I’ve been wanting to go and give Koreana BBQ a try based on the recommendation from a colleague. He had visited Korea and told me that the food at Koreana is the closest to what he had experienced in Korea. That statement really piqued my curiosity as generally, I find the Korean food in Calgary to be ok, but nothing outstanding. Recently, I was tasked with choosing a place for dinner that was child-friendly as my friends were bringing their kidlets. I thought Koreana BBQ would be the perfect choice.
Since there were five of us, excluding the kidlets, we decided to order Set A – BBQ Combination 2 which is a set menu meant for 4-5 people. For $92.99, the combination meal included multiple starters such as green salad, soybean soup, seafood pancake, and vegetable tempura. For the BBQ meat, the set meal included 2 pieces of the traditional cut marinated beef King Ribs (Wang Galbi), marinated beef bulgogi, marinated pork ribs, marinated chicken bulgogi, 5 pieces of the marinated LA short ribs, 5 shrimp, and 5 mussels. The meal also included the typical small dishes, also known as banchan. Because we were with kidlets, our server suggested that they bbq the meat for us in the kitchen instead of having us bbq it at the table. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as we wouldn’t be smelling like our dinner by the time we’re done.
First came the seafood pancake (pajeon) and then the vegetable tempura. Both dishes were just ok. Initially, the seafood pancake was brought to us without the sauce. We had to ask our server for it and even then, it took a while before the sauce showed up. With or without the dipping sauce, I thought the seafood pancake was one of the weaker items of the evening. The pancake had very little seafood in it. It had just a couple of strips of squid in it along with the scallions. The pancake was nice and crispy but it was very one-dimensional. I’ve had better pajeon at other Korean restaurants in Calgary. It obviously paled in comparison to the best pajeon I had thus far during my trip to California last summer. The vegetable tempura was good and was not greasy, but it wasn’t amazing. I’ve had better tempura before elsewhere.
Next came the green salad. The salad was on the simple side as it just contained iceberg lettuce dressed with an asian-style soy-based vinaigrette. I didn’t mind the salad when I was eating it with the other dishes, such as the bbq meat as it provided a nice textural and flavour contrast. The vinaigrette had a nice balance of flavours. Consumed on its own, the salad would be boring.
On this visit, we were served five banchan dishes. The first (top-right) was the Musaengchae/Muchae which consisted of shredded white radish marinated in a sweet vinegar sauce. The second (middle-left) was the Kongnamul which consisted of blanched bean sprouts seasoned with sesame oil. The third dish (middle-right) was the Gamja jorim which basically consisted of sweet-glazed cubed potatoes. The last 2 banchan dishes were both kimchi-type (fermented vegetable) dishes. The baechu kimchi (bottom-left) was made with Napa cabbage seasoned with red chili peppers, garlic, and salt. The Ggakdugi (bottom-right) was made from cubed white radish (aka daikon) and seasoned with red chili peppers.
The bbq meat was the star of the show and was served to us on a sizzling hot plate. At first, it didn’t seem like a whole lot of meat but in the end, we could barely finish it. My favourite, by far, was the traditional cut marinated beef King Ribs (Wang Galbi). The meat was so flavourful and tender. The marinated pork ribs and marinated chicken bulgogi were well-flavoured and juicy as well. I found the marinated beef bulgogi to be a little overcooked and on the dry side. Lastly, the LA short ribs were flavourful and tender for the most part, except for a little bit of gristle around the bone. Overall, I really enjoyed the bbq meat. I thought everything was well-marinated, flavourful, and tender. I thought Koreana’s marinated bbq meat is some of the best that I’ve had in Calgary. On my next visit to Koreana, I’d probably want to do the grilling at the table so I can control the doneness of the meat.
In comparison to the meat, the seafood was just ok. I enjoyed the shrimp and thought it was well-seasoned and flavourful. I thought the grilled mussels were less successful. They were not very flavourful and the one I tried was a little sandy. If the shrimp and mussels didn’t come with the set menu, I probably wouldn’t go out of my want to order them.
Last came the piping hot Spicy Soybean soup (Doenjang jjigae). This spicy soup is made with fermented soy bean paste (Doenjang) along with tofu, zucchini, onion, and red chili powder. I thought Koreana’s version of this soup was very flavourful and had the right amount of heat. It was one of the better versions that I’ve tasted here in Calgary. The vegetables were al dente and were not mushy, unlike some of the other versions I’ve had in the past.
For dessert, we were each served a bowl of the traditional Sikhye, which is a chilled sweet beverage made of barley malt powder and grains of rice. I didn’t mind this chilled sweet concoction as I liked the slight hint of malt. I thought it was refreshing and not too sweet. My dining companions, however, thought it was a little on the bland side.
Overall, I really enjoyed our meal at Koreana. The service wasn’t the greatest. On a couple of occasions, it took our server a long time to come back with what we needed. However, the flavour of the food, mainly the bbq meat totally made up for it. The rest of the other dishes we had were average but were mainly fillers. The star of the show is definitely the bbq meat, especially the marinated beef King ribs. I’d definitely come back to Koreana for the bbq. It impressed me how flavourful their marinated bbq meat was. I would say theirs is easily the best tasting marinated bbq I’ve had in town. I’d also like to go back and try some of their other authentic Korean dishes as they have quite the extensive menu.
Koreana BBQ Restaurant
#17, 7400 Macleod Trail SE