GaNaDaRa’s Dolsot bibimbap. Photo used with permission from montrealbestfoodever.com
Montreal’s supply of Korean food has been steadily increasing over the last couple of years. GaNaDaRa in Shaughnessy Village is among the latest arrivals, having taken position near the lower end of the price range. I stopped in recently for a midweek dinner.
Despite the foul weather, the relatively small locale — with about three-dozen seats — was jam-packed, and there was a string of people waiting for tables, Kazu-style. We waited a good half-hour before being seated.
Once seated, service was prompt and very friendly. We were handed a pair of thick, spiral-bound menus. Despite being about five centimeters high and weighing a kilo, the menu proposed, at most, 40 items. It was so thick because each item was presented individually on each laminated page, with a large photograph and a description in both official languages. (I’m not sure if the font sizes were up to Office québecois de la langue française code, though.) For the uninitiated, such an amply illustrated menu can be very helpful.
It took us a while to figure out what we were getting because my dinner date was transfixed by the large flatscreen that was flashing an unbroken string of K-pop girl and boy band clips. I don’t entirely blame her. Had I been facing that screen, I would have been similarly absorbed by all the nubile, young bodies gyrating rhythmically in these slick, special effects-laden videos.
She picked a dolsot bibimbap, or stone bowl ($10). For those who have never tried it, this is a thick, granite or marble bowl heated to high temperature and, just before delivery to the table, filled with a mix of rice, vegetables and meat and topped with a raw egg. You, the diner, are expected to toss the contents of the bowl, allowing the egg to cook and the rice to crisp up. Toss more for softer rice, less for crustier rice.
Usually, a stone bowl comes with a hot pepper sauce on the side and a small selection of kimchis and pickled vegetables. Fancier Korean places provide a whole array of the latter two items. GaNaDaRa provided only two: a basic Napa cabbage kimchi and some diced, pickled daikon. Given the very modest price, it’s not fair to complain about the lack of assortment. The contents of the stone bowl were good — rice cooked right, the other ingredients fresh-tasting.
I picked a bulgogi ramyun ($6), a Korean take on ramen, the classic Japanese soup-and-noodle dish. Bulgogi is Korean-style grilled beef. The broth had a slightly sweet and spicy paprika-like flavour with a rich, umami-laden undertone. The firm, curly noodles floating within it were a textural delight. The bulgogi was a touch disappointing; I was hoping for some substantial slices of sirloin with a little bit of charring from the grill, but what I found in my soup was little shreds of meat, tender enough but with little evidence of grilling. Still, for a $6 dish, it was tasty and substantial. I would repeat.
We also ordered a portion kimbap with chamchi*, or Korean sushi with cooked tuna ($5.50), and dak tuikim, or Korean fried chicken with chili sauce ($10). We selected a kimbap with chamchi — chunks of cooked tuna, flavoured with a hint of hot and tangy sauce. This was quite delicious and was easily the best thing we ordered.
The huge portion fried chicken — six drumsticks and a pile of slaw — was not quite what I expected. I thought it was going to be slathered in a spicy, tangy sauce, like something I ate at another Korean place, and that’s how it appeared in the photo on the menu. A bit misleading! In any case, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The breading was thick and crispy, though a touch oily. The sauces — a sweet mustard and sweet chili sauce — were mostly, well, just sweet. The accompanying pile of raw, shredded cabbage squirted with mayo and the same sweet chili sauce that accompanied the drumsticks was kind of pointless.
The chicken misstep notwithstanding, this was an enjoyable and absurdly inexpensive meal. We tickled our tastebuds and distended our stomachs for a mere $36, tax included. Though I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to go back to GaNaDaRa, I will most certainly place it high on my list of inexpensive places to dine before catching a flick at the Forum. ■
Address: 1862 de Maisonneuve W.
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