Plans and expectations don’t always work out. Sometimes, you think you have a commitment with another party, but there always exists a chance, no matter how small, that they will fall through. Whether it is an emergency root canal surgery, a car accident or somebody’s water-breaking, I’m sure one could devise a multitude of different reasons to attempt to excuse their absence from a planned event. While this is fine for the person in question, what does the person you just left behind do? They can be compared to the valence electron of a group 1 alkali metal: #foreveralone. Alternative, perhaps they can call up a trusty friend in the K-Town neighbourhood, awkwardly drag them to Insadong in Coquitlam and make them watch you stuff yourself. True story.
The restaurant is clean and quite spacious, with a limited number of your standard “Asian restaurant” decorations strewn about. The moist towelette they provide (maybe from Hawthorne moist towelettes? Anybody?) is both a nice touch and an indicator that things are about to get down and dirty.
You are given a metal tea pot to provide yourself with barley tea. I sometimes wonder if this is more of a convenience for the customer or the server in terms of beverage maintenance. Perhaps it is a win-win situation, but I didn’t really see much of our server for most of the evening. The barley tea itself was somewhat weak in taste.
The customary Korean appetizers were doled out relatively quickly. From left to right, this included the potatoes, kimchi, spicy cucumber, pickled radish, and sprouts. I certainly don’t come across the sprouts being offered very often, so this was a nice touch. These were quite standard and ideal to keep you pacified as you…
…cook your spicy bulgogi ($12.99)! The meat is served on a large platter and, yes, you are expected to cook it yourself. This act amuses me, for it feels like I am my own chef at a restaurant away from my own kitchen. Unfortunately, this act can become quite torturous as the meat begins emitting the most delightful aromas due to their thick, viscous coating of sauce.
I would recommend not consuming until it resembles something reasonably close to the above. You can even stop prematurely if you want to reduce your risk of cancer, although I’m one to enjoy a bit of crisp every now and again. The process of cooking the meat that is already covered in sauce allows the flavour to truly permeate into the meat. With each bite, what you will masticate is a drier piece of pork filled with that distinctive sweet yet spicy taste that Koreans typically employ. Insadong’s meat was no exception.
Some fresh lettuce is also provided. Confession time: I really didn’t know what to do with this at the time, so I just ate it as some kind of redeeming and healthy side. Little did I know that one could place the meat into these green confinements for more efficient consumption. I enjoy doing this with Peking duck, so I probably would have enjoyed doing this here, too.
The bulgogi also comes with a side of dipping sauces and garlic. This truly exemplifies that at Insadong, meal chooses you: the end result depends on what you do with the resources available to you.
I also ordered the Dolsot bibimbap ($9.99), a mix of different vegetables with rice in a hot stone bowl. The egg, while still over-easy and gooey on the inside, was not as runny as it usually was. The other elements were fine, however.
A typical end result may appear similar to the above, although I’m too docile of a person to aggressively mix everything together. Infiltrated with that sweet and spicy sauce yet again, this bowl of rice was very tasty. As always, scraping the burnt pieces of rice stuck to the bottom of the bowl was an enjoyable task with a crispy payback.
The bibombap also came with a side of soup. I did not register this to any appreciable extent, really. You may already know how I feel about Asian side soups, in any case.
In the end, it’s hard to cast proper judgment on Insadong. As I’ve said before, you are the independent variable in this situation, and you’re given the basics to satisfy your palette. Expect minimal service, unless your stove has issues. All it takes is some stirring, a wallop of hot sauce and just a dash of ingenuity to get you going on your way to becoming a Korean BBQ master.
Conclusion: Andy ate a lot. Clearly.
403 North Rd.