Ga Bin Korean Restaurant — “You eat too much”

Food – ★★★ ½
Service – ★★★★
Deco – ★★★

Price Range: $

After a volunteer meeting last Saturday, my friend was craving Korean food. Where I live, authentic Korean restaurants are few and far between, and since neither of us were looking for anything heavy like KBBQ, we ended up going to a restaurant that I went to last year with a friend. The last time I visited Ga Bin Korean Restaurant, I bonded another one of my friends over pork bone soup and talking about the stress of university and future careers. This time, my friend and I were just hungry.

Although Ga Bin Korean Restaurant isn’t a very large restaurant, the interior is very roomy and cozy. The waitstaff is extremely cordial and friendly, a signature of the traditionally amiable and respectful Korean culture. The same woman that served us the first time I came to the restaurant didn’t even mind that we preferred a booth table. She just calmly nodded and cleared up the table. Previous recommendations to this restaurant has always praised the service of the staff, and it was no surprise that it was the same this time around. Ga Bin actually serves both regular Korean dishes as well as smoke-free barbecue dishes. At each table is a heating stove, but for this time we didn’t order anything that fancy. The weather was torrid with rain that day, and we just wanted a nice warm meal while we filled our hungry stomachs and waited out Mother Nature.

As always, one of the first things that comes with a Korean meal is the banchan, or side dishes. Each Korean restaurant has their own staple dishes that they serve, so it becomes almost a surprise to see what they serve you. These side dishes are usually set int the middle of the table and shared amongst everybody. At Ga Bin serves a 6 cheop set of cold dishes, including some of my favourites – mixed seaweed, japchae, which is a glass noodle, bean sprouts, kimchi, fried taro, and spicy glutinous strands. And just as soon as we were done all the dishes, they came back with more without us having to ask. Now that’s service!

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Banchan, or side dishes, served at the beginning of Korean meals

One of the more traditional and popular dishes at Ga Bin is, of course, Gamjatang, a hot chilli soup served with stewed pork-on-the-bone and potato, and a bowl of rice. Be careful, it is a little bit hard to eat, and your fingers are probably your best utensil in this case. Fortunately, the item also comes with a silver bowl where you can easily dispose of your bones when you’re done. I was a bit disappointed with the Gamjatang this time, because the first time I tried it here the meat was very soft and tender. This time the meat was a bit tougher and stuck to the bone. When it comes to pork bone soup, that’s probably the difference between a good and bad dish. Nevertheless, the portion size was very satisfactory!

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Gamjatang

Although we didn’t get the sizzling plates that would have used the stove, we did get a couple of BBQ and broiled dishes. We ordered Samchi Gui, which is a broiled spanish mackerel fish served with either a soft tofu or soy bean soup and rice. We chose the soft tofu option and it was a great choice. Tofu, like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, really takes on its surrounding. In this case, the soft tofu, directly exposed to the spices and hot flavours, and blended seamlessly into one delectable soup. The fish was also broiled to perfection, and tasted as you would expect of grilled fish – chewy, but not enough to render it tough. Don’t forget to squeeze some lemon juice to enhance and counter the salty flavours!

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Delicious soft tofu soup with…

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…Grilled Spanish Mackerel

 

We also ordered everybody’s favourite meat dish, Bulgogi, which is a seasoned and marinated sirloin beef. Once again, it was served with a soft tofu soup. A fun fact is that in 2011, CNN Go ranked Bulgogi 23rd in the World’s most delicious foods readers’ poll. The term Bulgogi actually means “fire meat,” and this refers to the way the marinated meat is cooked using traditional grilling techniques and not deep frying or boiling in water.

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Bulgogi

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Sizzling grilled plate and spicy soft tofu soup

Finally, we also ordered a Korean-style Seafood and Green Onion Pancake served with a sour vinaigrette. For those that know me, I am not a big fan of green onion, mainly for its taste and texture. However, the pancake did serve to minimize my disdain for green onions momentarily. The pancake was very chunky, filled with seafood and vegetables, granting a seal of approval.

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Korean-Style Seafood and Green Onion Pancake

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Close-up of the pancake!

The rain eventually let up after the meal, so other than satisfying my bottomless stomach, it was also a great time to talk and eat great food!

- J

Ga Bin Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Chako Barbecue Sushi Izakaya — Beef Jerky, Pinky Swears, and Feminism

Food – ★★★★
Service – ★★★
Deco – ★★★★

Price Range: $$$

This one has been long overdue, but I finally got a chance to sit down with a friend last night after my adventures trying gourmet burgers at the P&L Burger place. We’ve been boggled down with school, last minute change of plans, and succumbing to seasonal stuffy noses. So it was great that we finally finished exams and I could bring him out of his comfort zone and try something a little bit different.

Continuing on with my grill and char broiled theme, we ended choosing Chako a barbecue and izakaya restaurant. We managed to hold off on the drinking part, but we did get to experience the do it yourself AYCE serving of Korean barbecue and Japanese sushi. For those that don’t know, or gogigui, refers to a Korean method of grilling marinated beef, chicken, pork, and other types of meat on an open charcoal grill. Chako is a well-known franchise in the GTA. I use to go a lot more than I do now, so it was also a great chance for me to see if anything has changed. The experience is unique in itself, especially for those unfamiliar and are curious as to what happens. From a given menu, you can select the different types of meats, seafood, and greens that you want. The servers then bring out plates of raw ingredients and you get to grill on the stove that’s directly in the table. Definitely worth a try for those that believe know they are Grill Masters.

Since we’re in the holiday season, many of the weekend items were offered as well so we didn’t miss out on any of the items. I really enjoyed the Korean-style kalbi or short ribs. Of course, my favourite is the seafood. The tilapia fish fillet and the salmon are amazing when grilled.

Photo 12-18-2013, 7 26 31 PMAssorted items ready to be grilled

Photo 12-18-2013, 7 23 02 PMGrill with cold side dishes (Before)

Typical with traditional Korean meals, Chako serves unlimited cold side dishes. These are mainly meant to fill you up faster, so you eat less meat and seafood. That’s why I tend to avoid rice and carbs when I go to AYCE. However, a lot of the side dishes are quite delicious, and I couldn’t help eating quite a few on the side. They also had a new item, the cold noodle, which I thought was quite yummy too.

Photo 12-18-2013, 8 11 18 PMCold Soba Noodles

Of course, we came here for the actually grilled stuff! I ended up doing most of the cooking for the meal, which I actually enjoy doing when it comes to Korean barbecue. It must be the masculine instincts. A man and his grill should never be separated.
Photo 12-18-2013, 7 30 02 PM Various stages of grilling (After)

Each type of meat has its own cooking time and method. The best advice I can give when it comes to grilling Korean barbecue-style is to be very attentive to how long you let each side of a piece of meat sit on the grill. Some, like fish, must be rotated quickly to prevent the outside from sticking. For beef, pork, and lamb, the thin slices should be spread out evenly across the grill to maximize the surface area and prevent overlapping and leaving the edges raw. With any item, leaving it too long on the grill will result in everything being too dry. Cooking Korean barbecue is an art!

Photo 12-18-2013, 8 08 45 PM Looks tasty huh? Close-up of Short Ribs and Pork Slices

Unlike other grill houses, Chako offers both a complement of Korean barbecue items and a choice of Japanese sushi, hand rolls, and maki. I personally enjoy the mix between the two, because the lighter Japanese items prevents your palate from desensitizing to the heat-searing grilled meat.

Photo 12-18-2013, 7 25 17 PM Photo 12-18-2013, 7 44 35 PM 

California Hand Rolls & Spicy Salmon Maki

I think the most important part of a meal is the food and the conversations that arises. My dinner with my friend certainly lived up to both. Can’t wait for the next one!

- J

Chako Barbeque Izakaya on Urbanspoon

New Korea Restaurant — PBS Please!

Food for thought. Sitting in a cozy diner to eat is nice and all, but when you’re famished there’s nothing like ordering from a food court and knowing that you’ll get cheap food and be eating it quickly too (broke student speaking here). This is especially true when you go to an asian food court, because of the high competition and turnover rates. If a food vendor cannot attract and establish a recurring customer base by their prices, they have to do so with the food they serve. Oftentimes you will notice ridiculously lower prices at food courts, with some vendors even waiving taxes to attract customers.

New Korea Restaurant is one of those established fast food chains that serves popularized Korean food to the customers of the large supermarket chain that it is located in. Personally, though, my family just enjoys going to the food court simply for the food. Convenience and affordability always wins in the end.

Tonight I ordered gamjatang, one of the most commonly selected items on a Korean menu. A Korean friend of mine once told me that it’s become so popular that it’s almost become acculturated to mainstream cuisine. I guess that’s relatable to Chinese food served outside at restaurants now. Anyway, gamjatang, or Pork Bone Soup as it is otherwise known, is a spicy Korean soup with pork spine or ribs, and often contains vegetables, potatoes, hot peppers, and wild grounded sesame seeds. The best is served when the meat is tender enough that it literally falls of the bone. My order today was exactly that, and quite delicious too I must say.

ImageGamjatang (Pork Bone Soup)

One interesting thing to point out when eating Korean cuisine is the cold side dishes that often come with the main meal. New Korea Restaurant serves kimchi, Korea’s national dish. It is traditionally made with fermented napa cabbage, but can use a wider variety of vegetables like radish, scallion, or cucumbers.

 ImageDinner with kimchi on the side

So next time when you’re hungry and want to eat a full, satisfying meal immediately, why not try to get something at a food court? You might be deliciously surprised.

- J