Not too long ago, Don’sta existed in this very same location, offering some of the very same kind of dishes. I’d noticed that it soon changed its sign not too long after that visit that I reported on. Initially I thought it was just a simple re-branding, but upon checking it out, I saw it was much more than that. The proprietors seemed to have changed, along with a total re-work of the interior and a greater focused menu. Simple put, it appeared more “professional”. I’ve not gone to their other location downtown, but Dae Ji now has outlet number two.
With Korean-style fried pork cutlets taking center stage alone (no sign of the pasta that existed in the previous incarnation) on the menu now, there were a few twists like the option to have a mixed plate if you will of a cutlet and a hamburger patty. A few variations exist in terms of the pork cutlet, as well such as a cheese, spicy cheese, even a kimchi infused one! The set menus offer more bang for the buck too, as you get a side of rice, a simple cabbage salad and a miso soup.
Chungdam Ahn 832 Cardero Street Vancouver, BC (604) 688-3632
It has been a few years now since I last visited this popular Korean lounge off one of the side streets of Robson. Hidden away from the main strip, its not always been on my radar so I was pleased to find Chungdam Ahn was still around after all this time. With a few boisterous friends in tow in search of some unique food and drink combinations, we headed to this part of Cardero Street and tucked inside to a pretty full room. With some lively music and a vibe that only excited, young twenty-somethings can bring to a place, it had all the markings of a good night to be had…
Fortunately, we were able to squeeze into the bigger corner table of the place, almost as if it was waiting for us all this time. Scanning around with my eyes, it was clear we weren’t the only group out for a hard night of eating and drinking, although there were some tables occupied just by couples on an evening out. A pair of female servers were buzzing from table to table, collecting orders and bringing out food from the kitchen area.
Han Nam Supermarket (Deli) 106-4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 420-8856
Bibimbap. Quite possibly the best known and also most tongue twisting dish in Korean cuisine. Its a simple one-bowl combination.
Comprised of a base layer of steamed white rice and topped with a colorful arrangement of sauteed vegetables, often some kind of meat (like sliced beef), a runny fried egg and seasoned with the deep flavored and spicy chili pepper paste better known as gochujang.
With its balanced arrangement, it has a very eye catching presentation despite its simplicity. But alas, that’s not where it ends. For you see, the bibim in bibimbap really means “to mix”. Combining all of these ingredients, their distinct textures and flavors, so that in each spoonful you get the complete package of tastes available is what makes this dish come to life.
Myung Dong Kal Gook Soo 103 – 4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 420-6447
As the evening air outside begins to descend into a temperature zone that requires more layering of clothing and household duties that require preparations for the coming winter season, it marks the beginning of something that I enjoy a lot – hot food, especially those of the “soupy” category. Beefy stews, hearty vegetable soups, bowls of noodles in flavorful broth and so on. Autumn/winter comfort food at its finest. Plus, with the incoming crop of this season’s vegetables, many of which over the past few years I’ve grown to actually like more of, it makes for fun times in the home kitchen or eating out.
Over the years, I’ve found on my travels abroad that those nations which have a tendency to experience harsher winters – full of freezing temperatures, perhaps suspect household insulation but with a rich food culture – do satisfy my cravings for warm/hot edible delights. I can still remember the first time I visited South Korea over a decade ago, it was March. But with bone chilling temperatures coupled with a heavy weight of dense, moist air which made the prevailing air temperature feel many times colder, it hit me like nothing I’ve ever felt before. My immediate impulse was to warm up and quickly with something to eat. And on that particular occasion, I ended up in a little spot that served up kalguksu. Its an experience I’ve never forgotten and ever since, when I feel the chill in the air and have a craving for comforting Korean food, it reminds me of that time.
Hee Rae Deung Korean Chinese Restaurant #24 435 North Road Coquitlam, BC (604) 939-0649
Normally I’m not one to wait in line. Blame it on impatience or a sense that my time is worth more than waiting for my turn at something. Especially something as mundane as getting something to eat. As a result, you’ll never find me in line at the latest, hippest joint in town despite what all the critics might be spouting on about regarding the place. It might not even be that “cool” of a spot either, just the fact that there is a queue will deter me from stopping and joining the line of lemmings. Are you the same or perhaps different (e.g. more patient)?
The photos from this meal at Hee Rae Deung are actually from a trip there that dates back a few months to early May. I’ve driven by a few times since and just like that first visit, I could clearly see some waiting customers just inside the door, and some even outside on the sidewalk. It kind of baffled me when I walked up to the doors and had to get in behind about six other people for a late dinner meal. Was there something special about this place? Was the food something amazing? Or were the prices incredibly pleasing and could you get fantastic value? All these things swirled in my head as I tried to rationalize what I was seeing…
Don’sta #205-4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 566-9107
Donkkaseu, is the Korean spelling converted into English taken from the sounds of the original Japanese word for this dish, a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet. For many North Americans, the Japanese presentation of this served Kanto-style with a sweet tonkatsu sauce and finely sliced raw cabbage is perhaps most familiar. (On a side note, I reckon it might be awhile before we see here in Canada, tonkatsu done the Kansai (more specifically Nagoya) way by bringing in the flavors of the more savory miso as a sauce base – but stranger things have happened). Though, as with several notable kinds of food in Asian cuisine, you can find different variations of a single dish made with local interpretations – across East Asia in particular); for instance la mian/ramen or kimbap/norimaki). Hybrids even and commonly referred to as such as a standalone genre (e.g. Korean-Chinese cuisine comes to mind here) too. This is just another example.
Myung-Ga Sonmandoo (Hand Made Dumplings) 455 329 North Road Coquitlam, BC (604) 939-8828
In an area already congested with places to eat, its always nice to discover the pending opening of yet another place to try some new food. In the shopping complex anchored by the H-Mart Supermarket, while getting some groceries there in early-December, I noticed a place with some paper up on the windows and some temporary signage signifying something was about to occupy the place shortly. From what I could make of it, it was going to be about dumplings. Yum.
And so at the end of 2010 I was back as the doors were now open and I quickly had my virgin meal at Myung-Ga, which was indeed offering dine-in and takeout service for its sonmandoo (or hand made dumplings). It was a small, narrow space with an open kitchen up front where you can see workers making the various dumplings they have right in front of you. A small window from the sidewalk allows you to peak inside, if they have the shade up. The steaming is also done right there, so if its chilly outside, you can get a noticeable amount of fog indoors with the constant opening and closing of the main entrance causing the ambient air temperature to fluctuate.