Sherman's Food Adventures: Insadong

Insadong

This was a rare Friday that there was no hockey game scheduled. Therefore, Polka King, Milhouse, Boss Woman, Viv and I took advantage of this and went to see the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace tonight. I'm a sucker for movie theatre popcorn, even thought it costs you as much as a real meal. I'm sure it costs them less than $1.00 for the $12.00 combo. But here I am, doing my part in driving the economy. It's funny how I try to finish the whole bag of popcorn before the movie starts so I can get a free refill. It's plain insanity! There was so much butter on the popcorn, I think every popped kernal just slide down my throat. The movie itself was not too bad; but really short, I think it was only 1.5 hours long. Despite downing a large buttered popcorn and a large ice tea, I was ready to tackle dinner. We had a decision to either go for some Pho or some Korean BBQ. The Korean BBQ won. We went to Insadong, a truly authentic Korean restaurant, complete with chime button on your table (to alert staff you want service).

We ordered the dinner for 5, which was $80.00. It included a delicious Seafood Salad which consisted of spring mix with scallops, jellyfish, squid and smoked salmon. Of course with most Korean restaurants, we were supplied with Banchan (complimentary appetizers), kimchi, pickled daikon, bean sprouts, stewed potatoes and spicy cucumber. The waitress was nice enough to bring double the portion of these appetizers since we had 5 people. The banchan was pretty standard, neither being usually good or bad. Next, we had a Radish Roll that resembled a sushi roll, except it was filled with pickled radishes wrapped with thin slices of radish. I didn't care for it too much, it was quite bland, although it was quite crunchy. A hot bowl of seafood tofu soup came next that had whole prawns in the shell and veggies. The broth was lightly flavoured with broken pieces of tofu (it was quite soft). There was a choice of soup, we could've ordered the soybean soup instead. I've had that before, but I prefer the tofu soup. For the next course, we had a choice of the Japchae (stir-fried potato starch noodles) or Seafood Pancake. We choose the pancake, but we also ordered a japchae anyways, since we like both. The seafood pancake resembles more of an omelete with seafood in it. Surprising it was not as oily as other Korean restaurants; but then again, it's still quite relatively oily. Usually, underneath the pancake on the cast iron plate, there are pools of oil resembling a Pizza Hut deep dish pizza pan. There was no shortage of seafood within the soft pancake with the exterior cooked up crispy (from all that oil!).

The Japchae, much like other Korean restaurants, arrived on a really large platter. Obviously this is a dish for sharing. Mind you, I'm sure someone has tried to eat it all by themselves before. Once, I saw someone eating a whole Lobster with Cream Sauce at Victoria Restaurant (it was a tourist, no one in their right mind would try to do that). There was plenty of beef, peppers, onions, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, zucchini and button mushrooms nestled within the soft; yet chewy noodles. I'd only wish that there wasn't a pool of sauce at the bottom of the plate. It made the noodles a bit slimy. We also got a Stone Bowl Bibimbap. Sizzling hot, the rice was topped with plenty of veggies and accompanied by the usual hot sauce. The main course consisted of a traditional Korean BBQ that came with most of the standard meats, Kalbi (beef short ribs), Bulgogi (beef), chicken, and spicy pork. In addition, we got prawns, oysters and mussels. The waitress was going to cook it for us, but we ended up doing it ourselves. The meats are quite fresh and of high quality. The kalbi had really good marbling and when cooked, was tender. I particularly liked that hte meats were not over marinaded. Every time the grill got a bit dark looking, the wait staff came and replaced it with a new grilling surface. That was good since cooking the meat on the burnt surface didn't seem appetizing. Rice and lettuce was also included in the meal. The traditional method of eating Korean BBQ is to put some rice, meat, bean paste, sliced raw garlic (make sure you slightly grill these first) and peppers in a lettuce wrap.

Although the service was very attentive and quick, it is wildly inconsistent visit-to-visit at Insadong. When it gets busy, you might be hard pressed to get quick service, even with the service button at your table. One time, we kept pressing the button and no one every came to check on us. I must've pressed the button 5 times in a row. Mind you, that was probably a bit annoying and thus maybe that is why they never showed up. But it's unacceptable to wait more than 5 minutes for someone to come by, especially when you have asked for service via the button. Otherwise, why have the button? Unless it's some twisted Pavlovian experiemnt on hidden camera! They really, really need more staff. They try, but there is no way they can cover such a big and busy restaurant. However, the food is very good and the portions are generous. Furthermore, the food tastes like it should be. Personally, I think it is one of the best authentic Korean restaurants in the lower mainland.

The Good:
- Moderately priced
- Generous portions
- Comfortable environment
- Authentic

The Bad:
- Inconsistent service or more like no service
- Lack of parking, you'll never find a parking space!
- Be prepared to wait for a table (which is a positive too, since it means it's good)

Insadong Korean BBQ and Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

EnbM said...

It seems that I had been there twice in 2007 & 2008. And I even ordered the seafood pancake. Can't recall if there were any seafood in it, but it looked o.k.
Here is the pancake photo to prove that I was there on Dec 20, 2007. LOL
http://tinypic.com/r/1z2j03k/5

Sherman said...

LOL, you take pictures of your food too! Love it... Yah, if you look at my photo of the pancake, you can actually see, squid and shrimp. Not a usual occurrence in any Korean restaurant. Some only have that crappy imitation crab and they call that seafood!