South Castle Korean RestaurantPosted: 08/03/2012
When deciding where to eat, I’m quite dependent on Urbanspoon. I scope out blogger reviews, diner reviews, and the general consensus on the web about a restaurant before deciding to go. Well, my family had been hearing great things about South Castle (or, 남한산성) from our new neighbours, so we decided to try it out. I tried checking it out on Urbanspoon beforehand but…there was no entry for it yet in Urbanspoon. (As Mr. Kurtz would say…The horror!) Still, the North Van location seemed to be doing fairly well, so I registered the Coquitlam location on Urbanspoon myself, then headed there one night with my family in tow.
We start off here with the Banchan, as we do in most Korean restaurants. Here we received squid marinated in a spicy sauce, daikon kimchi, and some fish cakes. The banchan was all standard, with nothing amiss. I thought the daikon kimchi (kakdugi) was particularly good, considering a lot of restaurants have subpar kimchi because they pay less attention to their banchan in favour of their entrees.
I opted for the Seafood Soon Doo Boo, or spicy soup with soft tofu. It came out bubbling hot, as you can see. I found it odd that there were no other options for the soon doo boo (ie., beef), but I suppose that’s simply because this isn’t their specialty here. The soup was full of shrimp, squid, clams, zucchini, mushrooms, and one raw egg. I liked how it was spicy and sweet, but not too sweet. I’m not a huge fan of MSG, and I liked that I could taste very little of it in the broth here. The portion size was respectable for the price, and the tofu was quite soft and served in large pieces. My dish, like the others, was served with a bowl of steamed rice, which was cooked perfectly.
My brother and dad both had the Soon Dae Gook with rice. For those of you who don’t know, soon dae is a Korean blood sausage, basically a pig’s intestine stuffed with ingredients, usually rice or noodles or sometimes meat. Soon Dae Gook is then a usually peppery, spicy sort of stew with soon dae as the main ingredient, as well as intestines. They both found this surprisingly not spicy. Initially, they were both disappointed with the amount of soon dae and liver in the soup, but by the time they were finished, they decided that it was actually a sufficient amount. Besides the soon dae, there were also plenty of bean sprouts, which we thought was an odd choice, considering that the soon dae gook we usually have in Seoul is served without. I enjoyed the broth though, as it was quite peppery and savoury.
My mom wasn’t in the mood for any soon dae and decided on the Seafood Kal Gook Soo. “Kal” means “knife” in Korean, while “gook soo” means noodles–literally, noodles cut with a knife. My mom likes these noodles to begin with, but the addition of sesame seeds made the broth exceptionally good. The seafood mainly consisted of shrimp, squid, and mussels. The broth was savoury and quite mild. Although it isn’t their specialty, my mom still felt this was a great take on a classic Korean dish.
As this was our first visit here, we weren’t sure whether the portion size would be enough for us (especially my brother, who’s a big eater). So we ordered an Assorted Soon Dae as well. Turns out this was largely unnecessary as we had to take most of this home. I liked how their soon dae had a very chewy exterior, and that the filling consisted mostly of intestine and meat, as opposed to noodles. The salty dipping sauce and spicy chives helped to add as well as enhance flavour. The price was a little steep, but it’s not often you find such great soon dae in Vancouver, so I’ll gladly pay it.
As a whole, we enjoyed our dinner at South Castle. The service was friendly and attentive. Still, I’m not sure any non-Korean diners would enjoy this place, especially without Korean companions. The menu items are a little difficult to explain, and the staff didn’t speak very fluent English. It also doesn’t serve any typical Korean dishes popularized in Vancouver (seafood pancakes, jap chae, and whatnot). The prices are in line with other Korean restaurants in Vancouver, but their menu is limited, so beware!
South Castle Korean Restaurant
1112 Austin Avenue