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

Korean · Kyoto · Restaurants

Kyoto – Nikuya no Daidokoro

L and I found one of our best meals by accident. Initially, I found a yakitori bar in Pontocho by Kamogawa River. We entered the restaurant and a server confirmed there were two seats available. By the entrance, there was a table of salary men smoking. L was so irritated by the smoke he didn’t even bow and say sorry in Japanese to the hostess before abruptly leaving. L told me we would find somewhere better. I didn’t believe him and I threw a bitch fit (BF) a la White Chicks. After walking around for 15 minutes, I told L to follow the couple ahead of us. For this post, let’s listen to Bitch by Meredith Brooks.

I could sense this couple knew where they were going. I felt that they knew we were following them when we entered the elevator and didn’t press any button. They looked nervously at each other and then the gentleman turned around to say something to me in Japanese. When the doors opened, we discovered we were at an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ Restaurant – Nikuya no Daidokoro.

menu

For about $27 US, we could eat an array of chicken, pork, one type of beef, vegetables and a huge salad bar with soup and dessert. For an extra $3 US, we enjoyed unlimited draft beer. The quality of the meats and vegetables were very good. Far superior to the Korean buffets in Vancouver and Calgary.

meat before fired

L ordered all the meats and took care of grilling all the food. We didn’t stink too bad of meat after we left, because the fan did a great job of sucking up all the smoke.

meat

We tried most of the meats on the menu. The only one I didn’t like was Pope’s Nose, as it was too fatty and hard. The wiener was particularly delicious – once you crunched through the casing, it popped with sausage juice.

weiner

I ate several plates of banchan – Korean side dishes. Soybean sprouts, cold spinach, watercress tofu salad, cabbage and soybean paste, and edamame. I put the edamame on the BBQ and then sprinkled it with salt. I realized that everyone else eats them cold when the servers and other customers would give me a double take.

edanmae

There aren’t a whole lot of vegetables and fruits readily available in Kyoto, at least not in our area. So I filled up on vegetables. I grilled peppers, mushrooms, onions, cabbage, eggplant and shiso peppers. There were also a ton of sauces and salts to choose from.

charred veg

I felt remorse for my BF earlier so I tried to pay for supper. L wouldn’t let me which made me feel even worse. I liked this place so much, I insisted on taking him out later on in the week and splurging for the wagyu beef. When we returned on a Saturday night without reservations, our server informed us that they were booked up for the next two hours. I must have looked crestfallen because the server looked at me pityingly.  In any case, L and I will be back next year.

outside

Korean · Restaurants

Seoul Korean BBQ – Buffet

On Monday, the sun was shining and the snow was melting. I was feeling celebratory and told L that I was taking my man out for dinner. I suggested BBQ. Unfortunately, Paddy’s BBQ + Brewery was not open. We opted for Seoul Korean BBQ. The rating for this place was pretty good on Yelp, so off we went. For reason that will soon follow, let’s listen to I’ve got that tune – by Chinese Man.

When we arrived, we found out that Seoul Korean BBQ has changed into an all-you-can-eat buffet style format. I dislike buffets and I prefer to order a la carte, but since L seemed excited, we stayed. For $30 bucks per person, we had the choice of the following meats: pork ribs, marinated rib-eye, pork belly, beef short ribs, beef bulgogi, spicy chicken, spicy pork, pork side ribs, and deep fried chicken.

side dishes

L went to select the raw meats while I picked up banchan (small side dishes): bean sprouts, kimchi, potatoes, spinach and tofu salad, and pickled vegetables. Normally banchan is the favourite part of my meal. These side dishes weren’t well seasoned and lacked flavour. I was disappointed.

Cold food.jpg

The hot food selection was vast: various soups, two types of rice, fried rice, noodles dishes, two types of fried chicken, dumplings, battered shrimp, mussels, vegetables, rice cakes, seafood pancake and many other dishes. All the hot food was cold or at best, room temperature. Of the bunch, the only one I liked was the pork dumplings and japchae (glass noodles). The shrimp was not properly deveined. I would skip the hot section.

BBQ4.jpg

The pork belly was flavourless and tasted like it had been frozen for too long. I did enjoy the pork ribs, marinated rib eye, beef short ribs and beef bulgogi. L liked the spicy pork and beef ribs the most. For most of the time we were there, our grill wasn’t that hot. It turned out that the gas needed to be replaced.

bbq3.jpg

There were lots of groups of families and friends enjoying themselves. There was one group of older women having a hoot. They were loudly complaining about coworkers and relatives. I heard one lady say, “Oh God. But the Chinese are the worst.” There was a couple of laughs followed by dead silence.

BBQService was good. Someone was always around to pick up plates and answer questions or refill the tea. I can see the appeal of Seoul Korean BBQ for families that want to enjoy a lot of meat. Note that if you have any unfinished food, you’ll be charged $10.

Seoul Korean BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato