I have visited once before for dessert, and having loved their sweet rice cakes, wanted to return for a full meal. This time around, I was most curious to explore their savoury rice cakes.
I most iconically remember this as the Korean restaurant with a basketball theme. Restaurant with themes are common, I just didn’t see the connection between theirs and the cuisine. It was a very unique theme that didn’t exactly match the furniture or the Korean pop-love songs playing over head. It was like the owner had all this stuff and ran out of space in his own house so decided to “store” it here. It at least made for some great writing material and conversation notes. And they were at least consistent with it throughout the entire restaurant. Two full sized regular basketball nets, two full rows of ball caps with various team logos, collectable action figures in show cases, signed jerseys, and neon coloured high tops. They even paid homage to the departed Vancouver Grizzlies with a snazzy wall decal.
It was great for fans of Kobe Bryant, as you were greeted by his life size cut out at the entrance, while waiting to be seated. He came with his own standing showcase of Lakers merchandise, including a mini shrine and head phones in purple and yellow.
But the owner must be a huge Michael Jordan fan. Number 23’s likeness and brand graced every wall. His face could be seen stimuli get in abstract paintings, serious in life-like portraits, and accurate in action figures. There was also plenty of signed memorabilia and unworn “Jordan’s” shoes.
This love to “be like mike” even carried in to the washroom. The men’s stall was marked with “NBA” and the women’s “WNBA”. The former was a shrine to Michael Jordan with commemorative game ball mounted on to the toilet’s tank, posters of Jordan facing the can, and a Chicago Bulls light switch decal and logo sticker on the toilet’s seat cover.
I didn’t realize there was a difference between the men and women’s single stall washroom and used the men’s by mistake. Only to later pass by the women’s and note the less enthusiastic decoration of the stall. No women basketball super star shrine, no WNBA team memorabilia. Just a basketball on top of the toilet tank and a blown up photo of a little girl holding a basketball, like wall paper.
The lone young man serving the diners even dressed to match the theme. Working the room in his own ball cap and high top sneakers. He was incredibly attentive, checking in on us often, with or without us signalling our need for service and help. A few secluded tables included a red call button, like ours. Which was great considering that the restaurant was set up with cubicle walls. It created some privacy, but left us without a view of the rest for the restaurant.
Chilled water was served in metal carafe dripping with condensation. The hot tea came in a thermos to keep warm and to pour yourself. It all matched the metal dishware with metal utensils we were given.
The menu came with plenty of photos making it easy to order off of, especially if you are unfamiliar with the cuisine. I steered towards the regular Korean classics, but redirected myself to their specialties that included ricecake.
They had some interesting drinks, including herbal bitter teas. Like the “Jujube and yungji mushroom tea” that has been boiled for hours. It is believed to cleanse impure elements in the body and helps to improve the constitution. When I inquired about it with our server, he was honest in telling me that it was bitter and that we won’t enjoy it. He said it was for “old people”.
I turned my attention to the “Purple sweet potato latte”. When I asked about this one he was again honest. He has never tried it, but voched that others have and have liked it. I was disappointed by the colour and the lack of milk art. I wished it a deeper purple like the concentrated hue at the bottom of the cup. It was a smooth drink, despite the occasional fibre filtered between my teeth. You definitely got the yam flavour in a nice mild and milky tone.
My guest came recently and recommend the “marinated beef rib patty wrapped in rice cake bento box”, that she had previously. She thought it was very unique considering it was a beef stuffed ricecake. That was the selling point for me too. It was an interesting combination that just worked. The salty garlic sauce just tied the meat, cabbage, rice cake, and purple rice together in a way I can’t explain. Even the chewy gummy texture of the rice cake and the gritty minced texture of the beef went together. It was just a little dry, but the sauce was helpful. The box was served with a green side salad, cucumbers in a light vinaigrette, spicy kimchi, purple rice, and a bowl of miso soup. Each side acted as a great break in between bites, to keep the meal interesting. The salad was lightly dressed for some taste. The miso was over salty. And the kimchi added some spice. All together it grew on you the more you ate from I.
My guest went for the “Spicy rice cake soup”. A bright red broth with bean thread noodles, rope-like vegetable, egg, ricecake slices, seaweed, and green onion. It was as spicy as she wanted, but was still missing some vegetables or tofu to balance out all the starch and chew. Though mid way through the portion, it got so hot that my guest had to eat her spicy noodles with the bowl of rice it came with. I watched her exhaling heavily from the heat and being content with what she felt on her tongue. She said it was flavourful with a good amount of spice.
There were so many delicious rice cake desserts to choose from, luckily my guest’s dietary restrictions narrowed our choices down. They had rice cake over shaved ice, rice cake in an ice cream parfait, grilled rice cake, fried rice cake, and even rice cake in cinnamon and sugar mimicking a churro with a side of ice cream. We did order the latter, but they must have forgotten, because it took so long to come that we ended up cancelling it.
Though we were more than satisfied sharing the green “Ricecake made from glutinous brown rice and mugwort”. “Mugwort” is a common name for several species of aromatic plants, it is used medicinally and to flavour food like an herb. The rice cake was deep fried and coated with red bean flour and maple syrup. It was a light flavour accented with the syrup and powder. I enjoyed it most for its gummy texture. It was as fun to eat and tasted good. A mish-mash of flavours that just worked. Sweet syrup, crispy eggy batter, and sticky cake. I passed on the mashed and grainy red bean on top. It added unnecessary sweetness, and clashed with the thin syrup.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
My original review of the place holds true. I enjoyed my visit today as I did during my first. If anything, I was more excited for my next visit. I wanted to try more savoury and sweet ricecake dishes, as well as their take on classic Korean dishes. The desserts are unique and worth going through the list to try. Don’t deny your cravings.