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True Seoul Food: Dinner at Insadong (Vancouver)

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Late report on last week's dinner at Insadong in Coquitlam. Located in the Korean area off North Rd, this gem is worth the trip as the impeccably authentic food is astounding. I've had a fair amount of Korean food before, mostly BBQ, but Insadong offers a great number of dishes I'd never even heard of.

We got there around 6 on a Friday and barely got in; the line was out the door when we left. The staff speaks is friendly but hurried, and speaks limited English—the kind of place where you might do well looking at what other people have and saying "I'd like that." Although the encyclopedic menu had a variety of specialty seafood concoctions and multi-diner specialties, we played it simple by ordering what we thought would be a light meal: "grilled fish soup."

The meal began with a variety of salads and kimchee: spicy, but not overwhelming. It turns out this means grilled fish AND soup. The fish is, well, a fish. A whole fish, which, judging from its deliciousness, was apparently not long in transit. Grilled over very high heat, with crispy skin and perfectly moist interior. We had two kinds, Yellow Croaker and Mackerel. Surprisingly, the Mackerel—which I've generally thought of as a greasy, stinky beast—was terrific, with white flesh rather than the oily grey I'd expected.

The soup contained strips of beef, tofu and hot pepper rings, among other things, in a strong-flavored broth that had a fermented, miso-like taste only stronger. I found the fermentation off-putting at first but it grew on me as I ate more.

One caveat: service was quick but getting the check was not, nor the credit-card retrieval. Once the meal is delivered, servers abandon you and have to be flagged down.

The unbelievable part? Dinner for two: under $25 plus tip.

If I go back (and I'm planning it already), it'd be nice to bring a large group and try the tableside BBQ dishes as well.

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  1. Insadong is one of the better Korean restaurants in the GVA for sure. The spicy stews are my favorite there.

    Grilled and salted Mackerel, when its in season is even better when its meat is fatter and oily. Not a popular dish to cook at home given all the smoke. :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: jay_kay

      I had a memorable dinner there over a year ago. Highly recommended.

      1. re: fmed

        What did you have during that meal? I've hit up some Korean restaurants in the nearby area so far, but am looking forward to trying out the barbeque here one day.

        1. re: shoku_tsu

          We had Kalbi, Ox Tail and Ginseng, Japchae, some sort of cold chicken salad, soba noodle soup, the grilled mackerel mention by BobtheBigPig, and a few other items. The BBQ here is the best in town, methinks.

          1. re: shoku_tsu

            If you make the trip, there's also a good bakery in a Korean supermarket across the street, they make intricate and delicate pastries. The supermarket has a large selection of Asian ingredients and a huge variety of fish, although much of it's frozen.