Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Korean Niche: Hwang Kum

If you love Korean food as much as I do, then you've got to try this place. Hwang-Kum is a teeny tiny family-owned restaurant in NDG, right next to a 105 stop. Try to come early and avoid the line. M and I came on a frightfully cold day, and the waitress graciously handed us steaming mugs of genmaicha -- a type of green tea blended with roasted brown rice, which provides that dark, rustic flavour. Tastes like warmth and Asia.

The banchan came right after we ordered -- five lovely, cold side-dishes of tantalizing flavour that both complement one another and provide contrasting taste and texture to the meal. Mild and savoury beansprouts, crunchy and refreshing cucumbers, soft and sweet marinated potatoes, fantastic! On the opposite end of the taste spectrum, daikon radish and napa cabbage kimchi. Both lit up my taste buds like winter fireworks; there's nothing quite like Korean spicy marinade, tangy, tart, and spicy all at the same time.

I'm usually not a big fan of appetizers, but any reason is a good reason to get the haemul pajeon (16$), AKA the seafood-vegetable pancake. To be fair, this is more like large portions of shredded carrot and sprigs of green onion dunked in batter, then topped with sliced imitation crab, squid, and clam, and fried up as a gigantic patty on a sizzling stone pan. In other words, absolutely scrumptious. I'd advise to get this to share for three or more people, unless you're prepared to bring some home. It's delicious the day after as well! 

Bulgogi (16$) is another Korean restaurant staple. Thick slices of juicy marinated beef sizzled alongside scallion sprigs and onion slices. Although the meat was tender and definitely tasty, the sweetness was overwhelming after a few bites. That's the cue for banchan and rice! Oh, and to M's delight, the pan is in the shape of a cow. Hehe.

I really think Korean soups and stews are my thing, and this restaurant has a huge selection of them! The sundubu jjigae (12$) is the one I get every time, because I'm a sucker for giant chunks of soft, silky tofu in spicy broth. If you squint, you can see the bubbles in the stone bowl. Usually, it arrives with a raw egg cracked on top, and it's fun to watch it cook in the boiling soup. I actually thought they'd forgotten the egg this time, and 10 minutes later, my spoon poked a chunk of "tofu" on the side of the bowl that did not yield to gentle prodding. Yup, my egg had completely cooked. Definitely going to search for it thoroughly next time. 

There's quite a few dishes I've never tried before on Hwang Kum's menu, and I can't wait for next time. It's a bit out of the way for me, but for amazing Korean food, extra transit time is a perfectly reasonable sacrifice. 

5908 rue Sherbrooke Ouest,
Montreal, QC
H4A 1X7
(514) 487-1712

Hwang-Kum on Urbanspoon

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