A few weeks ago I was invited by Dishcrawl to check out its A Taste of Vancouver’s West End tour. Suggested by its name, it was a tour of four restaurants on the West End of downtown Vancouver, along Robson Street. Throughout the evening, we stopped by each restaurant and tried a trio of dishes. We didn’t know the list of restaurants ahead of time, only to be given a meet-up location and be ready to be surprised.
And so we met up at our first stop, Ap Gu Jung Korean Cuisine. Did you know how many Korean restaurants are in that area? A lot! Finally I spotted the place and met up with our host Jennifer.
Ap Gu Jung Korean (1642 Robson Street)
Each of us was given a tasting plate of some of the more popular Korean dishes: Beef BBQ (bulgogi), Pork on Fire (spicy pork), Seafood Pancake, Kimchi Pancake and Chicken Skewer.
The Beef BBQ was well-marinated with nice flavours, and was not overcooked. The Pork on Fire had some heat to it! It’s probably one of the spiciest pork BBQ I’ve had at a Korean restaurant. Seafood Pancake was good, crispy on the outside with lots of seafood in the batter (mostly squid, though, as expected). That being said, I liked that they carry more than just the typical seafood pancake — the Kimchi Pancake was not really spicy but you can taste the hint of sourness from the pickled cabbage. The Chicken Skewer felt a little bit out of place because it didn’t really say Korean to me.
The restaurant offers a variety of side dishes to go with our meal. They’re also very accommodating and offered substitutes to those who have dietary restrictions or allergies. I heard that our tasting plate was only item #1 of the trio that was promised at each location. What a generous host! Unfortunately we ran out of time so we missed out on the opportunity to try more dishes. But that was plenty of food to whet our appetite for the remaining stops.
So we headed east to our next location, only to stop just few stores over, in front of the Robson Public Market. Wait, there’s food at this public market? I thought they only sell suitcases here!
Hida Takayama Ramen (203 – 1610 Robson Street)
Yes, there is a food court inside this public market. We took a seat in front of the Ramen shop, Hida Takayama Ramen. According to the owner Mr. Asaoka, their broth is chicken-based, simmered for 3 days to create the depth of flavours – not with the use of MSG. Their noodles are also made in-house, authentic to the mountainous Hida Takayama region.
At each table of five, we shared three bowls of ramen. The noodles and chashu (sliced pork) are essentially the same; the differences are in the broth. First, the Hida Chuka Ramen is the traditional shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. The noodles were much thinner than other ramen places, but they have a nice chew to it. The broth had a nice soy sauce flavour yet light — it’s a broth that I can drink without having the need to down a big cup of water afterwards. The pork came from barley-fed pigs; it’s lean yet tender.
The White Sesame Ramen, according to Mr. Asaoka, is much preferred by their Asian customers. It has a much thicker, creamier broth thanks to the addition of white sesame paste. It tasted like goma-ae in ramen form.
The Sweet and Spicy Ramen, on the other hand, is apparently favoured by Caucasian/non-Asian customers. I couldn’t pinpoint the ingredients behind the sweet and spicy flavours; it’s not a familiar taste in Japanese food (not for me anyway), but it was good. Spicier than what I expected from Japanese food. The sliced pickled ginger added an extra layer of sweetness yet gingery flavour to the broth. To be honest, I actually liked this one more than the white sesame ramen.
Overall the three bowls of ramen were good and they are priced reasonably too, so I was quite surprised to see the low rating on Urbanspoon.
Two more restaurants to go! Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the Dishcrawl West End adventure!