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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Korean Lunch Feast at Kyung Bok Palace (景福宫)

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IMG_7097 copy IMG_7123 copy IMG_7091 copyAfter three whole days of psychiatry lectures, Ringo and I were thrilled to find out that our Thursday afternoon lecture on addiction medicine had been cancelled and change to a self-study session.
Don’t get me wrong, psychiatry is fascinating, but an afternoon off in third year is always welcomed! After our morning lectures, Rich came to pick us up and we headed off to Richmond to find lunch. Ringo suggested that we try the new restaurant that the Aberdeen 车仔面 place’s owners had recently opened. He remembered that it was close to Manzo, but we circled the little plaza twice and couldn’t find it! Sad smile Next, I suggested Spicy Stage Café (川味鱼米线) to try their noodles and see how they compare to Deer Garden. Yet, we were disappointed again as it seems like they were closed for renovations until March. We finally settled on Kyung Bok Palace (景福宫) at Lansdowne Center, a Chinese-owned Korean restaurant. Now this place has been around for many years and we’ve eaten there countless times. As you can see from the pictures above, the owners have taken great care to maintain the ambience of the restaurant – with attractive entrance decorations to the plush seats and a large room available for private functions. I remember when they first opened, they used to have metal chopsticks too!

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We were promptly greeted and led to a spacious table and given both the lunch combo menu and the regular dinner menu. I was dismayed to find that their lunch special of pick 5 items for $19.99 was no longer available! Instead, it was replaced by a large selection of lunch special with 20 appetizers and 55 or so rice, noodle and soup combos and some lunch boxes and BBQ/soup combos as well. They are all reasonably priced at ~$7-10. Most of the selections also come with a drink, your choice of various cold soft drinks, ice tea, milk tea, lemonade (not available when I asked for it) and some hot drinks. We ordered three combos that came with drinks and went with a hot Earl Grey tea, ice tea and milk tea. It’s a nice touch on top of the traditional Korean tea that they serve, but it really makes the place resemble Hong Kong Cafes… Likely new owners as well~

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Rich was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t offered some cream and sugar with his Twinings Earl Grey tea, but wasn’t too bothered by it. The milk tea that I had was a bit over-sweetened. Ringo didn’t comment on his ice tea.

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Next came the traditional Korean side dishes (Banchan). There were four selections: kimchi, bean sprouts, broccoli and soy-marinated potatoes. I LOVE the potatoes here! I would actually order it if it was a separate item on the menu. In fact, I devoured it so quickly that Rich didn’t get a chance to get a close-up picture of it. Smile with tongue out I didn’t care much for the bean sprouts (too salty) and broccoli (kind of bland), while the kimchi was just the typical kind I can buy from T&T. Oh, those potatoes! I was told in the past that you can request more, but we had ordered so much food that I had no more room for it!

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We ordered a Korean Seafood pancake ($7.95), one of our favourite dishes, to share. Rich and Ringo kept calling it the seafood pizza. I suppose it does resemble a pizza more than a pancake. This is part of the appetizer menu (though I’m pretty sure it can fill me right up) and is a smaller version of their dinner menu seafood pancake. I liked how the pancake was not overtly doughy and contained abundant amounts of filling: prawns, squid, imitation crab and scallions. The pancake was served on a hot metal plate, which made the outer edges very crunchy, while the inside was still moist and tender. Absolutely delectable! It had enough flavouring to eat by itself, but it was served with a sweet soy/vinegar sesame sauce.

IMG_7141 copy The next to arrive was the seafood tofu soup that was part of the BBQ beef short ribs combo. We had a choice of this soup or Korean miso soup. I was happy to see it arrive steaming hot in a heavy metal bowl. The soup was mildly spicy (kimchi-like taste) and had plenty of ingredients despite it being a side dish to our combo; though it was mainly tofu and very little seafood. I think I spotted a few tiny tiny shrimp and mussels. The broth was flavourful and went well with the rice.

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This BBQ dish is part of the combo that came with the tofu soup. The onion sizzling under the beef really made my mouth water. The meat was on the tougher end but very tasty. I am not sure what sauce they use but it was sweet and savory. Nothing too exciting here but it does the job and left me more than full. I am quite happy with this combo (short rib, tofu soup and rice) at just $12.95.

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Next came the spicy stir-fried squid with vegetable on steam rice ($8.95). There were abundant squid pieces and onion pieces. Shredded egg pieces and green onion garnish were on top to enhance the look of the dish. The dish itself was rather salty but I enjoy the rubbery texture of the squid. As a warning, this dish is quite spicy.

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IMG_7163 copyThe dish pictured here is buckwheat noodle in cold soup ($8.95). I must say I wasn’t particularly impressed by how it looked: a few pieces of cold meat, cucumber and half a hard boiled egg slapped on top of a solid mound of buckwheat noodles drowned in this brownish liquid. I suppose they tried to make the meat, cucumber and egg look presentable. I’m pretty sure the mystery meat on top is VERY thinly sliced marinated beef. However, as Ringo does not actually eat beef, we tried to convince ourselves that it was pork instead. The menu should be more explicit and state that it comes with beef. The dish was served with two sauces: a horse radish type of sauce in the mustard-looking bottle and white vinegar 
in the other container. The soup was very bland – slightly sweet and sour. The marinated beef didn’t taste very marinated, and was also very bland. I didn’t have any of the noodle, but I assumed that if the meat didn’t even taste very good, the buckwheat noodles can’t really taste much better… I suppose the two sauces may have improved the dish, but Ringo did not add any. Overall, a very bland dish that he said he would not order again.

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Assorted seafood in soft tofu soup ($8.95)
Ringo felt really hungry, so he ordered two entrees. (This is common practice when dining with Ringo, which makes him an excellent food blogging buddy – more variety to try!) The second dish he got is the big brother version of the tofu soup I had. Aside from being bigger, there is a slight variation in the ingredients. The chef thoughtfully decorate the soup with imitation crab meat. There were also a big mussel and big prawn in the soup. Otherwise, the taste is identical. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the rice comes in these really cute little metal containers, which I thought was a nice touch.
Please note: this review is basely solely on our experience with their lunch menu. We have not tried their dinner menu (more expensive) and the all-you-can-eat BBQ after their assumed owner change.

The Yummies:
  • Abundant FREE parking at Lansdowne
  • Fairly good value for their lunch specials (I miss the pick 5 dishes for $19.99 though Sad smile)
  • Owners were thoughtful in their choice of décor creating a nice ambience for dining
  • Delicious seafood “pizza” and yummy potatoes
  • Very presentable menu – even the takeout menu is FULL colour and printed on good paper; you can definitely tell that the owner put lots of effort into the presentation of the restaurant as a whole

The Yuckies:
  • Servers kind of have tunnel vision and it’s hard to get their attention – though it is a VERY large restaurant
  • Dishes were hit and miss – with the buckwheat noodles being very disappointing 

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