Chinatown · Korean · Restaurants

Bon-ga – Chinatown

Ay Caramba took me out for lunch for my birthday. She surprised me in the morning with two beautiful blue bowls along with some coconut, almond and chocolate mix. She also ordered me to take a lieu day on Friday, so I could prepare for Beep Beep’s visit. For my birthday weekend posts, I’m going to play my favourite tunes. First up is Yo-Yo Ma – Bach Cello Suite No.1 Prelude.

I wanted to keep our group small, so I invited Asian Persuasion, Office Dad, and Pak_to_eating. Lam Jam emailed us earlier in the week and wanted to meet for lunch on the same day, so I extended the invitation to him as well. When we left the office, a coworker mentioned that we were a homogeneous bunch and wondered if it was a prerequisite to be Asian to join our lunch. I thought that was funny because whenever other people go for lunch, I’m sure no one would think – “Wow! That group has something in common – they are all Caucasian!”

As with most Korean restaurants, we received complimentary banchan – tiny side dishes that compliment the meal. When we asked for a refill, our server gave us double the amount. I liked the pungent pieces of kimchi, marinated mung bean sprouts, and musaengchae (white radish).

We ordered Gamjatang – a boiling pot of pork bones, potatoes, and cabbage. I asked for only a little spice because Ay Caramba can’t handle the heat. I know this is a popular dish, but I find it too cumbersome and messy to eat the meat still attached to the bones. I wouldn’t order this on my own.

I specifically ordered the Spicy Squid and Pork Sizzling Plate ($32.99) because of Bruce K. He raved about this dish on Yelp. He’s quite the intense foodie, so I wanted to see what the big deal was about.

This dish is a winner. The toothsome slices of soft squid and the tender pieces of pork were delicious. Make sure you eat this dish with rice, as it soaks up all that yummy sauce. I didn’t find this dish spicy at all. I wonder if it was because I told the owner that Aycaramba doesn’t like spice.

Asian Persuasion wanted to order the Pajun – a savoury seafood pancake ($19.99). Considering how thick the pancake was, I surprised the batter was so light and crispy. I’ve had pajun that’s gummy and heavy.

The pancake contained squid, shrimp and greens. I thought it was a tad light on the seafood. Still, very tasty and I would order this dish again.

One of the best dishes was the Japchae ($18.50). The sweet potato noodles were bouncy, sweet and savoury from the sauce. I liked the combination of the crunchy vegetables, beef and assorted mushrooms. Asian Persuasion said it is easy to make japchae, as it’s just a few key ingredients. I have made japchae before but it didn’t taste nearly as good as Bon-ga’s. I think I don’t put enough sesame oil and sugar in my version.

Persuasion wanted to try the Asian Beef Bone Soup ($13.99). The broth was milky white and cloudy. The meat was soft. Office Dad shared a piece with me, as the bowl was pretty small.

The flavour of the broth was mild. I thought this was the weakest dish, it just lacked the vibrancy of all the other dishes. However, a hot soup is nice as it rounds out the meal and warms you up.

I would return again with a group to try the Korean BBQ combos. Just a heads up – Bonga is a small mom and pop operation. During our lunch, the restaurant filled up with other groups. The owner and one server were kept busy. The owner would still checked in on us and whenever we needed anything, there was a buzzer at the table. Thanks Ay Caramba for setting up this lunch date and treating me. Hitting the Sauce gives Bon-ga two fat thumbs.

Bon-Ga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Chinese

1 Pot – Hot Pot

Leighton soup

I added six more hours of exercise to my routine, totally about nine hours per week. This doesn’t leave much time to eat out anymore. However, I was feeling homesick on Saturday and I wanted to go out for Chinese hot pot. When my grandparents were alive, they would always make something warm to eat even if it was a humid summer day. Congee, wonton, herbal soups and deep-fried chicken were just some of the dishes I would have at their house.

spicy soup

1 Pot was recommended to me by a restauranteur Heather Wigmore of Pigeonhole. I love getting recommendations from people in the industry as I figure they know the inside scoop. 1 Pot differs from other hot pot restaurants by the following: individual pot of soup; more condiments to make your own dipping sauce; and food is brought to your table. Personally, I really enjoyed having my own pot of broth and not having to get up to get my food.

dipping sauce

L ordered a sate broth and a beer. I made the mistake of ordering Szechuan broth and putting too many spicy condiments in my dipping sauce. In the middle of the meal, L noticed beads of perspiration dripping down my neck. Good thing I’m married to the guy and this was not our first date. Seriously, I felt like I was in hot yoga. Next time I’ll bring a towel and put it underneath me while I eat. I’m glad I brought my own homemade gatorade to drink. I know better than to bring my own beverage to a restaurant, but I wanted my electrolytes. I figured they wouldn’t care if my beverage was water (with freshly squeezed lemon and orange, sea salt and a pinch of brown sugar).

chicken springroll

1 Pot offers a few cooked items. The two dishes L and I indulged in were the spring rolls and chicken wings. The spring rolls were very crunchy with a soft filling. The wings were sticky on the outside, made just like my gong gong (grandfather) use to make when we were kids. Both dishes came straight from the deep-fryer and arrived piping hot.

dumplings

I ordered an assortment of dumplings: lobster, shrimp and beef balls, sui mai and wontons. My favourite was the wonton – I thought these were a step above the usual stuff you find at westernized Chinese restaurants. I liked the contrasting textures in the wonton and the filling was quite flavourful with a touch of sweetness.

meats

The oysters were small but tasted fresh. We ordered a little of the beef, pork and chicken. I thought the pork and chicken tasted like it was a bit over tenderized. The texture tasted off.

paste

L and I really enjoyed the fish pastes, which were much tastier than the fish balls. I also liked the non-meat items like Chinese mushrooms, taro, Korean cakes, and assorted vegetables.

Veggies

I really enjoyed 1 Pot and I would happily return. We paid about $28 per person for the all-you-can eat hot pot experience, which I thought was very reasonable, considering the quality of the food was a step above some hot pot restaurants I visit in Richmond, BC that charge the same price or more. I plan to try Regency’s version of hot pot and revisit the Chinese Cultural Centre just to see how they compare to 1 Pot.

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