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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!