Sherman's Food Adventures: Nor Boo Korean

Nor Boo Korean

In our never ending quest to try out all the late night eats in the GVRD, Lionel Hutz proposed we head out to Nor Boo on Robson tonight. Once again, our hockey game started at the early time of 10:15pm. It seems that "prime time" ice is getting later and later. When I used to organize late night pickup hockey, 10:15pm was considered "cheap ice". I guess even ice time has suffered from inflation. Anyways, Milhouse, Boss Woman, Lionel and myself made our way to downtown for some late night Korean. Kim (I'm Only Here for the Food!) had blogged about Nor Boo before and I had my reservations about the place. But, I went in with an open mind to see for myself. Luck would have it, the place was dark. Much like all the other late night places, I resort to using my flash. One of these days, someone is gonna say something to me about that, I'm sure of it.

First off, trying to flag down a server is harder than finding a parking spot at Yoahan Centre. Is it just me or there is never good service to be found at Korean restaurants? Is it a cultural thing or something? Is it some kind of alternate reality where unfriendly service is better? It sure seems like it to me. Once we got our order in, we waited. Not too long later, everything came, well, almost. I'll get back to that later... So for me, it was a frustrating exercise in trying to get a picture of everything while dishes were arriving on our way-too-small table. Thank goodness that Lionel has given up fighting me and now is a nice little assistant when it comes to my pictures. We started with the Banchan which included bean sprouts, kimchi, potatoes and pasta salad. Pasta salad??? Looking like it was purchased at the Safeway down the block, I personally didn't like it. For me at least, I've never had that. And even if it was supposed to be part of the complimentary Banchan, it was flavourless and mushy.

The first dish to arrive was the Bibimbab. You'll notice that we didn't get the Dolset Bibimbab and we'd learn to regret it. Why? Well, for one, it was kinda cold and two, it was soggy. The hot stone bowl would've help alleviate both problems. At the very least, Boss Woman didn't hijack the egg this time. I gave her the evil eye when it arrived. While the Bibimbab was a bit of a disappointment, the Seafood Pancake was a complete flop. It was sorely lacking in seafood and was stiffer than Ron Jeremy. Sorry for the analogy, first thing that came to mind (ewww... that shouldn't be the first thing that comes to mind!). Anyways, it was just plain terrible.

When the Seafood Japchae initially arrived, I was quite impressed with the bounty of seafood. If you look at the picture, you'll see mussels, scallops, whole shrimp and squid. It's really too bad that the noodles were quite wet and a bit soft. It did taste pretty good though, no fishy taste from any of the ingredients. We thought the BBQ Short Ribs were a fantastic value. For a fraction of the price that Jang Mo Jib charges, we got a large plate of these babies. They were flavourful, meaty and oily (they're always oily). We particularly liked the addition of onions and mushrooms, it definitely added a different flavour dimension to the standard sweet soy we're normally familiar with. Continuing on with "popular items you'd order at a Korean restaurant" was the Spicy Pork Bone Soup. For me, it had just enough spice and the fall-off-the-bone meat was buttery soft and delicious. Boss Woman remarked that the soup had a sour aftertaste and there seemed to be one. However, the sourness was probably due to the chili peppers.

Now, remember when I mentioned that most of our dishes arrived? Well, one didn't make it. It was the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings. Apparently it was left off the bill and to her credit, the server did apologize. They were quite disappointing though, the dumpling skin was tough and the filling flavourless. When we attempted to get more napkins and tea, it was like trying to flag down a cab in NYC (they just whiz by you). And when I attempted to get the bill, one server just stared at me like I was a lunatic and she just walked away without saying a word to me. Would it of hurt her to nod her head or something? To me at least, I thought the food was sub par at Norboo. However, I did find the prices and portions to be quite good. But I can't get over how bad the service can be at Korean restaurants. It's an exercise in frustration where it tests your patience and resolve.

The Good:
- Reasonable prices
- Lots of choice
- Open late

The Bad:
- Food execution is lacking
- Service is lacking
- English is lacking

Nor Boo Korean on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I taught English in Korea for a year--your pain is a just fraction of what I felt living in that isolating country!

Koreans are hardcore Confucious lovers. If they don't know you, and you're not part of their inner circle of friends and family, you don't exist.

This comes across as downright rude in Canada and Western society, as Koreans don't realize their behaviour back home is considered rude abroad.

As for the food...Korean BBQ is probably the best, but everything else is blah. Leaves you longing for more, as each dish has little meat and just veggies/rice.

Sherman Chan said...

Thanks for the enlightenment. I can never understand it. Now it seems all clearer to me. But, with that being said, I really wish there was better service...

Unknown said...

trust me, even as a korean myself, i cannot understand the lack of respect for paying customers! i think Korean people in general have no concept of good customer service...unless you are paying big bucks! i always hear Korean people complain about the slow, crappy customer service here...but they don't actually think this applies to them. especially when they are running a business overseas.

you know what's worse? having to work in service for a Korean client base! think Korean servers are bad? Korean customers are worse! You get treated like dirt and you don't even get tipped. *sigh* it's a lose-lose situation.

Anonymous said...

As a Korean born canadian I would like to say that the service in Chinese restaurants are worse then Korean restaurants. Don't get me wrong I know that sometimes they're super busy and ignore you which is why you got to yell AHJUMAH and that should get their attention. As forvthe pasta salad, it was free, so why complain? No other Asian or Caucasian restaurant gives you complimentary dishes so there should be no need to complain. As for the bibimbap, the reason why it's cold is because you did not order the HOT STONE POT Bibimbap which is why. Some people prefer it cold. I suggest you stick with insadong or try TEO sushi/Korean BBQ an get the pajeon and potato soup

Sherman Chan said...

Yes, it is true that service at a Chinese restaurant can be just as bad or worse than a Korean restaurant. With that being said, my point is that I rarely seem to get good service at a Korean restaurant (as in less than 20%). I got good service at Dae Bak Bon Ga and I stated it. I only report what I experience.

As for the pasta salad, it was bad. I do not think it being free has any bearing on it. It's still food served by that restaurant.

Also, as I mentioned in my post, I already admitted we should have ordered the Dolset Bibimbab. So that is a non-issue. As for the one we did order, I realize it shouldn't be smoking hot. I've had it enough to know so. But the rice was cold and soggy. Is the rice suppose to be cold and soggy? That indicates that the rice was poorly prepared.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your comments. But it's okay we don't see eye-to-eye. However, I stand by what I say since it is what I experienced.

KimHo said...

I find these explanations interesting yet odd at the same time. The few instances where I have been with Korean-speaking friends, everything had worked great. Noticed I did not restricted that to Korean-born. There was one instance where I went with a non-Korean born (in fact, he is Algerian) and service was "good". Contrast that to Chinese restaurants where service is crappy regardless! :D

Thanks for the shoutout!

Sherman Chan said...

You're right Kim, anything can be hit and miss or dependent on your own personal experiences. For me at least, it has been consistently frustration except for a few instances. So, I think it's fruitless to debate each others' personal experiences.

My take on service at Chinese restaurants is that it is usually indifferent; however, at least you get some. It's about 50-50 for me. Also, whenever I mention anything with conviction, the other diners who are with me share the same opinion. So it's not only me. With that being said, some of the comments in this thread have shed some new light as to the reasons behind the poor service. In a way, I guess I am a little bit more forgiving since I understand a bit more.

La Petite Vancouver said...

Can't agree with you more regarding the service. My friends and I were once got seated but not being serviced for 15 or 20 mins... we ended up leaving and went to Sura next door.

Anonymous said...

Nor Boo has sub-par panchan, it's true. The house specialty is the seafood hot pot-type stews where a gas burner is brought to the table and a huge platter of raw seafood cooked in broth. I recommend it, the value is impressive. My Korean friends don't regard Nor Boo's panchan or other dishes very highly, so I've never tried them. In my opinion Ap Gu Jung is the best overall Korean on Robson.

604agingteen said...

I forgot to mention, Ap Gu Gung on Robson, a bit further down from Nor Boo is REALLY GOOOD! Now that is excellent Korean food. And the service is really good, even though there is only one person serving ( i notice that everytime we go)if you wave her over she is will come over. The beef ribs, hotpots, and dumplings are a must try. It feels like home cooking. The seating area is very spacious.

604agingteen said...

Oh Nor Boo was the worst! My friend from out of town wanted to try Korean food on Robson. We were hesitant on going in because it looked really dark but decided to be adventurous and the price was inexpensive.
For the appetizers, you described it perfectly, it was not fresh and i didn't even touch it. One look of it and i thought i was going to get sick.
Than we ordered this hot pot thing-where you can pick certain items with your choice of broth and I didn't understand how it works so of course i needed to ask and there was nobody around and we were so hungry. The meat in the hotpot was not fresh and we ordered teh spicy broth and it was so watered down...seriously you could have done better with those spicy msg packages you get from instant noodle. I only had 3 bites of everything and let my guest have the rest. of course I didn't discuss how unsatisfied i was with food with my guest but when she came to visit me again a year later, she said can we not go back to "Nor Boo" Oh and it even gets better ( sarcasm ) we both had stomach aches and got really sick that night.
Thanks Sherman for sharing your views on this place! I thought maybe it was just me and it was a bad day.

Sherman Chan said...

Hi 604agingteen! Yup, Nor Boo... not so good! Not sure why so many ppl go there? Thanks for your tip on Ap Gu Gung!

yumyum said...

ye man ap gu jung is a pretty chills place to go. u should definitely try it out sometime w/ ur buds... HF if u do go n rmbr to order sum strawberry soju!!!

Sherman Chan said...

Seems like I need to pay this place a visit after late night hockey!

Anonymous said...

I'm not too sure about this, but according to the Korean restaurants I've been to, I think we're supposed to walk up to the register and pay for our bill? They don't usually bring the bill to the table I think.

Sherman Chan said...

@NB Yes, that was the case at this restaurant. We did end up paying at the cashier. However, and this is a big however, the service did suck. All 6 of us agreed.

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