Several weeks ago, while working along Kingsway, by Metrotown, I noticed a new awning adorning Tai Won Chinese Restaurant. Always intrigued by new restaurant signage, I made a mental note to go check it out. Before I got a chance, Shokutsu from Foodosophy beat me to the punch. His well-written, in-depth post only intrigued me more.
Tai Won is located on a quite safe stretch of Kingsway in Burnaby. One must always be aware, however, of unsavory types lingering on the roadside looking for dining partners. This particular gentleman was especially persistent to the point that we invited him along for some lunch.
There is a fair bit of confusion about this establishment. The sign says “Chinese Restaurant”. However, once inside, you immediately can tell it’s a Korean-run spot. The staff are Korean as are all the menu items. Shokutsu cleared up some of the confusion on his post with this: “Its a Chinese-influenced restaurant however, but basically the niche genre of Chinese-Korean cuisine that’s available in Korea.”
Our server made a point of asking if we knew that they serve Korean-Chinese fare. Not knowing exactly what that meant, we all said, “Um, ok!”. Bring it on!
With a plethora of crossover Asian restaurants in the Lower Mainland, I figured there would be a variety of Korean and Chinese items available. On the relatively small lunch menu there seemed to be mainly, if not all, Korean items. The only “Chinese” influence I could spot was the “Wantan Soup”.
A nice touch here is the self-serve banchan and ice-water station. The banchan part of it turned out to be unnecessary as we were served plenty of it with our wide-ranging meal.
We started off with some dumplings. The menu offers three types: steamed, boiled and fried. Today the steamed version were unavailable. Probably a good thing…the boiled and fried were more than enough.
The Mool Man Doo (boiled dumplings) were plentiful, delicious and great value. Eighteen pork and chive dumplings served with pickled cabbage and daikon. An impressive portion for seven bucks. Very well made but, in this case, not enough ginger and garlic for my liking.
Along with the soy sauce and white vinegar I requested a ramekin of chile oil. That raised the flavour quotient big-time!
The fried version of Korean dumplings are Koon Man Doo. You get eight big and plump, pork-filled pockets. I love the unique wooden canoe serving platter these arrived on. A nice, yet unwieldy touch on the rapidly filling table.
The wraps on these are very good. Heavy enough to hold its delicious filling yet light and crispy enough to make a perfect casing. A slightly heavier dollop of garlic and ginger would’ve pushed these near ten out of ten.
Luckily, this time round, everyone got different dishes. Makes for much better blogging…
The Gut went with the Wantan Soup. Not the best choice from all accounts. A few touches weak, broth-wise, a variety of uninspired veg, a messy scramble of egg and under-seasoned dumplings to boot.
Carl’s Jr. went with the Jjajangmyeon (Black bean sauce noodles). The thick fried black bean sauce is tossed with onions and pork, served over wheat noodles. No complaints here. May have to try this next time round. My new colleague/top rank eating champ gave this bowl a somewhat hearty thumbs up.
This would be your Udon (Noodles with Mild Seafood Soup). OK. Now I’m thoroughly confused. Udon’s Japanese, no? This, from my vantage point, seemed a very good-sized portion. Mussels, some prawn, an assortment of veg, topped with another scramble.
I decided on Yoo san seul bab (Assorted fried vegetables, pork and seafood on rice). Thin strands of bell pepper, carrot, cucumber, cabbage and tofu, crunchy wood ear shrooms and a whole bunch of toothsome prawn. The pork was pretty much non-existent, but that didn’t hurt a bit. The thick, goopy, potato-starch based sauce was perfect here…mild saltiness but still very rich. Just crying out for the chili oil. A really well-balanced dish.
Tai Won deserves several more visits. The service, excellent…warm, friendly, very helpful. The room, quite modern but yet comfortable and cozy. The food, although lacking in some areas, good enough to keep exploring.