Annex 48: La Maison Bulgogi | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

2127 Sainte-Catherine O.
Montreal, Quebec

Metro:  Atwater, Guy-Concordia
Bus:  STM 15, 24, 57, 63, 66, 90, 104, 108, 138, 144, 150, 165, 166, 435

Visit:  October 13, 2011

As some of you know, I’ve been trying to expand my reach outside the realm of the bacon cheeseburger in the last few months.  Well, I couldn’t refuse an opportunity to try something that I’ve never done before in my life.  As a matter of fact, it’s something that I’ve never done in any facet of my life.  What I’m talking about is Korean BBQ.

I’m not kidding when I say that I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  Beforehand, I did some research by reading some of my fellow bloggers who have been already.  Korean BBQ wasn’t really the plan to begin with, but it was something that probably fit the situation the best.  On this occasion, I was accompanied by one of my loyal burger supports, as well as a very avid supporter of all things Asian, especially Korean food and fare.  Having our budding Korean language student would prove to be a large advantage because we needed a guide.  Luckily, we weren’t joined by a fat squirrel (inside joke, you had to be there).

At that particular point of the day, the restaurant wasn’t particularly full.  But as time started to pass, you were able to see tables filling up.  The server assigned to us did their job very well and was a key player in the night’s proceedings.  This was actually one of the few restaurants where I hardly noticed the people outside.  The front of the place is mostly glass and someone like me would get distracted quite easily.  However, the whole process was quite intriguing.

The tables are probably the most unique things I’ve seen on the whole island of Montreal.  Built in to the table is what I’ll call a grill.  I know I’m probably going to be corrected by tons of people, but that’s the simplest way for me to remember it.  The unique part of Korean BBQ is that we’d get the chance to cook our own food.  At first, I wasn’t comfortable with that idea, but once I saw how it worked, I jumped in.  Honestly, it’s been years since I’ve cooked any kind of meat on any kind of burner.

Since I was a newbie when it comes to Korean food of any kind, I allowed our “guide” to take charge of the ordering.  However, what leaped out at me was pork belly and shrimp.  I had to have what was referred to that night as “Korean Bacon.”  As for shrimp, I can never turn that down.  Rounding out our triple threat of “meats” was marinated pork.  Before we can get to any of the main actors in our play of “Mr. Lew Vs. Korean BBQ,” we must introduce the supporting cast.

The Table Set-Up

The Sides

Gochujang

This is a pepper soy bean paste that is meant to be eaten with the various meats.  At first, we all believed that it was something extremely spicy.  For this reason, I hesitated a bit to try it.  However, I was being brave and made an attempt.  There was no spice at all.  It was at this point that we were informed that this was not the spicy version.  Though the paste tasted fine, it wasn’t something that I preferred personally.

Kimchi

This was the first of two version I tried this evening.  This is more or less marinated cabbage.  I tend to like cabbage a lot, mostly when its cooked.  I really enjoyed the taste of this particular kimchi.  Whether I had it cold or a little heated, I went out of my way to have some without the other things all mixed in.

You’ll see another picture of kimchi later on.  I took a moment to try that one, but it didn’t have that same zing that this particular kimchi had.

Lettuce

Now, you’ll be wondering if I flipped my lid and started to write about just about anything.  But, what I found out is that lettuce played an important role in the consumption of Korean BBQ.  You’d combine all the things you wanted with the chosen meat to form a sort of wrap.

Now, while my burger supporter had an immense amount of trouble getting his “wrap” together, it looked like I made it on my first attempt.  Now, it’s time to be honest.  I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  As a matter of fact, I started using some of my past burger experience to keep this thing together.  So, when the “Korean student” complimented me on the way I was handling my lettuce pocket, I did the best thing I could do in this situation, I kept my mouth shut.

Lettuce is something that seems to be popping a lot in the Asian cuisine I’m used to.  I’m a fan of Cantonese Lobster and I love when they present it with pieces of lettuce.  As a matter of fact, for a long time, I’d go for the lettuce over the lobster because it was just so good.  On this occasion, I tried to snag a piece of lettuce by itself, but it was too strange for me.  Now, you must be wondering how on Earth I decided to write not one, but 3 paragraphs on lettuce.

Bean Sprouts

Marinated Seaweed

The “Other” Kimchi

"Potatoes"

I’m calling this potatoes because that’s we believed.  However, if you know what this really is, please let everyone know.

Rice

What’s notable about a bowl of rice in this case is when you’d place it in your “wrap.”  It creates a type of “glue” that keeps the rest of your material together.  However, once I abandoned the wrapping idea, the rice, for me, became what is normally was for me, a Chinese side dish.

Now, it’s time for the triple main event:

Pork Belly

This is what pork belly looks like before it really got cooked.  You’ll notice how it really looks a lot like bacon.

Pork Belly

Another picture of uncooked pork belly.  Why?  Just because I can!  It’s “Korean bacon” after all.

Samgyeopsal

This is pork belly which we referred to this as “Korean bacon.”  The thick slices of pork belly are not marinated or even seasoned in any way.  Even though that caught my attention, I don’t think it lived up in the end.  I know that I go on bacon rants nearly every day, I was thinking that I’d come back home having done Asian bacon.

The meat, no matter how cooked it was, never really had any taste.  Even if it was a more golden brown, I didn’t really pick up a taste in it.  After seeing what was to come, I was more understanding as to why it came out first.  I believe it was more to get the rookie members of the table used to the way Korean BBQ worked.

Uncooked Shrimp and Marinated Pork

Sae-U Gui

When I go to any Asian restaurant, shrimp is a must.  As much as I sing the praises of bacon, I can easily sing louder when it comes to shrimp.  As a matter of fact, I call shrimp, Asian bacon.  Unless it’s cooked terribly wrong or it’s from a food court, shrimp is consistently one of the best tasting foods you’d ever get anywhere.  That’s my high opinion on shrimp.

There’s not much to say about this shrimp.  I know that I put down more of it than anyone else at the table.  I did that despite the fact that it wasn’t completely up to par to my favorite kinds of Chinese shrimp dishes.  However, the shrimp was acceptable enough for me to clean house.  Even the small piece of tail shell left on wasn’t a hassle for me, as I usually like my shrimp already prepped.

Daoi Ji Gui

The marinated pork was by far the hit of the evening.  The fact that it was marinated so well and had a spicy kick to it, made the each bite a good one.  I even cheated a little bit and ate one before it was completely done.  I didn’t notice a difference, nor did I get sick afterwards.  It pretty much tasted the same.

Aftermath

This is what the grill looked like after Mr. Lew got done with it.  You can now judge me again.

Final Verdict

For a night where I didn’t know what to expect on more than one front, I came out feeling tremendous about the whole experience.  With wonderful company, the different type of cuisine was refreshing for me.  Being at this particular restaurant made my first experience with Korean BBQ something that I won’t soon forget, which is why I’d easily recommend groups of people to try this out.

La Maison Bulgogi on Urbanspoon

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