Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chez Hwang to the rescue!


Heeere goes my craving for Korean food again. Luckily, many of the better Korean restaurant seem to be located in Westmount, so when I found out that La Maison de Seoul was closed for lunch on that particular day (I'm not entirely sure if they're closing down permanently), all I had to do was take a ten-minute walk to Chez Hwang, and voila! Craving abated, crisis averted.

Chez Hwang is another non-descript restaurant located a bit in the middle of nowhere and that offers the typical variety of Korean dishes, as well as some atypical Korean dishes (pig feet), and some Japanese dishes as well.

Accessibility - Grade: B+
It's about a 10-15 walk from Vendome metro, but because we passed through this confusing area where I wasn't sure if pedestrians were even allowed, I'm giving it a B+.

Service - Grade: B
The service was pretty standard. The waitress didn't smile much, and was pretty quick and efficient. But we did have a friendly chat at the end of the meal, which was nice.

Food - Grade: B

Admittedly, it wasn't the best Korean food I've had, but it was still better than the stuff found downtown.

As per usual, our entrees came with the typical Korean banchan. Here, we have the kimchi, marinated sprout, pickled cabbage, and marinated greens that I wasn't able to identify. The kimchi was nothing special; it tasted like store-bought ones. The sprouts were also pretty standard, but the pickled cabbage was something I had never tried before. It was sweet and a little tangy, and the cabbage still had the crunch or raw cabbages.

Pork Hock Platter

This plate was really the main attraction. The Chinese, especially Northern Chinese, tend to eat a lot of pork knuckle and pork hock, but I had no idea that Koreans ate it in much the same way. The only difference, I think, is that the Chinese tend to marinate the meat more and braise it for longer, so that the meat itself is intensely flavourful and very tender. That isn't to say that it's better, just different.

Pork Hock Platter
 First of all, this plate is a beast. A BEAST. It's in the appetizer section, but it's enough to feed a small village. When we asked our waitress, she said it was enough for two people. Pfft. Yeah. What she failed to mention was that it was probably also enough for ten. We ended up eating a fifth of it and packing the rest up to go.

The hock was slicked into thin pieces and sprinkled with green onions and seasame seeds. The meat was soft and not too dry, while the skin was chewy. The meat itself wasn't flavoured much, with just subtle hints of sweet and salty, but the dish came with a sweet dipping sauce, which I found very enjoyable.

Bulgogi lunch special
 My friend ordered the bulgogi lunch special, which came with bulgogi beef, rice, some tempura, two makis and a bit of salad. I think all lunches come with a complimentary soup. I tried a bit of her bulgogi, and it was okay. It was well-marinated, but a little flaky, but I'm not a huge fan of bulgogi to begin with, so take it as you will. I have no idea what's going on with the salad, though. It seems to be having its own little mayo party in the corner.

Dolsot Bibimbap

The dolsot bibimbap is my favorite Korean dish, with the yuk gae jang coming a close second. I love sound of the rice sizzling and popping in the big stone bowl, and the way the bowl smiles up at me with its runny egg, as if saying 'Mix this mofo before it gets cold, and EAT ME!'. Aaaaand that's what kinda happened here. Yes, that is why the picture isn't pretty, but hey, it still looks appetizing, right? ...Right?

There were several things that I liked and didn't like about this bibimbap. What I disliked was mainly the portion size. I don't know if it was just mine, but my bowl came almost half-empty, and there was very little ground beef in it. The rest of the ingredients were pretty standard, and there weren't any raw vegetables in it (unlike the one from Maison de Seoul). What I liked about it was how hot the bowl managed to remain throughout the meal. Usually, the stone bowl cools after 5 minutes, but noooo. This little guy must have stayed hot (not warm) for a good twenty minutes and burned me three times in the process. Damned jerk. But hey, it just made the meal that much more fun!

Price: $$ (Cash and debit only)
I paid around $20 for the bibimbap and half the pork hock platter, but the pork hock could have easily been split with another two or three people. So it's definitely affordable for students. They also offer AYCE Korean BBQ for $21.99 (+ tax) if you are 6 or more people.

Final Grade: B

You know how there are some restaurants where you know the food isn't amazing but that you will return to anyway? I have a feeling that Chez Hwang is going to be one of those restaurants. The food might not be super special, but it feels homemade, and no amount of fancy Gordon Ramsey-style haute-cuisine can top the warm feeling of eating homey cooking.

Chez Hwang
Chez Hwang on Urbanspoon
5545 Chemin Upper-Lachine, Montréal

(514) 484-5263


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