Showing posts with label gamjatang. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gamjatang. Show all posts

Mapo Gamjatang (Toronto)

I’m not a comic book reader, but I do wonder what captions are used to describe eating scenes… assuming comic books even depict meals. I’m sure there would be noises like SLURP mentioned, but would the artist try to portray the flavour elements with descriptions like POW or BAM?

What attracts me to Korean food is that POW of flavour that hits the taste buds and causes it to beg for more. A slurp of gamjatang or pork bone soup hits the tongue with saltiness giving away to spiciness and finishing off with a whole concoction of umami and garlic. That POW is what I was hoping for when I entered Mapo Gamjatang but was greeted with a KNOCK instead – as in, knock knock, where are you flavour?

I should have clued in when a dipping sauce was brought over with instructions that it was for the pork bones. Unfortunately, since it was given at the beginning of the meal with all the banchan, the dipping sauce was set aside and forgotten.

Why would we need a condiment for gamjatang? The soup is supposed to be powerful on its own. Yet, what I experienced was like a chunkier elevated version of the soup packages you get with ramen. Yes, there’s flavour, but it’s fairly one dimensional – there’s the initial burst but no layers afterwards.

Perhaps it’s because all the flavours were concentrated in the spices topping the pork bones – it provided a snap of tastiness when it hit the tongue but soon was relegated onto the plate or sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Good… if you get to the last drop.

Offering noodles in lieu of rice on their menu is a smart choice with three choices – ramen, Korean noodles, and hand pulled. We opted for the gamjatang kalguksu ($17.99) or the Korean noodles, which was the middle thickness between the other pastas. They were good, silky with a slight chew, but its density definitely needed a more flavourful broth to match.

I suspect the noodles were prepared and portioned into bowls ahead of time, then soup was added into the bowl when we ordered. The room temperature noodle quickly cooled down the broth so by the time the dish arrived, the soup was already lukewarm. The smart thing to do would be to undercook the noodles to allow chefs to re-boil it for a minute before serving. Better yet, invest in a larger stone bowl and serve the gamjatang kalguksu in a heated stone bowl so that it’s bubbling and piping hot like the rice version.  

Even the meat itself wasn’t the greatest. The neck bone was cut in a fashion that made it impossible to break apart to access the meat and gelatinous cartilage that’s wedged between the bones. Also, it just wasn’t tender enough. The only saving grace was the two pieces were fairly large and meaty.

So, the gamjatang didn’t create a POW, surely the bulgogi ($18.99) that’s described as being served on a sizzling plate surely will? Alas, no, it was also a KNOCK. Firstly, the beef was dispersed amongst so many vegetables – carrots, mushrooms, huge pieces of green onion, and bean sprouts – diluting the garlicky sweet soy flavours of the bulgogi. Secondly, the “sizzling” plate was more décor than function as the plate didn’t make a peep of noise. No sizzle, no aroma, no heat.

To be fair, the bulgogi was decent and the mushroom and vegetables does help break down the monotony of an otherwise meaty meal. Mapo Gamjatang should just set better expectations by properly describing it on their menu and drop the sizzling plate if it wasn’t going to be heated and actually sizzling at the table.

It’s a shame because I can see beginning of a great meal. I enjoyed Mapo Gamjantang’s bright clean décor and the friendly attentive service. Their food just needs more heat (both in terms of temperature and spice) and flavour to bring it from a KNOCK to a POW.

Overall mark - 6 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4186 Finch Ave East

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

Is That It? I Want More!

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