Sometimes when I’m out of town I put a day’s worth of effort into carefully orchestrating a dining schedule. A combination of urbanspoon, yelp, the opinion of other bloggers and sometimes Guy Fieri drive my decisions, especially when time is a factor. Other times, however, I take a walk and see what meets my fancy. I was staying at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver and decided to take a walk down Robson with a colleague to see what I could devour on a break between my meeting and the planned rubber chicken dinner later in the evening. This part of Robson is dotted with a number of Asian eateries including Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Japanese. Based on the cozy decor and gluten-free choices (NB-not me), we sat down at Ap Ju Jung. Despite the fact it was early in the evening. it was already half full. On top of that, I was the only Caucasian in the house so I was confident in this random pick.
After ordering, we were treated to a bowl of sweet potato soup which had a thin but smooth texture and a nice glisten. It tasted a bit like baby food (although not unpleasant) and erred on the side of sweet and was in stark contrast to the spicy dishes to come.
Next, we were both offered a tray of banchan which consisted of seaweed salad, kimchi and what I believe was a sweet boiled potato. Whether it was our peckish nature or the deliciousness of the dishes, we devoured all three with relative ease (in fact my dinner date is well known for destroying a plate calamari on a good day so we can add seaweed salad to the list). This resulted in a second round of banchan which I found odd since everybody else around us shared one and didn’t get a second let alone a third. Perhaps they sensed our grateful gluttony.
Shortly after, my homemade dumplings arrived dim su. The dumpling itself was quite delicate and was stuffed with a tasty pork and chive mixture. It was a great balance between dough and filling The coarse filling had a great texture and wasn’t dry or watery. I had no problem putting the quartet away.
I also ordered kimchi stew with tuna. I can’t complain about the lack of authenticity but it was a humble reminder that kimchi can be overwhelming when it’s the mainstay of the dish. Sour and spicy along with the odd bit of sweet tuna collided on the tongue resulting a pleasant train wreck of flavours. Due to the intensity of the kimchi, it was difficult to finish the whole bowl.
Not surprisingly, the calamari queen (isn’t that a Billy Ocean song) ordered spicy squid with rice. The first bite of squid I had was tough and rubbery but it must have been an anomaly because the rest was spot on. There was good balance between protein and vegetable (mainly green beans and onions which both kept their crunch) and the spiciness was aggressive but within the spectrum of a wandering Caucasian.
With the multitude of restaurants in Vancouver, it is easy to over think each and every dining possibility. Sometimes I enjoy exploring neighbourhoods just to hit a random place along the way. This was the case with Ap Gu Jung. Offering an array of Korean cuisine in a clean and cozy environment, the food and service were quite good. The gifts of soup and banchan were delicious and most appreciated. The price points of the other dishes were quite acceptable. Since we were there early, I can’t comment on the night scene ( I noticed a set of drums on the second floor overlooking the main area), but at 530 pm you could have a conversation even with the funky music playing in the background. In the end, Ap Gu Jung’s gracious experience was much more Ban Ki-moon than Kim Jong-un.