Quick little post about a weekend lunch. No big revelations, just good funky Korean food with guts!
We had actually wanted to try out VanSoba but we got there at 12:50pm and they were already sold out of their handmade soba in little over an hour!! Their posted hours are 11:30am – 4:00pm, so that was a bit of a disappointment. Ah well, next time. (See Kinome review for a taste of handmade soba.)
We googled for something else to eat and came up with South Castle Korean Restaurant on 2nd St. near Lonsdale Ave. in North Vancouver. We’ve actually been to the South Castle location in Coquitlam way back in 2012. Turns out this North Van location is the “original” and that they licensed the name for the independently-owned Coquitlam location. Menus are slightly different between these two locations, but both locations sell Korean sausage that is actually stuffed intestine. Food with guts!
Buckwheat soba noodles is just one of those things. Waaaay less popular than ramen or even udon, you eat a serving of it and feel hungrier than when you started! But I’ve always had a fascination with it — the simplicity that hides layers and layers of complexity. The textural eating experience of the liquids meeting solids in your mouth — amazing. How the noodles act like the shittiest sponge, forcing you to dip your cold soba into the broth then slurp up fast. I love making that noise. Somehow that combination of a plain-looking plate of noodles plus a generic-looking dipping sauce can add up to something more than the sum of its parts. I really hate that overused phrase btw…but it really is apt in this case. If you can appreciate the quiet beauty of a Three Musketeers bar, then you can appreciate buckwheat soba noodles.
Last time we had fresh, handmade (hand-assisted?) udon was during our trip to Japan waaaaay back in 2006. It was a cool, artisanal-feeling place right in Shinjuku just a few steps from our hotel. If you’re curious, it was Mentsu-Dan. It was quite memorable for a few reasons:
It was cafeteria-style, thus really casual yet the udon noodles were good quality — smooth, firm, and chewy — everything you’d want in an udon.
The guys working the udon station were young but took their job seriously. But not so seriously that they didn’t crack a smile and give us a “V” sign when I took a picture of them! (See photo below)
Lots of sides to choose from, like tempura, spicy cod roe (!), natto, onigiri, etc.
The udon was served dry for the most part*, while up to then I had only known udon noodles in soup from Japanese restaurants in Vancouver.
*EDIT: This Serious Eats article actually lists Mentsu-Dan as a recommended choice for udon in Shinjuku, and says they have both hot and cold preparations. Still don’t remember seeing the more typical big bowls of udon in soup though.
Couple pics from Mentsu-Dan to establish a baseline:
I’ve heard about fresh udon-type places in Los Angeles (that sadly we just did not have time for BOTH times we went to LA). I imagine them to be similar to Mentsu-Dan. Anyways, imagine my surprise when right on Robson St. near Bute (and down the block from Konbiniya), a new udon place opened up recently that makes their own udon and soup! It’s called Sanuki Udon!
*Before you mention Sekai Udon Bar at Metrotown, I’m ignoring any non-Japanese-run places — the same way I ignore any Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese-run “Japanese” restaurants.
AnnaLena has been burning up my Instagram feed ever since it opened about six months ago. I saw well-plated (that is, not pretentious nor precious), approachable food along the lines of Burdock & Co. (which I love) and other contemporary West Coast restaurants. I was curious, but it takes a lot of wrangling to get Wicca into places like this. So I kept this place in my back pocket. Luckily, a failed attempt to get into Kinome on West Broadway turned into the perfect moment to try out AnnaLena!
We received a wonderful cookbook (Quintessential: Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine) from Helga earlier this year, but we hadn’t gotten around to actually cooking from it until now. Wicca used the Pork Ribs Braised in Fish Sauce (Sườn Ram) recipe as a base, then tweaked it to suit her palate. We didn’t really intend to post this as a full recipe at the time, so I don’t have photos of the ingredients, prep, etc, but I hope this will inspire you anyways! Just check out the Instagram posts that I did that night. It was delicious!
Damso Modern Korean Cuisine on Bute near Robson started this “All-You-Can-Eat Korean Fried Chicken Wings Happy Hour Special” back in mid-July but I only noticed the sign for it this week. I took on the challenge… Last time I was here, I had some so-so Korean-style ramen and haven’t been back since. But it’s so close to my work and I think I can eat $11 worth of wings in one sitting! So I winged it.
We went to a totally fun Ukrainian Dim Sum Pop-up tonight at What’s Up? Hot Dog! on Hastings near Nanaimo. Hosted by @whatsuphotdogvan, with food by Mike Scorgie (@scorgiesown), and some front-of-house assistance from Sarah from @communitypizzeria. It was one of those great, street-level events that are happening all around you if you keep your eyes open 😉
I just spent the last half an hour looking longingly at old Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle photos. But this is a supposed to be a review of Fat Mao Noodles! I guess that says something…that I’d rather revisit 2-3 year old experiences than think about what happened yesterday.
Instagram has been great for me once again. Seems like the more you put in, the more you get out. Last week, I had posted a photo of some sad-looking nachos from Browns Social House where I voiced my displeasure:
We quite like Taiwanese food but don’t really have a go-to place that we outright love yet. We used to like Red Persimmon in the Crystal Mall food court (closed and turned into something else), Lingering Flavour beside London Drugs on Kingsway near Joyce (which is now Bubble Waffle Cafe), and Kalvin’s Szechuan. We haven’t really explored Taiwanese food in Richmond except back in the 90s at places like Vogue. Good thing Instagram came through for us again when we found out about Corner 23 Bubble Tea on Cambie near King Edward Ave. Thanks to phancouver in particular for posting this photo.