Korean Village has been around for a number of years, first occupying a space near the Calgary Tower in a dated strip mall (which has since been replaced with an affordable housing complex), and now operating in Dae Jang Geum’s former location on 10th Avenue SW in a slightly more updated strip mall for the last few years. We’ve dined at Korean Village numerous times and its convenient location near our apartment makes it a good choice for us when we’re craving certain Korean dishes.
I’m glad that Korean Village took over Dae Jang Geum, although I’m not sure how much of a “takeover” it really was. Our last visit during the Dae Jang Geum era was horrible; normally I’m pretty easy going and easy to please when it comes to food, but even I thought that it was awful. I had one of my perennial favourites, Jja Jang Myun (black bean noodles), but it was the worst rendition I’d ever tasted in my life. It was more like black, chunky garlic sauce served on overcooked noodles that were stuck together in a sad noodle mass. It was like they had given up on life. It seemed like the writing was on the wall and it was only a matter of time until the end.
What sets Korean Village apart from the other Korean restaurants in Calgary is that it has a little bit of everything. It serves the traditional comfort food, Korean-Chinese dishes, and DIY tabletop BBQ. Their menu is quite extensive and there’s something for everybody, whether you’re in the mood for a stew, a noodle dish, or some grilled meats. I have certain Korean restaurants I like to go to for specific dishes, like San Dong Banjeom for jja jang myun and tang soo yook (the Korean version of sweet & sour pork), or Sura for their unbeatable sweet chili chicken and soon tofu stew (spicy soft tofu soup with seafood), so Korean Village for me is more like that all-purpose place that does a bit of this and a bit of that.
Our latest Korean Village excursion was on a weeknight with Mark’s parents, our last Cheung family dinner there before their move back to Edmonton.
We start off with a set of Banchan (side dishes). Mark’s mom really loves their 깍두기 (kkakdugi), which is essentially kimchi, but made with white radish. I really like their bean sprout side dish; it’s always perfect seasoned and crunchy.
One of our favourite appetizers is their Sae Woo Tang Soo Yook (sweet & sour shrimp). I normally love the lightly battered, plump, and super crispy shrimp, but this time around there seemed to be something missing. The shrimp just seemed like regular tempura shrimp (which is not a bad thing in general, but in this dish it doesn’t work as well) instead of the well-executed tang soo yook-style. Normally, it should be coated in a rice flour batter to give it that light crispness, but it seemed heavier. The sweet & sour sauce was still delicious, however; a nicely balanced, sticky but not too heavy sauce to complement the crispy shrimp.
We also got the Tteok Galbi, a patty made of minced galbi meat and flavoured with traditional galbi marinade, and then grilled and topped with a type of Korean nut (I thought it was a garlic clove at first, but apparently it’s not). The reason they call it tteok (rice cake) is that it has the texture of tteok, but it doesn’t actually contain any tteok. I really like this rendition of tteok galbi. It’s always moist, flavourful, and satisfies the BBQ meat craving. It also comes with a side salad of crisp romaine lettuce dressed in sesame oil and chili powder.
For his main, Mark got the Tteok Mandu Geuk (rice cake and dumpling soup). It’s similar to an egg drop soup in composition, but has thinly sliced rice cakes and Korean dumplings. I find this soup very comforting and flavourful. This is one of our favourites at Korean Village if you’re in the mood for a hearty, satisfying, and comforting soup.
Mark’s mom chose the Yukgaejang (spicy beef stew). Mark gets this often when we eat here, but says my version is better (only because he is obligated to say that as my husband, hah). Their version comes with glass noodles.
Mark’s dad chose the Galbitang, a soup made with beef short ribs. I’ve never had the galbitang so I can’t comment on it specifically, but Mark’s dad gets this dish often.
I usually stick with the Dolsot Bibimbap. I like their version a lot. It comes sizzling in the hot stone bowl and I like to let it sit for a few minutes to develop that beautiful brown crust of rice at the bottom. It comes with the standard bibimbap components of beef, a variety of vegetables, and a raw egg yolk. All the components are nicely seasoned and the rice-to-mixins ratio is pretty spot-on, which is an often overlooked aspect when it comes to bibimbap; you don’t want to be left with too much rice at the end.
I’m still traumatised by my earlier jja jang myun experience so I don’t know that I will ever try Korean Village’s version, but for the other dishes that we’ve tried, they’ve all ranged from excellent to decent. The service can be a bit spotty when they’re busy, but the servers in general are very friendly and accommodating. This place can get packed on weekends and if there are a lot of group bookings, so it’s recommended to call ahead for a table.
Just a quick tip though, which is true of most Korean restaurants that do tabletop grilling – make sure you’re okay with whatever you’re wearing to be infused with BBQ aroma. Smells great when you’re eating, but not so great when it gets into your clothes and hair.
1324 10 Ave SW
Calgary, AB T3C0J2
Phone: (403) 269-7940