By now, word is out on Vancouver’s Chinese food scene. No less an authority than Conde Nast Traveler called it the best outside of China. And Japanese food here has long been stellar, with sushi to rival Tokyo’s (at least in abundance and freshness). But when it comes to Vancouver’s Asian food offerings, one regional cuisine is often overlooked: Korean.
Now, I know my bulgogi from my bibimbap, but I won’t pretend to be an expert on Korean restaurants in the city. So I thought I’d throw this question out there:
Do you have a favourite Korean restaurant in the city? A place that serves the most authentic stone bowl dishes, the most succulent barbecue and the best kimchi? Please comment below and share your secret.
I’ll start things off by listing two of my favourites. Both are downtown, in an area near the intersection of Robson and Denman Streets that’s packed with good Korean places. Of course, I know that perhaps the real epicentre of Korean cuisine is Metrotown in Burnaby – I’m looking forward to hearing some tips for that neighbourhood.
One choice for relatively authentic Korean (I think) in a trendy setting is Sura Korean Cuisine, on the west end of Robson Street. Sura seems to be a bit more stylish and upscale than some of its competitors on Robson and makes a nice spot for couples. Inside, you can opt to sit at low group tables in the centre of the room or traditional tables along the wall.
The menu has the standard selection of bulgogi (thin-sliced, marinated beef), bibimbap (rice topped with vegetables) and spicy tofu and seafood soups, as well as Korean barbecue and other items. Owing to the ambiance and the neighbourhood, it’s a bit pricier than standard Korean fare.
A very different setting for Korean food is Ma Dang Coul, located nearby on Denman Street. I discovered this little hole-in-the-wall type place only recently, and it’s quickly become my favourite. No frills here. Just a tiny and very clean restaurant with tables squeezed into every possible corner. On weekends, there’s usually a line out front, often filled with Korean families hungry for some traditional cuisine.
The menu is extensive (and, fortunately, illustrated), going way beyond Westernized Korean food to include vegetable pancakes, noodle soups, stir fries, plenty of stone pot dishes and even some yoshoku cuisine like omu-rice. It’s also cheap (about $10 for the bulgogi with marinated ribeye), and you get five of those little side dishes (banchan), like kimchi and seaweed, for free.
I’m sure there are plenty of hardcore Korean food fans out there laughing at my choices. Please share your favourites and get the word out on Vancouver’s incredible Korean cuisine.