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Jan 7, 2008 08:13 PM

mmm Maison Bulgogi... want more, but what to order?

We finally got a chance to eat at Maison Bulgogi and loved it. Mind you that both of us (me and my partner) know nil about Korean food, so we ordered what we tried elsewhere and liked. We chose the bulgogi and seafood scallion pancake, and both were very good; but it seems like we are stuck at those two dishes at every Korean resto we try. They are excellent choices in making us happy; but I sense that there are further possibilities...

I would like to go back and work my way through the menu, but I'll be honest, it is hard to choose: too many options and none of the menu descriptions and informative enough. When I am alone, I am not afraid to nose dive or randomly point (found lots of favorites through this innovative ordering technique); but the partner is a little bit more fussy and more importantly he is not a big fan of pork (gasp!). I know there are a few Korean food experts at this board, so I am looking for suggestions. What would you suggest this rookie to try?

Teach me how to Korean food, pretty please!

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  1. Do you like spicy?

    I find that I really like the way the cook seasons the kojuchang. That is the spicy red chile sauce. So I really like some of the dishes that use this as a base for the sauce, like the ojingobokum (stirfied squid with vegetables in spicy sauce). I really love the squid stirfry with the pork belly but.... it's pork. The dokbokki is also really delish (rice cakes and pork sauteed in the chile sauce) but again it is pork. Still, you might like that dish... Funnily enough, I am not a huge fan of the bibimbap there, but my husband likes it a lot (rice with vegetables and meat and the chile sauce).

    The soups are very well made. they do a great job with the broth. So choose the ingredients you like and the level of spiciness and point away! The soondubu is great (tofu soup, a bit spicy). The Jjam bong is popular with my parents (Seafood spicy noodle soup). I love the potato pork neck bone soup (for you, not the partner). Yuk ke tang (spicy beef soup) is one of the more spicy soups. I sweat like a pig, but I love it. And if you want something milder, dok mandu kuk (Rice cakes and korean dumpling soup) is tasty and not at all spicy. My poor spice-challenged partner loves it. Also not spicy: jajangmyun, which are thick noodles in a black bean sauce with vegetables and meat, but I think it may be pork again, you'll have to ask. this black bean sauce is a little different than the chinese version. You are meant to order this noodle dish as a single dish meal and eat it straight, without rice. It is milder than the Chinese version.

    If you don't mind fish roe, the al tang is a soup with fish roe as the main ingredient. yum.

    If you haven't had japchae, it is very good there. Cellophane noodles seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce, with vegetables and meat (I can't remember if it is beef, but I think it is). Not at all spicy. This is a Korean classic.

    And the tang seyuk is good too. It is battered beef deep fried and covered with sweet and sour sauce, with peppers. not spicy. It is based on chinese sweet and sour, but it has a Korean twist to it. it you like deep fried and sweet and sour, it is worth ordering. I really like their version.It is more sour than a lot of the chinese sauces I've tried, I think there is more vinegar... This you'll want to share with a bunch of people, it would be hard to eat it all alone.

    well now I am hungry... Stupid diet.They are actually open quite late, and I could go now, but I'm not supposed to eat before bedtime...

    I hope that is a good start? The nice thing about this place is that the food is so reasonably priced that you can afford to experiment without breaking the bank. She is a really good cook. (I'm assuming the woman is the main cook, but I may be wrong. But my mother pimped her for some info on some of the recipes, and it seemed that she is one of the main cooks, if not the main cook.)

    6 Replies
    1. re: moh

      Oh my! Thank you so much for your effort, this is excellent.

      I love spicy foods, and I love pork (mmm pork belly), so I am definitely ordering the pork dishes. Well, I will either eat them alone or try to proselytize the partner. His dislike is mostly from non-familiarity with the beast and cultural upbringing; he'll see the way one day. I work not too far from there, and I can see that this place will be competing with Bangkok for my lunch spot. I'll just start with the soups, and work my way around the list. Thanks again!

      1. re: moh

        Having worked our way through the Bulgogi menu at least twice, I would heartily second all of the above suggestions. My wife's fave is the Yuk ke tang, which I believe is the one that uses Mama's homemade noddles, and is to die for.

        1. re: moh

          According to a person talking about this restaurant that I saw, their jap chae is with beef(just as you thought). Maison Bulgogi is open very very late on weekends(close at 3am Friday - Sunday).

          1. re: moh

            Been to Maison Bulgogi twice in past weeks, based on this thread. Tried Jap Chae, I didn't care for it to be honest(after tasting it, I remember eating this dish before). Originally when I tried to find it on the menu, & I couldn't, I'd explained the dish to the waiter('noodles with sesame oil & soy sauce'). The waiter couldn't help me, but eventually I saw 'Jap Chae' on the menu. When I told him this is the dish, he didn't think the dish had sesame oil.

            Yesterday at Maison Bulgogi I tried their seafood pancake & I liked it. The seafood spicy noodle soup mentioned above seems to be #64 on the MB menu. Yuk Ke Tang(spicy beef soup with home-made noodles) seems to be #35 on the MB menu, although it's listed under a different name.

            I couldn't find 'Al Tang(soup with fish roe as main ingredient)' on the MB menu. The MB owner told me, there's no dish named 'Al Tang' & there's no dish that's soup with fish roe.

            1. re: BLM

              Yes I went recently and realized that I didn't see al tang on there. My bad, I thought i had had it there, but obviously my memory is off. It has been a while since I have al tang anywhere, as I am a huge fan of the gam ja tang (pork neck bone soup with potato). Thanks for the correction! And again, sorry about the spelling of dishes. But every resto spells "englishization" of Korean names differently, and it is hard to keep track of all the different variations. I have found the menu online (they are part of A la Carte Express now), and the Yuk Ke tang (spicy beef soup) is spelled "Uk Gae Jang" on th eMB menu, and Jjam bong (spicy seafood soup) is spelt Jjam Bbong. Tang seyuk( Battered beef deep fried and in sweet and sour sauce) is listed as Tang Su. Sorry, there is no spell check in the world that can help you with this! And if you go to 10 korean restos, you will see 10 different spellings for everything.

              Jap Chae certainly has some sesame oil in it. I'm not sure you should trust the waiter on this one. Sesame oil is ubiquitous in Korean cuisine. I have not seen a recipe for Jap Chae that didn't have sesame oil in it.

              1. re: moh

                Thanks for your detailed response. Yes, sesame oil is ubiquitous in Korean cuisine(I've learned from visiting Korean restaurants in past while).

            1. re: papilles

              Beer for sure, though not a great selection. Don't recall seeing a wine list. All meals come with a bottomless mug of tea.

              1. re: carswell

                Yes, i love that tea. it is boricha, Toasted barley tea. I hated it as a child, but when I went to Maison Bulgogi, I had it for the first time in years, and suddenly understood the appeal.

                1. re: moh

                  Ah ha. Thanks for the clarification. I like it too but found it didn't taste much like any other tea I've drunk.

                2. re: carswell

                  Does their beer selection include OB? Do they also serve soju?

                  1. re: rcianci

                    OB? Don't think so. Remember seeing Sapporo Premium in the large can and maybe Tsingtao along with the usual Canadian macrobrewery swill. There may have been a sake or two but if any soju was on the list, I missed it.

                    1. re: rcianci

                      They do have soju. We saw some bottles the last time we went.

                      1. re: rcianci

                        Speaking of which, does anyone know how much a bottle of soju typically costs in a Korean restaurant? Can I get it cheaper anywhere? I'm always curious to try it but deterred because it's rather pricey.

                        1. re: mainsqueeze

                          Based on all the rave reviews for Maison Bulgogi, I went...and was underwhelmed. I ate there twice, and both times came away dis-satisified. The first time I went, I ordered the dolsot bibimbap, rice with vegetables, egg, and bulgogi served in a hot stone bowl. The portion was very large, but actual dish itself was only so-so. The vegetables seemed stale, the egg, if memory serves, was completely raw (not a big issue as that the heat from the stone bowl cooks the egg), and there was a fair amount of oil (perhaps sesame?) at the bottom of the dolsot bowl. As dolsot bibimbaps go, it wasn't terrible (I've had worse), but it wasn't fabulous. The second time I went to Maison Bulgogi, I ordered what I thought was the signature dish, the bulgogi, and it was the worst bulgogi I've tasted yet. If was waay to salty, so much so that I sent it back to the kitchen to have it re-fried in a less salty sauce. It came back slightly better, but was still not very good. I took a few bites and then had it wrapped to go - I didn't eat it, but gave it to a homeless person. To be fair to Maison Bulgogi, the second time I went, on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps the regular chef was absent. The first time I went, the chubby Korean lady, who is also the owner, was present and overseeing everything. When I went on that Sunday, though the service was still friendly and efficient, perhaps the regular kitchen staff had the day off. Nonetheless, even if the regular kitchen crew was absent, there still should be someone compentent at the helm.

                          I may give Maison Bulgogi one more shot - third time's the charm type thing.

                          I'm relatively new to Korean cuisine, have only been eating it for the last 4 months or so. But in that time, I've eaten it a lot (and I mean a lot!), and almost always at Maison Seoul on Sherbrooke in NDG/Westmount. My limitus test for a good Korean restaurant is the dolsot bibimbap dish. And at Maison Seoul, it's the best I've had yet. It comes in a sizzling hot dolsot, the rice and bulgogi perfectly cooked, with a good variety of fresh vegetables (slivers of carrot, zuccini, purple lettuce, leaf lettuce...etc), and just the raw egg yolk. The bulgogi is really really good here, imo. It's been well seasoned and marinated, you can taste the rice wine in it. Whereas the bulgogi at Maison Bulgogi was simply thinly sliced over salted beef stir-fryed in a wok, it seemed.

                          Thus far I've eaten at Manna on Bishop, Towa on St. Catherine, Hwang Kum on Sherbrooke, Maison Bulgogi on St. Catherine, and of course my beloved Maison Seoul. In terms of service, the wait staff at every restaurant has been friendly and efficient. Though at Towa, the waitress struggled with her english. Food wise, I prefer Maison Seoul. You pay a little more there, but you get what you pay for - quality. The complimentary side dishes are always excellent. Their miso soup has real cubes of tofu and seaweed, whereas Manna's, Towa's, Hwang Kum's, and Bulgogi's only had the barest slivers of minced green onion, or were simply miso broth. The dolsot bibimbaps at these other restaurants aren't as good either, imo. At Manna's, it came in a small dolsot, and the meat was minced meat (aka hamburger meat), with the egg gently fried (yolk and white) served atop the rice, veggies, and meat. The portion was small, and I left still feeling a bit hungry afterwards. At Towa's, it didn't even come in a dolsot, but in a ceramic dish. When I questioned the waitress about the dolsot, she didn't even understand what I was saying! Anyway, the dish once again contained minced meat and not bulgogi. The vegetables were fresh, and the egg once again was lightly fried and placed on top. At Hwang Kum, same situation as the others, fresh veg, lightly fried egg, rice, and minced meat. The only two places that actually put bulgogi in their dolsot bibimbaps are Maison Seoul and Maison Bulgogi. At MB, the portion is larger, but is not as good. The egg, here, is not fried, but placed raw in the dish. The raw yolk and white will cook in the dolsot, but will make the rice wet and runny. At MS, only the egg yolk is used, and the white is discared. The portion at MS is slightly smaller, but is more satisifying, I believe.

                          Anyway, these are my findings regarding dolsot bibimbap at the above restaurants. If anyone else - here's looking at you, Moh! - can recommend another Korean resto that has a fabulous dolsot bibimbap dish, let us know.

                          1. re: Chai Latte

                            The Bibimbap entry on Wikipedia reads,

                            "A variation of this dish, dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥, "dolsot" meaning "stone pot"), is served in a very hot stone bowl in which a raw egg is cooked against the sides of the bowl. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil, making the layer of the rice touching the bowl golden brown and crispy."

                            So that would explain why you found sesame oil at the bottom of your dolsot.

                            We went to Maison Bulgogi the other day and ordered the Black Goat Stew. It was quite salty (as is everything else there, I find) but otherwise delicious and laden with goat meat.

                            1. re: Chai Latte

                              I have only eaten at Seoul a couple of times because of location, but every time I have eaten there I have been very happy with it. I recall thinking that the dolsot bibimbap there was excellent. I have also greatly enjoyed the ja jang myun there. Resto Seoul is a very good place for Korean. The only real drawback was that I am not a big fan of their kimchi, which is a minor quibble (well, that could be potentially major, Koreans are passionnate about their kimchi).

                              I agree with you that the bibimbap is not the best at Maison Bulgogi, I was underwhelmed by it too. I definitely prefer the one at Seoul. I am a bit surprised by the report on the bulgogi. Either it was a bad day, or perhaps its not to your taste. I notice you sent it back to the kitchen to have it recooked, does it mean you didn't cook it yourself at the table? I prefer to cook it myself, and I let it caramelize a lot. But that wouldn't solve the problem of saltiness, so perhaps it was an off day.

                              Hey, no question, these are two different joints! Seoul is a much more upscale atmosphere, MB is a student hangout. But I am particularly addicted to the Pa Jon (seafood pancake) and the great soups (not the miso, but the larger dinner soups) at MB. And the kimchi is more to my taste.

                              Re: other dolsot bibimbap at other places, I'm not sure I can help you a lot, on account of I don't order this dish often. If my hubbie orders it, I'll usually try his. That being said, thanks very much for reminding me about the bibimbap at Seoul! I will have to head back and partake again, it has been my favorite so far in Montreal.

                              1. re: moh

                                "I agree with you that the bibimbap is not the best at Maison Bulgogi, I was underwhelmed by it too. I definitely prefer the one at Seoul. I am a bit surprised by the report on the bulgogi. Either it was a bad day, or perhaps its not to your taste. I notice you sent it back to the kitchen to have it recooked, does it mean you didn't cook it yourself at the table? I prefer to cook it myself, and I let it caramelize a lot. But that wouldn't solve the problem of saltiness, so perhaps it was an off day."

                                I was at MB alone on a Sunday afternoon that day. Since I was by myself, I ordered the bulgogi dish for one - this is usually cooked in the kitchen with some veggies and then served over rice. I believe the bulgogi was both poorly made (regular chef's day off) and waay over-salted. Based on what others have said, MB has a tendency to over-salt it seems.

                                Anyway, I will give MB one more shot. I'll order one of their dinner soups, the pork neck potato one. If I don't like that, then I'll know that MB isn't for me.

                                1. re: Chai Latte

                                  If you like seafood, then also get the pa jon (seafood pancake). If you don't like seafood, the tang se yuk (they spell it differently maybe), which is deep fried battered beef in sweet and sour sauce. The last time I had it, they used frozen vegetables in the sauce, which was odd, but I just ignored them. The beef and the sauce are great if you like this sort of thing. If neither of these are tempting, try the jap chae noodles with beef and vegetables. I think they do these dishes very well. And the Pork neck bone soup is one of my favorites, but I must say that I consider it a fairly adventurous choice. It is based on the Korean version of Miso, but it is much heartier and stronger flavoured than miso. I just love picking at the pork neck bones, yum.

                                  I was thinking about the rave reviews. I can tell you that from my perspective, this was one of the first Korean restos in Montreal that I felt really delivered good. solid Korean cooking that wasn't watered down too much to make it more appealing to those not as familiar with Korean cooking. I liked other places all right, but they all compared less favourably to my mother's cooking. The Korean resto scene in Montreal has always been weak compared to Toronto. So i was excited to see a place like this finally open up. I wouldn't go there for a special occasion, it really is a student dive kind of place. But the food is honest, and usually quite consistent. It is a start, and hopefully as more people discover the cuisine, more will open up. But as far as raves go, these are definitely "typical Chowhound place" raves, not "French Laundry" raves. It's the kind of place that I could drop by at anytime, dressed in any way I want, and get a great meal for under $10, plus be reminded of my mother's cooking. But others may prefer more formal settings, and that is fine! I like those too! But i am more likely to spend $20, and I can't just walk in after biking for 2 hours.

                                  1. re: moh

                                    I've tried the seafood and vegetable pancakes at Maison Seoul, and I love them. I've also had their version of general tao chicken, pieces of chicken that are battered and deep fried and served in a spicy sweet sour sauce. As for the pork neck soup at MB, I'm willing to give it a shot. I'm adventurous, and hey, I like miso style soups.

                                    BTW, I wouldn't classify MS as a formal type restaurant per se. Yes, it's a bit more upscale than MB, but I don't feel out of place going there in jeans and a sweater. Indeed, many of their clientale usually dress casually. A couple of times, I've seen businessmen wearing their suits having dinner, but it isn't a formal wear type of place.

                                    1. re: Chai Latte

                                      They will give you a mamason (Mother's hand, a disposable plastic glove) to eat the pork neck bones with. This way, you can pick up the bones, rip them apart, and get all the wonderful tender pieces o meat from the bone. It's work, but if you like pork, then this is so worth it!

                                      Agree with MS not being so formal, just more formal that the student dive that MB is...

                                      Anyhow, point being, Seoul is a fine place to eat! Again, thanks for the reminder, I shall be heading out to have dolsut bibimbap there soon!

                              2. re: Chai Latte

                                I have been eating at the Maison once a week, sometimes more often these days and I have to agree with Chai Latte in that some of the dishes underwhelmed me a little bit after having such high expectations. However, nothing I had was "bad", and I think it is still one of the best bets in the hood. The two dishes that we won't be reordering were the stir fried rice noodles with shrimp and the marinated oxtail. I wouldn't personally order the rice noodles myself (not a big fan), but the beau did and I just had a taste. While it was acceptable, it was somewhat unmemorable and generic. I really had high expectations for the oxtail (big fan of braised oxtail), but it was tough and flat tasting. I think the way they cooked it wasn't the most appropriate for this cut of meat. It didn't have that level of soft richness that you taste after an 8 hour braising.

                                However, many other dishes we tried were very good. My partner became a fan of the barbecued eel and I have tried and loved the spicy homemade noodle soup, kimchi pork, bulgogi and the seafood pancakes Some of the dishes that Moh mentions are not listed with the exact same names in the menu (yeah, I went there with a printout of this discussion), so it required some guesswork, but all turned out good.

                                I can empathize with the saltiness criticism a little bit. I think the food tends to be on the saltier side at the Maison. However, since I like my food a little bit over-salted anyway, this was never a problem for me. But I can see how it could have.

                                Anyhoo, I think this place became my late dinner after night classes destination. First because it is open late. Second, the worst we had there were still much more better than anything else you can get in the hood, especially at late night when Bangkok is closed. Thanks again everyone for the suggestions, now I need to find where to score some good kimchi; I am addicted. Perhaps we could leave this to another topic.

                                1. re: Chai Latte

                                  Went again recently to Maison Bulgogi, and I got the bulgogi and marinated pork to grill at the table. This time it was overly salty as described by Chai Latte. Hmm. That is a shame, because in the past it has been very good. Either the quality is going down, or there is some inconsistency. My guess? Meat is marinated in really large batches, and as you get to the bottom of a batch, there is going to be an increase in the amount of marinade and length of marinating time. This could lead to some inconsistency in level of saltiness. Anyhow, the point is that the marinated meats for grilling may indeed be excessively salty.

                                  The Pa jon remains consistently excellent everytime I order it (and I get it every time I'm there). Also, her soups remain wonderful, and the Dok Bokki (Spelling is certainly wrong, it is rice cakes and chicken or pork in a spicy red chile sauce) excellent as well.

                                  1. re: moh

                                    We went to Seoul BBQ on Cavendish last week, after not having been for a while. Pleased to report the jam bong (spicy seafood noodle soup) was as good as ever, and completely satisfied the craving I had for it.

                                    1. re: bomobob

                                      I agree w you Bomobob I remember having an apt right on 2500 cavandish and walking down the street to eat the Jam Bong at Seoul BBQ it was excellent, thanks for reminding me about that spicy "feel good" soup!!!

                                      last fall a friend of mine took me to this great spot on Sherbrooke going west called Hwang Kum, Its a small family runned restaurant and I fell inlove w it, if ur on a budget and want something that feels like a friends kitchen...this is the spot. Trust me. It's cheaper but the food isn't comprimised.

                                      I've eaten at MB and really hated it this is probably at least two summers ago, I don't find the standards of the kitchen up to par ( i saw packaged meat on the floor-even if was temporarily there it was in the midst of summer...). I'm not too crazy on "student spots" either bc most of time corners are cut and quality is comprimised and inconsistant.


                                      1. re: minno

                                        Hwang Kum is great, and has been around for quite a few years, but there seemed to be a period when they were closed for undetermined reasons. It just got so that we stopped trying to go.

                                        1. re: minno

                                          I see...I hope it wasn't sanitary or else my Korean Kitchen is a bust!!!