Soban Korean BBQ just opened up two months ago in the spot that used to be home to Ogam Korean Restaurant. I was really sad when Ogam closed down because one of my favorite dishes had been their famous Samgyupsal (Grilled Pork Belly). My coworker and I decided to give the newly-opened Soban a try in hopes that it was just a name change and the menu would still be the same.
Unfortunately, the menu has changed and my favourite Samgyupsal (Grilled Pork Belly) dish is no longer available in the same format. Soban still offers Samgyupsal but in a different format. It is now one of their “hot pot table” items. An order serves 2 people and the meat is cooked at the table. As for the rest of the menu items, Soban offers most of the typical items one would expect at a Korean restaurant, including soups and stews, Korean BBQ, stir fry and rice dishes, and grilled fish.
On this visit, my coworker wanted to try the Stir-fried Squid ($13.50), which consisted of squid stir fried with various vegetables like zucchini and onion as well as seasonings and red chili paste sauce. The squid was really flavourful and not too chewy. The Stir-fried Squid came with a side of salad with a housemade dressing.
The Stir Fried Squid was served with a bowl of rice and Korean side dishes (banchan). On this visit, the banchan consisted of garlic potatoes, marinated sprouts, kimchi, tempura yam slices, and pickled onion. Of the five items, our favourite was by far the garlic potatoes. They were warm and crispy on the outside. The glaze had the perfect amount of sweetness. This was probably on of the better versions of garlic potatoes that I’ve had in a long time. My coworker and I couldn’t stop eating them.
I decided to try one of their lunch specials. I ordered Chicken Bulgogi Bento ($9.90), which consisted of grilled marinated chicken and vegetables in a spicy sauce. The bento box included garlic potatoes, pickles, yam tempura, salad, and rice. This was a lot of food and certainly great value considering the price. The spicy grilled chicken was very tender and flavourful. It had the perfect amount of heat and sweetness. Personally, I liked it more than the stir-fried squid. I definitely would order the Chicken Bulgogi again in the future. My only comment is that the pickles didn’t really pair well with the rest of the flavours in the bento box.
Since my coworker and I were pretty impressed with our lunch experience at Soban a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go back again earlier this week. I suggested we try the Samgyupsal as I was curious what their version would be like. The Samgyupsal ($26.50) consisted of raw thick-cut pork belly slices that were semi-thawed. The Samgyupsal order serves 2 people and came with two bowls of rice, Korean side dishes (banchan), sticks of cucumber and carrot, slices of onion, a basket of ssam (wrap, which in this case was lettuce leaves), and ssamjang, which is a thick spicy paste used as a condiment for the “wraps”. The ssamjang is typically made of doenjang (fermented soybean paste), gochujang (fermented chili bean paste), sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions, and sometimes brown sugar. The term ssam literally translates to “wrap” in Korean and refers to a dish where leaf vegetables are used to wrap a piece of grilled meat. The proper way to eat this dish is to take a piece of lettuce or leaf vegetable in one hand and place a bite-sized piece of grilled meat, some kimchi or other banchan, and a bit of rice in the center, add a bit of ssamjang on top and wrap the leaf around the contents..
A portable grill was placed at the center of our table. We placed the slices of pork belly on to the grill and cooked them ourselves. Though this serving style may possibly be more authentic, compared to the Samgyupsal that I loved at Ogam previously, I found these pork belly slices to be quite bland as the meat had not been marinated. I actually preferred the marinated pork belly slices that Ogam used to make as they were a lot more flavourful. These pork belly slices were tasty but in my opinion, lacked the flavour that the Ogam’s marinated version had. A little seasoning would certainly help to bring out the flavours more. Though this lunch was tasty and my coworker enjoyed it a lot, it didn’t truly satisfy my craving for Ogam’s Samgyupsal so I’m still on the lookout for other places in Calgary that serve it. Overall though, Soban is a great place for lunch. Their prices are pretty reasonable and the service was quick.
Soban Korean BBQ
Unit 167, 328 Centre St SE