Potter’s Garden Korean BBQ 香辣里Posted: 07/14/2012
So after three long weeks in Korea, I finally returned home to Vancouver at the beginning of June. Seoul is great with its sprawling department stores, cheap street food and all, but you have no idea how happy I felt when I stepped into YVR to see that familiar old Tim Hortons sign. Thanks to my wonderful relatives, I got to sample a variety of yummy dishes while in Korea, but I was glad to return to a more diverse range of ethnic restaurants…well, supposedly. Korea has the requisite pasta, sushi, and Chinese food, but inevitably there’s a Korean touch to all the “foreign” food (i.e., serving pasta with pickles). Was I secretly pining for my birthplace? In any case, SB and I headed to Potter’s Garden for dinner soon after my return. Actually, I was quite hesitant to go there…considering SB was wearing the “I ❤ Korea” shirt I’d bought him as a joke gift. Boys…
I’d heard lots of good things about Potter’s Garden, not only from SB himself but also from friends as well as bloggers. As a general rule, I feel that Vancouver lacks any stellar Korean restaurants, and I would rather eat my mom’s excellent home cooking than pay high prices to eat similar food elsewhere. Still, I was ready to be proven wrong by Potter’s Garden.
Let’s start with the complimentary Banchan. Here we had kimchi, bean sprouts, seaweed, and the ever popular potatoes. I felt that the kimchi was mediocre at best…I tend to judge Korean restaurants on the quality of their kimchi, and this just didn’t measure up. The napa cabbage and the seasoning didn’t meld together, and it failed to be spicy or refreshing. The potatoes had a nice smooth texture, but were overbearingly sweet. The bean sprouts and seaweed tasted fine, and appeared to be fresh at least. (Difficult to mess those up, though). The waitress was pretty nice about filling these up for us, though. SB personally enjoyed the side dishes, so I may just be nitpicking…but honestly, the kimchi here did not suffice.
We decided to order the Seafood Pancake to share. A lot of Korean restaurants make this way too oily, but not here! We both liked how it had a soft texture, crispy on the outside but not too mushy or doughy in the middle. There was a sufficient amount of seafood, mostly in the form of squid and imitation crab, and some natural sweetness from the green onion. I enjoyed the addition of the potatoes, which added to the texture, keeping the pancake crispy despite its thickness. The accompanying soy sauce dip tasted as it should, both salty and sweet. I’d say this is definitely the best version of seafood pancake I’ve had in Vancouver so far.
I ordered the Mul Naengmyeon, noodles in a cold beef broth. This dish usually comes with both mustard and vinegar, which you can add as you prefer (I usually add a generous amount of vinegar but no mustard). I don’t have much to say about this version except that the portion size was adequate, the noodles were chewy as they should be, and the pieces of radish were nice and crunchy. The soup was refreshing, sweet, and quite cold despite the apparent lack of ice.
SB chose the Dolsot Bibimbap with Beef. It arrived in the standard stone bowl, crackling away, with a mixture of veggies (mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts, seaweed), beef, and raw eggs on top of the rice. This was served with the requisite Korean hot sauce. SB commented that the portion size was deceptively small. He found that the vegetables all tasted fresh, and that there was a good variety of ingredients that kept each bite from being boring. Still, he commented that the beef was oddly bland, and didn’t seem to have been marinated at all. He also thought that the pieces of beef were too small for him to taste much flavour in the beef itself. Still, I liked that they gave him pieces of beef rather than the ground beef you see at a lot of other restaurants.
Hm, so where do I stand on Potter’s Garden? I’ll admit that compared to a lot of Korean restaurants I’ve been to in the Lower Mainland, their service was friendly and attentive, and the food was not bad. The prices were also in line with what you’d pay at other similar restaurants. I was particularly impressed by the seafood pancake, which I always find too greasy at other establishments. Still, the one thing that I wasn’t sold on was the kimchi…it tasted awful, like they’d simply bought it at a supermarket instead of bothering to produce their own. I have trouble respecting a Korean restaurant if they can’t manage to produce proper kimchi, and this is what happened here. Next time I’d probably want to try their barbecue option as well, which I avoided this time (not wanting to have that Korean barbecue smell on me all the way home). I’m willing to give Potter’s Garden another try, but…that kimchi desperately needs some work…
Potter’s Garden Korean BBQ 香辣里