Two weeks ago, “Monk” and I were hankering for some Korean BBQ. Grilled marinated meat. Hadn’t had it ages, love the interactive nature of it; we rarely crave the same food and even more rarely at the same time, so the stars must have been aligned just that certain way and we had no choice but to go satisfy our cravings. We also figured that since we live so close to North Road, the border of Burnaby and Coquitlam, with the plethora of Korean restaurants in Burquitlam, it was time to start figuring out “The Best of the Best” and learn the ins and outs of Korean cuisine.
Me and Korean food have had a love hate relationship for many years. I’ve dabbled in Korean cuisine all my life, but have had some horrific Korean meals in my time. Fundamentally, I like it, but most recently, I end up eating the same dishes, cooked more or less the same way, with the same flavors, at the same restaurants. I want to eat what Koreans eat and understand the nuances and the delicate nature of the cuisine. Inquiring minds want to know! I’ve got to go befriend some Korean people and learn the real deal about Korean cuisine. Maybe I should hire a Korean cook, just so I can get a culinary tour guide… Well, I haven’t figured out the intricacies of Korean chow on my own, but maybe I’m over-thinking it a bit. If it tastes good, eat it right? BTW, if you’re Korean, like to eat and like to take long walks on the beach; just kidding! Also, if you’re interested, I’m still enthralled with semi colons.
So we headed out to Insadong Korean BBQ and Seafood Restaurant. [403 North Road, #301, Coquitlam, (604) 936-3778] It’s literally down a hill and then back up a hill from our home in the burbs, no more than 9.3 minutes away. I’ve eaten there about half a dozen times in my lifetime and have enjoyed relatively good meals there every time. This time around, “Monk,” “Jazzy” and I were on a specific mission; Korean BBQ. As we settled in at our table, I quickly perused the menu and since it was only the three of us dining, we thought we’d keep it simple and order the set menu for 2-3people.
For $60, you get assorted banchan, daikon seaweed roll, beef salad, chap chae, seafood and tofu soup and an assortment of meats and seafood to grill table side. The service was extremely efficient and there was food on the table within minutes. First the banchan arrived and though there was nothing overly exciting about any of them, they were all very tasty and made good accompaniment to the rest of the meal. The daikon seaweed rolls arrived shortly after and I thought they were delicious. Fantastic texture, great balance of acid and sweet and definitely a bite of food that I have not experienced before. Essentially it was thinly sliced daikon radish with seaweed, radish sprout and cucumber wrapped inside. Extremely fresh, bright and appetizing. Following these rolls, we tucked into a seafood and tofu soup; the exact polar opposite of the daikon rolls. Dull, luke warm, unbalanced, un-fresh tasting and bland. Whatever, no big deal. I pushed it aside and kept going with the rest of the food.
By this point, they fired up the grill and our server started grilling our meats in different waves. She started our BBQ portion of the meal with galbi; marinated short ribs. She threw the meat on, I cooked the meat to our preferred doneness and let me tell you, they were delicious. A very flavorful marinade and a nice balance of savory, sweet and char flavor. Combined with the Korean bean paste and kim chi, I thought it was spot on. The server then switched our grill and put on the bulgogi (marinated beef rib eye). Again, delicious and this routine of a new grill and new ingredients continued on until we were finished cooking the raw meat. The meat and seafood for grilling included the galbi and bulgogi as well as chicken, spicy marinated pork, oysters, prawns, mussels and a little veg. All the meats were tasty and tender, but the seafood was not my cup of tea. Tiger prawns, pre-cooked frozen mussels and small, metallic tasting oysters. I won’t say much more about the seafood, but the meat was generous and very tasty. The spicy pork was not overly spicy and had a good balance of heat and sweet. Unfortunately, too spicy for “Monk”, which meant more for me!
During the BBQ interactivity, the chap chae and beef salad arrived as well. Chap chae is sweet potato starch noodles stir fried with beef, egg and assorted vegetables. The beef salad was poached beef slices with dressed greens, vegetables and fruit. The chap chae was nice; absolutely love the texture of the noodles, but the dish was like most chap chae I’ve eaten before. The beef salad was fair, a melange of overdressed vegetables, but the presence of pineapple was a bit of a surprise and I actually enjoyed the poached beef with the banchan.
Issue and concerns; a couple of food misses with the seafood soup, the seafood meant for grilling and the beef salad. On the plus side, the service was extremely efficient, especially considering the restaurant was full on a Monday evening. The daikon seaweed roll were wonderful and the BBQ meats were very good. They had lots of live seafood in tanks, including lobster, crab and ling cod, so I’m looking forward to returning and trying more of the menu. By the way, I wrote this post in 37 minutes. A little slow I know, but my brain is still fried from a server arguing with me during service on the weekend at Tapenade Bistro. Forgive my lack of eloquence.
On my chef’s night out scale, Insadong Korean BBQ and Seafood Restaurant receives 3/5 SOB (slices of bacon).