2872 Calgary Trail
No listed delivery service
Dinner for two (not including tip, beverages or taxes) basic, $30, loaded $55
Food: 2.5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 2.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 3 of 5 Suns
By GRAHAM HICKS
There are many excellent Korean restaurants in Edmonton.
Dookbaeki – sadly – is not among them.
Beside Calgary Trail, north of the Edmonton Home Fair commercial strip, south of the Melting Pot and Japanese Village South, Dookbaeki specializes in traditional Korean soups served in heavy, black, stone bowls that keep their contents wondrously hot for a long time.
This would be even better if the soup within had some flavour, if some thought had gone into Dookbaeki’s décor, if the restaurant did not need A) a good scrubbing and B) a new paint job/makeover.
I’m sure there are rich, spicy soups among the eight on the menu. I made the mistake of ordering No. 1, Seolleong-tai – described as a long-brewed beef bone soup with brisket beef and noodles. (The server, when asked for recommendations, shrugged her shoulders and said, “they’re all good.”)
The menu did not say this soup is so mild and tepid as to resemble watered-down skim milk with chopped up green onion and a few bites of soggy beef, faintly resembling brisket.
I’m not sure if one is supposed to, but I began adding the traditional mini-side servings of Korean pickle – kimchi, radishes – to the broth in search of flavour, any flavour, a smidgen of flavour. It actually did help a tiny bit. At least the “soup” was temperature-hot. And the thin noodles on the bottom were decent.
Finding a second dish, in line with our appetites, was a challenge.
Dookbaeki features soups and stews as individual main dishes, then goes straight to big, family-sized side dishes – Korean-style pork, sliced blood sausage in the $30 to $34 range. The only choice in small side dishes were dumplings, spicy rice cake and a seafood pancake. The only individual non-soup/non-stew main dish was a pork cutlet.
So the seafood pancake it was. About the size of a medium pizza, cut pizza style, it was more of a green onion cake with shrimp, bits of squid and chopped up scallops fused into the surface. Way too greasy, but otherwise tasty.
The restaurant’s 40 seats were half full on a weekday evening with a 90% Asian clientele, for the most part ordering the spicy soups. Obviously, they knew better than me what to order. Perhaps the server should have been asked “what are the most popular dishes” rather than “what do you recommend.”
In any case, there are many more Korean restaurants with far more inviting decor out there, serving good, hearty, spicy, meaty soups with at least a few other side dishes to round out the dining experience. Farewell Dookbaeki, I doubt I’ll return.
With so many good Edmonton restaurants to explore, reliable favourites are sometimes given short-shrift. When friends suggested Pazzo Pazzo Italian Cuisine for a downtown get-together, it was an unexpected but joyous reunion.
Between the ICE District and city hall, at 10016-103 Ave, chef/owner James Burns has for at least 20 years turned out heaping, steaming, fragrant plates of some of the best classic Italian to be had in Edmonton – veal tortellini, chicken parmigiana, gnocchi, a fine bruschetta.
I just wished my stomach was as big as my eyes.
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Venues hosting the monthly Art of Conversation get-together, hosted by Rob Christie and myself since 2006, take pride in offering hors d’oeuves reflecting who and what they are.
None more so than the brand-new JW Marriott Hotel, hosting the 156th gathering of the event last Thursday in its Wayne Gretzky Ballroom.
The JW knocked it out of the park. Banquet chef Kiran Patnam created a cornucopia of goodies for a record attendance of some 250 conversationalists – chili chicken in mini-cones, beef short ribs/avocado/sour cream on quinoa, carrot pudding with pistachio ice cream (wow!), with plenty of nibbles for all. Many a friend of the JW Marriott was made that night!
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My wife and I are off on vacation, sampling the beautiful foods of Poland and Italy for the month of September. The Weekly Dish returns online Oct. 8, in print Oct. 9.