711 Somerset St.West, Ottawa – (613) 230-7111
Date of Visit: December 6, 2012
Koreana is one of those places that has been on my bucket list of Ottawa eateries for sometime now. It has always been fairly low on my list, as it happens, since I usually prefer restaurants that feature a single cuisine rather than ‘fusions’ or multiple varieties, but Koreana actually offers an eclectic selection of individual Japanese and Korean dishes and is not really a fusion restaurant as such. A last minute change in my dining schedule finally led me to their door on this recent trip to Ottawa, and I have to say that, with this experience, that I was very well rewarded by my serendipitous encounter…
Ambience and Service
The restaurant interior, it must be said, does not inspire one with much hope that the dining experience will be a good one. The restaurant is very badly laid out, is definitely poorly maintained and shabby, and the cleanliness of the carpet, along with the general untidiness, is a bit disheartening indeed. Still, the rest of the experience, I have to say, does tend to make up for these shortcomings in large measure.
The tables feature inlaid grills, as one usually finds in this sort of restaurant, but, since I was dining solo, I didn’t try any of the meals that require this equipment and, instead, opted to choose from the appetizer menu only. I also note that there were bell buttons supplied for each table to summon the waitress but, actually, the young friendly young woman, who appeared to be the only wait-staff on duty, was so attentive and efficient, that I really didn’t need this amenity.
Seaweed Salad – This was a Japanese offering and was very good indeed. It featured two sorts of seaweed, along with agar strips and white and brown sesame seeds, in a dressing that appeared to be chiefly composed of a sweetened sesame oil. No vinegar was apparent, which was a bit surprising, but the taste was very nice. I am sure that one variety of seaweed was kelp, but the other (the very bright green variety) remained a mystery, although it may have been wakame. I asked my waitress if she could identify it but she just shrugged apologetically and didn’t, I was a little annoyed to notice, offer to find out from the kitchen. Still, the dish was very good and I unhesitatingly rate it at a 5 out of 5.
Kimchi – This dish was not on the menu and was supplied free of charge unexpectedly. I noted, with some surprise that there were no Kimchi dishes listed on the menu and my waitress informed me that it usually only comes as a side to main course meals. Then, in complete redemption to her failure to resolve the seaweed issue, she offered to bring me a little to taste and, I have to say, that it was excellent. The cabbage it was made from was fermented to the perfect degree of sourness but it still managed to retain the natural sweetness of the fresh product. It was made with Korean powdered chili, rather than Gochujang (which yields a completely different taste), and I can honestly say that it rivaled anything my wife and I have ever made. I gave it a 5 out of 5.
Seafood pancake – Although not called as such on the menu, this was basically the ‘Pajeon’ which is so deservedly popular in Korean cuisine. It contained shrimp, scallop, zuchinni, scallion and shredded carrot in a light batter, and was a bit of a departure from many varieties in that the pancake ingredients were cut into vary tiny pieces instead of long strips. It was also a good deal thinner than other types I have had and the result was a cake that was nicely crispy in places, and delightfully chewy in others. It was better than any of my homemade versions to date, barely needing the soy based sauce that came on the side, and, again, I thought it worthy of a rating of 5 out of 5.
Yakitori – This dish, unfortunately, did not match the quality of the others I sampled. It consisted of very generous chunks of dark chicken meat interspersed with carrot, green pepper and onion and, while I realize that restaurants have to turn a profit, the vegetable quotient was a bit too much. The whole thing was drowned in the sort of sweet and sour sauce that would be at home in a very westernized sort of Chinese restaurant and, while the result was actually not bad, it was a very poor rendition of a traditional yakitori. I could only give this a 2 out of 5.
Koreana is well worth a visit. The ambience definitely leaves a little to be desired, particularly in the area of maintenance, but the food and service are excellent. I only investigated the menu as far as the appetizer selections but I am now inspired to go back for something more substantial…