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.
After a busy day this past summer checking out various tourist sights in Seoul, I hopped back onto a train back to the suburbs to where I was spending some nights sleeping early on in my journey. On the short walk back to the residence from the station, I noticed a boisterous establishment that seemingly was a pub/fried chicken kind of joint. I suggested to my travel mate that we go check it out – despite having finished eating a hearty dinner an hour before – but was told there was a better place they knew about, and the family I was staying with vouched for it. Sounded good to me. It allowed some more time to digest our dinner and was really convenient too, as all it required was a phone call, as they delivered! A change into some more comfortable clothes later and soon enough the door bell was ringing.
Reportedly there is an outpost of this popular Korean-style fried chicken known as Kyochon Chicken in Koreatown (Los Angeles) as well, but its the first I’d heard of it. Not being able to read anything around me probably had something to do with it. The logo I’d seen before though around the Korean capital city. It seems to be mainly a delivery/takeaway kind of business model. I think the places that serve Korean chicken that I’ve seen here in the GVRD are kind of like that (lots of “to-go” orders), but have seating areas as well where the beer (that goes so well with these things) flow freely. As this was a second dinner, I just asked that we get a dozen or so and I wanted to try the original flavor, so not enhanced with the sweet-spicy sauce that really makes Korean-style chicken so yummy.
Dae Bak Bon Ga 1947 West 4th Avenue Vancouver, BC (604) 568-8259
One of the earliest posts that I personally wrote about here on foodosophy was for a restaurant of the same name, Dae Bak Bon Ga. Its actually the mother ship if you will of this secondary location in Kitsilano, that’s been open for a while now and I’ve tried a few times already. Among a certain circle of native Korean friends, this is their chosen favorite for a taste of home here in Vancouver. As such, I trust their word and try to remember all the Korean dishes that I ate this past summer when I visited South Korea and from my previous trips to that peninsula. Upon my first visit to this 4th Avenue spot, I did pick up that the service level was an improvement over many other Korean restaurants around town and there was a notable level of “refinement” and focused attention on customers aura that seemed to consume the place. It was though in their very early days, so perhaps that might have had something to do with it.
As this meal was a farewell of sorts for a member of this particular circle of friends, we opted to have a round of drinks to begin with. This was soon followed by our opening dish of bossam. It was a nice thicker slice cut, generously spread across the plate. A decent balance of meat and fat in each piece as well, and it had been steamed quite thoroughly and thus who like it more “well done” and less soft and fatty, this would be up your bossam alley. For those unfamiliar, its practice to wrap up a slice or two in the tender lettuce or cabbage that accompanies this, and add a smearing of the spicy paste mixture (often with some dried seafood ingredients) you see in the top left of this image to complete the flavor package. Nature’s always the best eating vessel supplier. The wrapping helps cut through the oiliness you may experience as well, and as its been steamed and cooled as well, you miss a bit of the crispiness but has the greater flexibility and malleable properties to better suit it as a foldable envelope.
Seok Gi Si Dae 4-602 Clarke Road Coquitlam, BC (604) 937-0330
Out of the way. Strange road access. Limited parking. That kind of sums up the location of Seok Gi Si Dae, situated far up the road from the major Korean cuisine epicenter of the Burnaby/Coquitlam border that has received much coverage here on foodosophy. To make this place even odder was the fact that part of the dining space appeared to be an attachment to the original building. Less insulated inside, the roar of traffic could be heard clearly, making it seem like you were dining outdoors on the roadside as if this was a pojangmacha.
Alas, thankfully its not always the ambiance that matters when eating out and with those expectations tempered, finding great little hole-in-the-wall joints is another allure of all this food blogging we do and sharing these kinds of experiences is what makes this all so much fun. And hopefully enjoyable for you, our dear readers.
Kongerang 346-2 Ha-dong, Gyeongju City
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
After a morning spent outdoors in the sweltering summer heat taking in some live acrobatic performances and a long walk around the touristy Shilla Millenium Park, we headed back to the cooling comforts of our air conditioned car and sought out more places on my native host’s list of places to eat at. A simple search in the auto’s GPS device turned up another location that was not too far away and so off we went. Best known as a restaurant that specializes in dishes that contain beans (soybeans, peas, lentils, etc.), Kongerang was set just off the main road that passed by it. It was situated in an older looking, traditionally-built Korean country home.
An ample parking lot was situated right on its parcel of land and it was full of cars! A young man (who’s job I would never want) was sitting on a folding chair on the side of the road and as we approached, he came to our driver side window and explained their parking system. Essentially, there were no open spots available now (and thus no unoccupied tables inside), but he was soon on his headset conversing with someone inside and gave us an estimated wait time of thirty minutes. He allowed us to park on the shoulder of the street, and as one car left the lot, we were permitted to move the car onto the rocky stone-lined parkade. This however did not mean our table was ready yet, but this place was prepared as they had a large tented (and air conditioned) area towards the back where other waiting patrons were patiently sitting. Later on, a voice came out over the speaker inside noting our number and we then proceeded into the building housing the restaurant where our freshly set table was waiting. A swift and efficient system!
Shilla Tteokgalbi Chongshik 226 Nodong-dong, Gyeongju City North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea (054) 741-7600
On day two of this three-day visit to Gyeongju, we continued to mow through the list of restaurants that my local friend had created through his own research and advice from contacts very familiar with the area. Nestled in a building that was offset from the main street that we navigated through on this rainy evening was Shilla Tteokgalbi Chongshik. As we climbed up the stairs to the main entrance, we were quickly greeted by a gentleman who seemed to be the manager this evening. Occupying the entire second floor, it was quite spacious inside.
As mainstream Korean cuisine overseas is highly associated with beef, in particular barbecue, our visit on this occasion was to explore another meaty dish. Tteokgalbi is derived from the words for marinated meat and also those thin sticky rice cakes. But, there are no such rice cakes involved at all in this. In fact, I’d describe it as being more like a hamburger patty. In most cases, its made from a melding of beef short ribs and fattier pork to balance out together in a juicy meaty delight that young and old can enjoy. Plus, there is no killer spice to deter anyone who is sensitive to heat. Instead a drizzle of sweet tasting sauce usually completes the picture. I’ve seen these patties made small (tinier than the palm of your hand) or larger, and shaped in a square or circular like a disc.
220 Shinpyong-dong, Gyeongju City North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
Okay, now we’re finally getting to the literal ‘meat of the matter’ from my trip to Korea this past summer. One of the key locations on our hit list was this Korean barbecue joint recommended by many Seoulites to us. Kangsanhanwoo was situated in its own large building at the intersection of some major roads in this resort town, with its brightly lit signage there was no trouble in finding it. A huge parking lot directly in front provided ample spaces as well, as we made our way in after nine pm and a long day of sightseeing…
While most of the diners were already fully engaged in their meals and were Koreans by and large, we did spot a few tables of foreigners so its appears this is on the international food lovers’ radar when one comes to this popular tourist location of Korea. To aid everyone coming in, there is a large display case of various types and cuts of beef, much like a butcher shop, immediately as you come inside. I’m sure there is a lot of pointing and gesturing to get what one wants when language is an issue. All part of the joys of international travel I say. With the hot temperatures and the air conditioners running full blast, there was a huge barrier of condensation on the glass, which the two fellows behind the counter would wipe across with a hand-held windshield wiper like tool (similar to those you see at gasoline stands) to give you some visibility.
Autumn’s chill has arrived. That for me means indulging in a lot more soups and stews both at home and when I dine out. If I have to give up the warmer summer weather for something, this isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Seolleongtang is a Korean ox bone-based soup that is simply decorated with other ingredients such as green onions and thin slices of beef brisket. Its something I enjoy when I want to change things up and go for something that isn’t spicy when out for Korean cuisine. I might have mentioned this in a past post, but I’d recommend this for any Korean food neophyte, as the milk-like colored and cloudy/creamy broth is fairly tame but packed with flavor when cooked right. For those that may feel it doesn’t haven enough substance, here’s a thing I do: jump the accompanying bowl of steamed white rice right into the soup.
Now that we’re rolling into the fall season and coming back from various journeys over the summer, I thought it would be a good time to do another one of these consolidated posts and provide an update on previously visited places again as a refresher. The links throughout will lead you to original posts and/or commentary on follow up visits. If in doubt if you’ve viewed them all, please do a search on the main page for all your queries…
Previous editions of multi-restaurant/monthly recaps: 1, 2, 3, 4