Hicks Weekly Dish: It’ All Korean Buffet BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: TUESDAY, JULY 05, 2016
It’ All Korean Buffet
10023 107 Ave.
11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two: Excluding drinks and tip, a la carte or buffet, $40.
There’s probably not a more delicious, filling meal for the price in all Edmonton.
It’ All Korean Buffet, just south of the original Brick Warehouse at 101 Street and 107 Avenue, has recently made some major changes – going to a 90% Korean menu from the previous Japanese and Korean, slashing its all-you-can-eat buffet price to $19.95 for dinner and $14.99 for lunch.
The a-la-carte menu, from which our party of seven dined, was bargain-priced at $10 to $12 a dish. We shared about 14 dishes, with a total price (excluding drinks and tip of course) of about $20 each.
At those low prices, you steel yourself for low quality – tougher gristle-filled meat, lingering filmy oils, cheap frozen seafood, that kind of thing.
Not at all! It’ All food quality, preparation and presentation was right up there with any of Edmonton’s top-tiered Korean/Japanese/Vietnamese/South Asian restaurants.
The growing popularity of Korean food, from one or two restaurants in town (including the venerable Bul Go Gi House) to some 40 today is no mystery. The food is generally good, meat-based, attuned to changing Canadian tastes as those tastes evolve through wide-spread travel, multiculturalism and sheer availability. The enjoyment of mildly spicy foods – there’s spicy heat here and there in Korean cooking - is far more pervasive than even a decade past.
The décor at It’ All Korean Buffet is neither here nor there. The outside is non-descript. The exterior windows needed a washing. But the interior cleanliness was fine. The room is a little dark, with booths around the outside of the dining room, the buffet zone and a private dining area between the front-of-house and the kitchen.
I’m sure the buffet is good, but our party was very pleased ordering off the menu. The a-la-carte menu keeps things simple – a page for appetizers, one for soups and stews, one for main dishes.
There’s not a mountain of food on each dish. The servings are slightly smaller than an old-fashioned entree but for $7 to $12 a plate, nobody should complain.
The charming server knew how to describe the dishes in western terms for those of us not intimately familiar with Korean food. Once ordered, food flowed out of the kitchen in a perfectly paced manner – no tidal wave of food arriving all at once as is too often the case at other Asian restaurants.
It’ All’s Korean cooks are as good with the deep fryer as with pots and woks. We enjoyed all the battered foods – the Japanese style Takoyaki octopus balls, deep-fried batter balls with bits of squid, and, of course Korean fried chicken. (It’ All is a sister restaurant to the South Side It’ Dog, renowned for its superb Korean fried chicken.)
The green onion pancakes are a delight, presented as the softest of crepes, layered in with octopus bits, soy and, naturally, well-cooked chopped green onion. Spice fans will love It’ All’s tofu seafood soup, a sinus-clearing but oh-so-tasty concoction of hot pepper, savoury egg broth and super soft tofu.
For meat, we tried the Beef Japchae – actually the same as chopped bulgogi BBQ beef but worked into vermicelli noodles. The noodles make it more delicate in the mouth, but no less boisterous in taste.
The fish dish – a grilled, salted half-mackerel – was well-done, light, crispy and smooth.
Finally, for dessert, the Korean take on shaved ice, sweet red bean and fruits mixed together as a cool delight, patbingsu. It’s a style of dessert popular throughout Asia (halo-halo in the Philippines) but has never really caught on in Alberta. A shame, because it’s a cool way to end a meal on a hot summer day.
The It’ All food is very good, the menu-service excellent. The buffet looked inviting, and the price is such that a party of 10 can be fed delicately for $120, or stuffed at the all-you-can-eat buffet for $20 each.