My foodie friend Anna of Anna’s Appetite and I ended up at Koreana one cold winter’s night back in December unexpectedly. We had planned to try Thai Nongkhai, which is located just a couple of doors down from Koreana, but they were closed for the holidays. Since the roads were really in bad shape that night, we weren’t in the mood to travel further for an alternate place so we settled on Koreana since we were already there. I’d been to Koreana BBQ previously to try their set dinners and thought the food was alright.
We started off with some classic banchan. The first (top-left) was the Kongnamul which consisted of blanched bean sprouts seasoned with sesame oil. The second dish (bottom-left) was the Gamja jorim which basically consisted of sweet-glazed cubed potatoes. The third dish (bottom-middle) was the dong chimi, which consists of thinly sliced white radish marinated in a slightly sweet vinegar. The last 2 banchan dishes were both kimchi-type (fermented vegetable) dishes. The baechu kimchi (top-right) 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.
My friend Anna had chosen the Gam Ja Tang ($11.99), which is a spicy pork bone soup with potatoes and vegetables. This turned out to be the favorite dish of the evening. The soup was very flavourful and perfect for a cold winters night. The pork was fall of the bone tender. We were surprised at how big the portion was and we were both full after we finished the soup and the meat so we barely made a dent into the other dish.
I chose the Go Choo Jang Sam Gyup Sal Bok Keum ($19.99), which consisted of “spicy pepper paste” (often known as gochujang) pork belly and vegetables. When I saw sam gyump sal (pork belly) on the menu, I automatically wanted to try it. I’ve been on the look out for an alternate place for Korean pork belly ever since Ogam Korean Restaurant closed down. I’d tried the version from Soban Korean BBQ but it didn’t quite measure up to the version that Ogam used to offer. I was hoping that Koreana BBQ might be my new go to place for that dish. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I ordered this dish except I knew what gochujang was since I’ve had it before on the wings at Anju and loved it. Gochujang is actually a fermented red chili soybean paste often used in Korean cooking both as a marinate and as a condiment. As it turns out, the pork belly slices and vegetables were stir-fried in gochujang as the description of the dish suggests. I was surprised a how large the portion was, but perhaps, it should be given the price of the dish. The pork belly and vegetables were served with some noodles. Personally, I didn’t care for the noodles as I found them to be a bit mushy for my liking and they kind of clumped together. Overall, this dish tasted just ok and was perhaps a touch on the sweet side for my liking. It’s one I probably wouldn’t order again. And it certainly didn’t come close to the version that Ogam used to offer. Koreana actually offers a second version of sam gyump sal (pork belly) but I didn’t order it because from the picture on the menu, it look unmarinated and was similar to the version that I had at Soban, which wasn’t quite what I was looking for either.
For the complimentary 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. It was the perfect way to end off our meal.
Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Koreana. My only quibble was that our food got cold really quickly as we were sitting at one of the booths normally used for Korean BBQ. The vent overhead must have been open as we could feel the draft and it was a chilly night.
Koreana BBQ Restaurant
#17, 7400 Macleod Trail SE