuce leaves and a spicy kimchi mixture to be wrapped with the pork, I came to the conclusion that this again was fairly standard. I’d say the version to be had at Pojang Macha is slightly better with the pork.
For a relatively new home-style Korean restaurant, this one fits the image of the typically clean, with limited service and chatter from workers, that you might expect of places in this mold. It was very busy when we walked in during the afternoon, so a good sign that its known and frequented by locals, most likely those who are also shopping at the H-Mart. I am thinking that based on the level of satisfaction I had with the dishes, that a part of their success is from their location, as comparable dishes that taste better can be found at other locations. And I assure you, this opinion was not influenced at all by the empty stomach I had when I entered the place. (SMILE)