Report on visit to Maison Seoul :
5030 Sherbrooke Street W.
Inspired by a recent thread, a group of us decided to revisit Maison de Seoul. We ordered quite a lot of food, and had a great night. Maison de Seoul is a Korean BYOB. Here is a report:
Seafood pancake (Pa jun): Tasty enough, but in my opinion, not as good as Maison Bulgogi. It has a lighter, softer fluffier texture than the Pa jun at MB, which is a nice variation, but pancake was not as crispy. The dipping sauce also lacked luster.
Kampungi: Deep fried battered chicken bits in spicy sweet and sour sauce - Very good. Nice balance of flavours to the sauce. Has a Chinese flavour profile.
Dol sot bibimbap (Rice bowl with toppings and chile sauce, in stone bowl): Outstanding. Much better than Maison Bulgogi (MB). The rice cooks in the stone bowl and gets a lovely crispy crust on the bottom. There is a nice selection of meat and vegetables on top. However, I like the spicing and seasoning of the chile sauce (kochujang) at MB better. I find Seoul's food not very high on the spicy scale. They may be dumbing it down for the Westmount crowd. But the Dolsot Bibimbap is a real winner at Maison Seoul, even if the kochujang is not the best. Well worth coming here to eat this dish.
Various BBQ meats: We got the Kalbi (short ribs) and the Pork bulgogi. The meats are grilled on a gas grill at the table, then cut up and served with romaine lettuce leaves, hunks of raw garlic and den jang, a fermented soy bean paste similar to miso. I really like the quality of the lettuce leaves and denjang, although the denjang is less funky than many I've had. Again, I think they are dumbing down the sauce. The meat was good, but a little bland. The pork was more flavourful than the beef short ribs. I wouldn’t come here for the grilled meats, as they lack a bit of oomph. That being said, I thought the presentation with the lettuce was very well done.
Spicy seafood soup (Jeongol): This is a spicy soup cooked at the table, with fish, mussels, squid, tofu, scallops, noodles, vegetables. Excellent! All the seafood was fresh, the broth and noodles excellent. An absolute winner! One small quibble: I've had spicier Jeongol before, and for my tastes, I wish it had been a touch spicier. But the quality of the seafood and the broth, plus the aesthetically pleasing presentation make this a wonderful dish.
Ojingo Saewoo Bokum: Shrimp and squid stir-fry. The menu claims it is supposed to be spicy: I detected almost no spice. It should be redolent with the flavour of kochuchang. The stir-fry was tasty, but not particularly authentic. The shrimp lacked snap, and the addition of capers were an odd touch. What was with the capers? Definitely a recently introduced item to the Korean menu. This dish screams "white Westmount crowd". That being said, I thought it was well-prepared and tasty. But maybe nothing special, not worth going out of your way to eat it. I definitely prefer the kochujang based dishes at MB (with the exception of the dolsot bibimbap).
Cha jang myun (noodles in black bean sauce, Korean style): I think they do one of the better versions of this dish in Montreal. Not too salty, satisfying in a simple way, it is a good dish, and a classic example of Koreanization of Chinese cuisine. I'll definitely go back for more of this. This is a comfort dish for Koreans. It isn't
one of the more exciting dishes, and it is never spicy. Some of our party found the sauce bland and goopy. But it is one of those things Koreans love to eat, people will go to restos just to order this dish. But it ain't haute cuisine, so don't feel you are missing out if you don't like this dish. I imagine it has the appeal
of spaghetti and meat balls for the average Korean.
Side dishes (ban chan): Potatoes - ok, run of the mill. Snow pea dish: fresh and tasty, original, I liked it. But at least one of our party found the snow peas tough and not very flavourful. Fresh (green) kimchi: Outstanding. The spicing was just right, balanced and complex, could eat a whole bowl. Regular kimchi: as bland and boring as I remembered from previous visits. DUMBED DOWN...(sigh). It is very hard to find excellent kimchi in Montreal. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next delivery from Mum. But the fresh kimchi (some kind of lettuce - ?chicory – dressed in kimchi spices and served without prior fermentation) was perfectly seasoned, and almost makes up for the lack of good regular kimchi.
I like how they serve their rice as well. It is well prepared. They serve it with bits of black rice in it for added textural and flavour complexity. This is a fairly common practice in Korea. Koreans like to doctor their rice with small
amounts of barley, beans, peas, other varieties of rice. I suspect
the black bits were some form of black rice (like forbidden rice). It
is a sign that the restaurant cares about the small details, and
wants their meal to be more fancy. Koreans appreciate variations in
the rice, and would see this as a sign of quality.
Overall: Very good. For $22 per person after tax and tip, it was pretty reasonable! We ordered a lot of food. We felt there was a high QPR. Absolutely felt like we got our money's worth, especially as the cadre is pleasant, far nicer than Maison Bulgogi's in every way (chairs, lighting, acoustic, decoration, intimacy). It has its strengths, so likely I will continue to frequent both places (Seoul and MB) depending on what I feel like eating that day. And on how spicy I want my food.
I would go back in the summer when they serve their naeng myon (buckwheat noodles in broth or in spicy sauce). They serve this dish in June-August.