I am not Korean, but I do have a pretty decent idea what Korean food is. I am blessed to have several friends both here and in Korea and I was also fortunate enough to work for a Korean couple for a year at their sushi restaurant. I have eaten authentic Korean food in friend’s homes and in restaurants while I was in Seoul for a month in May of 2015. I love it and I crave it. In fact, I make a pretty mean kimchi Jiggae, myself. My former boss told me how when I told her I missed eating hers.
We don’t have a Korean place in town per se. It’s one of the downsides of living in a smaller town. Watching Korean programming, it seems like they are ALWAYS eating and it makes me crave authentic food so much. When my daughter and I discovered a Korean BBQ place in Nanaimo, one hour away from where we live, we decided we should check it out.
I had read some pretty fantastic reviews so I was pretty excited to go and the concept of 쌈겹쌀 (pork belly with lettuce wraps) was making our mouths water. We hadn’t been able to eat it since last spring when we were in Seattle and visited a Korean BBQ place there with the actual table BBQ like in Korea. Needless to say, it was time!
The restaurant is in what appears at one time to have been a family home. The outside is totally unassuming…
We got there mid afternoon and it was pretty quiet. I wish I had taken some photos inside! The young girls who were working there were very attentive and friendly without hovering. As someone who has worked as a server, I know that’s a challenge when the place is quiet.
We knew what we wanted, so that was no problem. However, when I ordered it, the server didn’t understand me. hahaha. She quickly pointed out that she is NOT Korean and we had a little laugh about it. No doubt, she is accustomed to people butchering names (remember I worked in a sushi place for a year? I’ve heard some doozies) or just pointing at what they want. I apologized and showed her. She was super gracious and I was a little disappointed because I wasn’t going to get to practice my Korean!
Now, this is not traditional Korean BBQ where you cook your own meat. Just wanted to get that out of the way.
Also, I had never before seen spicy samgyupsal. Usually, the pork belly is grilled, then places on lettuce leaves with spicy gojuchang (red pepper paste, Korean staple) kimchi, rice and whatever else is on the table. This pork belly was already spicy and there was still a side of gojuchang. We couldn’t wait to dig in.
The sides were two types of kimchi, a fish cake ball, sprouts, and, of course, rice. These are all normal side dishes which I would have been served when I was at my Korean homestay. Missing is soup. Soup is definitely a mainstay of any authentic Korean meal. However, we had enough food in front of us, that this was no problem!
The pork was quite spicy, the kimchi flavourful, and the rice done to perfection. We oohed and aahed a lot over this meal, let me tell you. We left with “happy tummy” as I like to call it. I would highly recommend this place for anyone wanting to try a Korean meal even if it isn’t REALLY authentic BBQ. The food was delicious, the servers friendly, the price reasonable (about $15 for each of us) and the kitchen staff also appeared friendly.
You can check out Kim’s Korean BBQ at 1607 Bowen Rd in Nanaimo, BC.