Monday, July 28, 2014

Hanwoori Korean Restaurant

Hanwoori is one of the two Korean restaurants in Burnaby (with Potter's Garden being the other) that offers table top barbecuing. There are tatami rooms along the left side of the restaurant and booth seating arrangements on the other.

When we walked in, we secretly hoped that our table would not be too small since the two of us tend to order a lot of food and fortunately, we were seated at a table for four! In addition, I noticed a push button on the table and already knew that service would not be an issue. 

Aren't the side dishes always the same or very similar? Perhaps the selection, but not the quality (such as Jang Mo Jib's sad and not very fresh offerings).

To start, the kimchi has a pickled flavour and tastes spicy; the way we like it. Following, the shredded daikon tastes fresh and has the nice usual pickled flavour. Up next, the steamed broccoli has a nice crunch and gochujang is provided on the side. Further along, the bean sprouts have a light refreshing taste and are not watery one bit. Last up, the potatoes taste slightly sweet and are soft (not mushy), although we could have used a stronger sweetness. All the side dishes are very fresh and are one of the freshest ones the both of us have had at a restaurant.

Sesame oil along with salt n' pepper is for the pork belly and a soy sauce mix with vinegar is provided as well. Furthermore, there is also a side of coleslaw. We did not receive any lettuce, garlic or ssamjang for the pork belly and asked for some later on. When having pork belly, I like to dip it in the sesame oil and then the ssamjang! Soo good.

When the table top barbecue arrived, the pan looked somewhat similar to a few I saw in Seoul, but not quite. The pan appears to be filled with some sort of broth and in Seoul, a similar pan was filled with beaten egg (which would be cooked like a pancake to enjoy while barbecuing). So, we wondered what the purpose of the broth was.

When our waiter brought over the pork belly, he started to cut the meat for us and we mentioned it was fine because we can do it ourselves. The slices of pork belly are thick and the quality is good. In addition, white mushroom as well as a slice of onion are included, and a cut of butter.

Like the pork belly, a slice of onion is included along with a cut of butter to smear on the pan.

We wanted to go for the whole hot pot but thrifty and picky me, did not want to spend $30.00 in case it was bland. Also, when we asked if the gamjatang includes wild sesame seeds and chilli powder, the waiter said no, which made us hesitate more.

The gamjatang arrived bubbling as well as boiling hot, and there are wild sesame seeds! The broth has plenty of flavourful spices along with a dried vegetable flavour, and tastes spicy. We requested for the soup to be extra spicy and the level of spiciness is perfect; neither overwhelming or enough to make you sweat. Furthermore, the soup includes red pepper, white mushroom, dried bok choy and pork neck bones with tender "fall off the bone" meat. Asides from the flavourful spices, the soup is slightly too runny and could have had a more rich pork broth. 

Oxtail soup is a favourite of mine and despite adjusting the sodium level at Korean restaurants, I never find them flavourful enough and hesitate to order. However, because we passed on the hot pot and went for individual soups, I decided to give it a try. Like the gamjatang, the soup arrived boiling hot. There is nothing worse than adding salt to luke warm soup, which unfortunately has happened at other Korean restaurants! In addition, I like that our waiter brought over green onion as well as salt, which some Korean restaurants do not even offer until asked… and this is their home cuisine? Sad.

Usually the oxtail soup tastes very bland without adding salt because everyone is supposed to adjust their own sodium level, but I always take a sip beforehand.

Surprisingly, the broth actually tastes quite flavourful and better than many Korean restaurants' that I have been to, including after adding salt at those restaurants! After adjusting the sodium level, the broth has a really rich fatty bone marrow flavour and is very flavourful. Really flavourful. I mean, I did not even complain about the barbecued meats later on because of how good the soup is. In addition, there is a generous amount of oxtail and the meat tastes very tender, not even chewy at all. This is definitely a properly made slow cooked soup, no BS high and fast boil here. Furthermore, the sweet potato noodles are nicely cooked and this is the first time I have ever slurped every single drop. Every. Single. Drop. If socially acceptable, I would have drank from the bowl and got rid of the small spoon.

After a few sips of the soups, we started cooking the pork belly. At first, we wondered why the slices lacked that nice barbecued flavour. Even before cooking, we told our waiter that we could cook ourselves because we wanted to wait for the pan to be hot enough. Oh yeah, what is with that eh? At some Korean restaurants in Vancouver, the staff will cook the first order of barbecue meat (which is fine) before the pan is even hot… Anyway, the pork belly tasted chewy and not very fatty. We were confused because it is quality meat.

As for round two, the pork belly tasted a lot better. The pork belly has a nice snappy chewiness and tastes fatty. Furthermore, that nice caramelized flavour is there.

Notice the broth? It is dried up and gone. Turns out, the broth is added to the side to reduce the smoke when barbecuing! This actually made sense because our table did not even have an exhaust above it.

After realizing the broth was actually ruining the barbecuing action, we quickly cooked the gabli before the staff noticed any smoke. Furthermore, unlike the first attempt of barbecuing the pork belly, the meat was sizzling and started to caramelize nicely.

However, a waitress came by, glared at us like we should have told her we needed more broth, and added more broth. Noooo!!!! The sizzling stopped along with the barbecuing, and the galbi was boiling in its own goddamn marinade. We were SO CLOSE to barbecuing this damn thing and could have had really good ribs...

Yeah, the galbi sucked. It really did. The marinade lacked that nice sweet flavour and tasted very sticky as well as just, unpleasant. In a way, kind of like an unappealing nutty flavour from boiling. As for the galbi, the ribs taste soft (as in squishy not tender), lack that nice barbecued flavour, and have an unappealing marinade. Honestly, this is worst galbi we have ever had because of the pan. $29.95 to boil the meat in its our marinade? Not cool.

TOTAL: 75.45 + TIP $14.55 = $90.00.

Overall, the barbecue sucked. The idea behind the pan is very good to minimize the smoke along with the strong barbecue aroma, but in reality; the steam and moisture circles back into the meat. Therefore, the meat does not have that nice caramelized barbecued flavour and is essentially boiling as well as boiling in its own marinade. As for the gamjatang, the spices are all there and the soup could have been cooked longer. In the end, the highlight is definitely the oxtail soup. Honestly, I enjoyed the soup so much that I did not really care about the shitty barbecue.

As for the service, our waiter was friendly. What? At a Korean restaurant? Yeah. He even said goodnight! However, the waitress looked miserable and was not very friendly. All in all, I would revisit for the oxtail soup as well as to try the barbecue again (the proper way), and will make sure to get a table with an actual grill. I do not care what it takes, but I will never have Korean barbecue with this pan again. Never.

- Fresh banchan
- Oxtail soup (3.5/5)
- Push button service that works
- Friendly waiter (I wish I got his name… I like to mention names when the staff is actually friendly)

- Not a fan of the pan for barbecuing
- Barbecued meats (-1/5)

Food: 2.5/5
Service: 3/5

Hanwoori Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. This restaurant actually has tables with a built in grill as well. Only certain tables have it, so not sure if you can request it,but if you get seated at one, you're in luck!

    1. Yes! It is worth the wait for a table with an actual grill. Plus, the only thing Hanwoori has for me to revisit is the oxtail soup!



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