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Matsarang House (Cgy)- damn this is good.

John Manzo Sep 9, 2006 08:57 PM

I've written a bit about my first visit to this tiny Korean place in the retail level of the new Tarjan Point condos (downtown west end, at 10th St and 6th Ave SW- Matsarang is on the 10 St side, south of 6th); I had a bulgogii-dakgogi combo and was very impressed at the value and the deliciousness... Today I went for lunch and had the bibimbap, and I am writing to confirm that this place is an absolute gem.

Bibimbap is a bowl of rice topped with various veggies, sometimes with beef (Matsarang's is, with shreds of the same absolutely delicious beef that is their bulgogi, not just unseasoned ground beef as you sometimes get with bibimbap), and topped with a fried egg. You squirt some korean chili condiment (it's mild) on top and nosh away. Matsarang give you four ramekins of side dishes- a very small cup of soup- first time it was a kind of thin rice porridge with potatoes, very nice, but today was a beef broth with a few shards of green onion and a tiny smattering of cubed potato- didn't look like much but MAN it was delicious, rich loud flavour and a bit spicy- I could have eated a big bowl of this stuff. Then comes the main dish, a generous bowl of bibimbap, featuring the aforementioned bulgogi beef, fried egg and in the bowl are various veggies including what appear to be the spinach-like "mountain vegetable" that I've had at Soba Ten- not just the western stuff (carrot, broc) you sometimes see in the bowl. Namul- the little side dishes of kimchee and other goodies- are also on offer, and you get three dishes at Matsarang ($1.50 for seconds)- today it was a serviceable kimchee, savoury bean spouts w/ green onion, and a little something special- the third ramekin had both a toonie-sized piece of omelet and two of stunning, custardy green onion pancake.

All this for $9.95- great quality, fast service, lovely people, large portion... Only complaint is that the place is minuscule but I doubt there would be a problem finding a seat on a saturday (closed sunday). Weekday lunch is as I have found a little too crownded. They're open for dinner M-Sat when prices are a couple of bucks higher but with more sides too.

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  1. m
    marcopolo Sep 11, 2006 04:10 PM

    I've had their lunch special a couple of times, and dinner once, and wholeheartedly agree: this place rocks! The quality's hard to beat for take out, service is friendly, and you get all the aforementioned little sides to go with your meat(s).

    1. g
      Gobstopper Sep 11, 2006 06:09 PM

      I've had the take out as well and thought it was out of this world. They have a great heat sensibility, taking the chili flavour right to the top without burning out the mouth.

      1. sharonanne Sep 13, 2006 02:37 AM

        Had the dinner special tonight. 4 sides plus kimchee, 3 kinds of meat. $11.95. Very good but not at all spicy other than the kim chee. They were very quiet at 5:30 although they did 3 take-outs while we were there.

        1. y
          yen Sep 13, 2006 05:48 AM

          Funny, i have a differing opinion than you guys - a rarity!
          I've been once and found it to be good, but not worthy of the accolades you guys are heaping on them. The food was certainly a decent sized serve, with a lot of variety. I had Galbi, Bulgogi, and Chicken. The food was decent, but nothing exceptional.

          I prefer Bow Bulgogi House for their 7.95 lunch special. A much better deal in my mind. But i'll give their Bibimbap a try i guess...

          4 Replies
          1. re: yen
            sharonanne Sep 14, 2006 01:38 AM

            Gee, I didn't think I gushed. I just reported back. My husband's final word was 'good but not worth a trip downtown for' (we were already downtown)

            I know I said 'very good' but when it's amazing I certainly will be more explicit. It does expand our choices within walking distance of his office.

            1. re: sharonanne
              yen Sep 14, 2006 02:21 AM

              Man. im getting called out today :)

              You guys was the vernacular for everyone who posted above. You definitely didnt gush. But if you read the 3 posts above yours, they did by my definition.

              However, i stand corrected. You did not gush :)

              1. re: yen
                John Manzo Sep 14, 2006 02:44 AM

                I gushed, I admit it, you could have mopped the floor with my napkin. But I'm starved for Korean and I do love this place. OH GOD I LOVE IT!!!

                1. re: John Manzo
                  yen Sep 14, 2006 03:14 AM

                  Lol. John, you need to make a Korean friend. You think restaurants are good? The best Korean food is served in the kitchens of Korean mothers around the world.

                  Think all you can eat Galbi and Bulgogi that has been marinating in large plastic vats for a week. Think Kim Chee that they still bury in the ground to ferment. Think eggs so fresh they might just get up and walk away! Man i miss my Korean friends (and their mothers!) :)

          2. John Manzo Sep 13, 2006 06:17 PM

            I've never been able to get a table at bow bulgogi...

            1 Reply
            1. re: John Manzo
              yen Sep 13, 2006 06:23 PM

              You have to make a reservation. The place is too small by a half, and as a walkin, it's pretty much impossible to get a seat.

            2. m
              marcopolo Sep 14, 2006 04:44 PM

              yeah, i probably gushed. Is bow bulgogi better? without a doubt. Is matsarang the best korean in calgary? No. Is it the best korean TAKE-OUT within 10 blocks of my house. Absolutely. I wouldn't really recommend it for a sit-down meal, but it is what it is (a hole in the wall which serves good korean, quickly and cheaply, but lunch is def. better value than dinner), and it does it well.
              ha ha, oh well, i guess i should declare my biases more openly.

              1. John Manzo Sep 14, 2006 05:43 PM

                Yen- it sounds like Kporean and Lebanese mommies should get together and make the world a better place once and for all!!

                1. s
                  Shazam Oct 10, 2006 04:48 AM

                  The Korean chili condiment is actually a form of fermented bean paste with chiles added called "gochujang". The vegetables used for bibimbap should include bracken, a type of fern that is actually midly poisonous :)

                  To clarify, the Korean word to describe the sides you had are called "panchang", not "namul". "Namul" means literally "wood" or "vegetable" in Korean.

                  I'll have to try this place out. One thing that is sorely missing in Calgary are soontubu restaurants - it's tofu soup, served to your requested level of spicyness, comes with rice and a ton of panchang.

                  1. alex8alot Mar 13, 2007 08:52 AM

                    Yen, it comes late, but here comes your calvary in regards to matsarang. We ate there last night and for Korean food, it was mediocre... to terrible. Husband had the mixed grill meats, which were seasoned all right, but very dry. My sulluntang (beef soup) was awful. I would swear that it was a weak beef broth doctored with an instant soup mix. The slices of beef were rubbery. The MSG taste was only slightly detracted from by the copious use of white pepper, which was also heavily present in the porridge thing they served before the meal. My daughter who eats everything and has loved korean food since before she had teeth wouldn't touch the stuff.
                    ironically, the name of the restaurant means taste/flavor love, whereas I left feeling like a victim of taste death as my mouth, throat and sinuses were scalded by the white pepper. Koreans don't even generally use white pepper.

                    but yes, the kimchee was good

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: alex8alot
                      yen Mar 13, 2007 09:22 AM

                      Sorry to hear that. I actually tried swinging by there a few weeks ago, but found it closed. I wasnt sure if it was permanently, or temporary (it was a Thursday night, 8pm), but at least you've managed to confirm that. Of course, now im not sure i want to go back :)

                      1. re: yen
                        alex8alot Mar 13, 2007 09:30 AM

                        well as long as you stay away from the beef soup, which I should have known better than to order I guess, you may be pleased. I forgot to mention that the other issue I had was the price. I don't find them at all reasonable for the take-out setting of the place, and the limited amount of panchan they put out. For the same price at a regular restaurant, they do not charge for refills. Their lunch menu seemed a better value, provided you like what you get! :)

                        1. re: alex8alot
                          yen Mar 13, 2007 09:55 AM

                          I was craving grilled meats, which i found to be "ok" there. But i'd take Bow Bulgogi every time.

                          And i agree, the value isnt really there. Though these days, that's true of many places. Prices just keep going up and up! I don't understand why panchan wouldnt have free refills though - just like places that give you 10 or 12 french fries with your order. It's cheap! Give a little extra... you can never go wrong.

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