the world is your platter
Here is, I daresay, Montreal’s best-kept secret. It’s a shame that this city’s well-fed contentedly bounce back and forth between popular but really very average fares at GaNaDaRa and Maison Bulgogi, but an even bigger embarrassment is the complete lack of recognition for the existence of far better Korean food just a little way around the corner from the buzz center. There can be only two reasons why Maru, despite being by far the best Korean restaurant we have frequented, has a really sorry flow of customers on any one night: 1. it’s too far from downtown to make the journey in the winter, 2. the NDG food scene remains in a closed bubble.
The number one motivation for you to take a Bixi, hop on a 24, pram-roll yourself over, is the seafood pancake (pajeon). Of course, if you already live in NDG, congrats, your house value is really more than you know it to be worth. I mean, have you tried their seafood pancake? Laid out on a large round pan in flat, unpretentious squares, there, in front of you, the most gratifying mix of flour, calamari, chives, green onion, shrimp, carrot, and octopus, fried to a chewy core inside a yellow and lightly browned crisp outer crust. Mmphm. The smell and taste of natural salt in the seafood, the crunch and the chew, and then next thing you know, you’re down to your last bite, and it’s still as flavorful as the first one, you feel wholesome, and maybe a little sad that it’s all gone now. Forget alcohol, karaoke, and every goddam thing your mother ever told you to stay away from, have some seafood pancake svp. The sauce, a mixture of soy sauce and a bit of vinegar, was very salty, but in the right amount is a good complement to the pancake.
We went back a second time just for the pancake, but we were pleased to discover another super tasty dish: the pork in spicy sauce (jeyuk bokkeum), served with a bowl of rice. Slices of pork meat stir-fried with onion, green pepper, cabbage, and coated in semi-thick red sauce, which has an option of 0-3 for spiciness (0 being mildest and 3 being extremely spicy). We opted for a level 1 spiciness, which was just right. Its flavor was just as mouth-filling as the seafood pancake. Our only little gripe is that we suspect they put MSG and definitely a lot of salt in this one.
Not all their food is consistently great; the spicy beef soup (yukgaejang) was bland, while the soft tofu stew (sundubu jjigae) hit the right mark. Their pineapple dumpling is an intriguing item on the desserts list – give it a go if you especially like pineapples, or a strange twist of sweet and hot fruit inside your dumplings. It’s a tragedy that this place doesn’t see more customers, so get on it for the love of pancakes! Oh, it’s also a great new place to have an office dinner (for a comfortable 10-15 pax, or more with reservation), you can have almost the whole place to yourselves, and they serve a selection of Korean alcohol. Also very family-friendly.