Everything’s coming up Korean! With mainstream restaurants like Earls featuring bibimbap and Joey’s serving Korean fried cauliflower on their spring menus, with time, I’m sure other staples like bo ssam and Korean fried chicken might soon appear as well. But for a more authentic taste, Edmontonians have a few fairly new options to choose from, including Tofu House and NongBu. Mack and I decided to give NongBu a try, after seeing a spate of positive reviews.
Located in a former eyewear boutique just off Whyte Avenue, NongBu joins an already vibrant hospitality district. But despite the fact that they’ve only been open a few weeks, the vibe they are cultivating is spot on, and reminded us of some of the young and hip establishments we visited in Seoul.
The décor is minimal, with a focus on wood and polished concrete surfaces. They also made use of a large overhead wall as a fun projected movie canvas – who says art needs to be static?
Mack at NongBu
When we arrived, we only had to wait briefly for a table on the main floor. There is additional seating on a mezzanine level, and given the eagerness demonstrated by the staff to accommodate party sizes, relocating tables between the floors wasn’t a problem.
The menu at NongBu is focused, with a variety that spans about a dozen dishes. Most items are intended to be shared, so it’s a great option for those who enjoy small plates. Mack and I ended up ordering the royal ddukbbokki ($11), gemma rolls ($8.50) and the bo ssam for two ($32).
I probably expected too much from the ddukbbokki, hoping the dish would transport me back to the Seoul street food tour we did back in October. The sauce was pleasantly sweet, but the rice cakes were a little on the firm side for my taste. The black pepper was also a bit overpowering.
The gemma roll was perhaps my favourite dish – I loved the chewy texture of the eggroll, and the beef and vegetable filling had been well cooked and seasoned.
The bo ssam arrived as a beautifully plated platter and several small vessels containing soup and rice. The lettuce was certainly fresh, and we couldn’t complain about the quantity of meat included. That said, the pork was definitely meant to be consumed as a part of a wrap with a generous dab of chili sauce; without that added heat and seasoning, we found that the meat on its own was tender but bland.
Our server was extremely gracious and humble, and apologized for the wait and timing of our food (even though we really didn’t find fault with either). But he seemed genuinely interested in ensuring we had a positive experience, so we appreciated the gesture.
Overall, while we did enjoy our evening at NongBu, we do think the kitchen can improve their consistency in the weeks and months to come. But given their focused menu, I am hopeful that NongBu will have a successful place among this current wave of Korean cuisine in Edmonton.
8115 104 Street