October 2, 2022
Zoomak Korean Tavern in Vancouver.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail Title: Zoomak Korean Tavern Location: 52

Zoomak Korean Tavern in Vancouver.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Title: Zoomak Korean Tavern

Location: 52 Alexander St., Vancouver

Cellphone: 604-620-1240

Web site: zoomakyvr.com

Delicacies: Trendy Korean

Costs: Han Sang lunch particular ($20); shared plates, $5 to $40.

Further Information: Open Tues. to Fri. for lunch (from 11:30 a.m.) and dinner (from 5 p.m.); Sat. dinner solely. Reservations beneficial. Takeout: UberEats and DoorDash.

Here’s a heartwarming story for the vacations.

Two gifted younger cooks with a need to carry one thing new to Vancouver open a contemporary Korean tavern in the midst of a pandemic.

Jjam bbong.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

For months, their pretty eating room – unfold over three cozy flooring and minimally appointed in white, brass, pale wooden and ghostly dried-floral bouquets – stays largely empty.

It definitely doesn’t assist that they’re situated on a aspect avenue in Gastown, which has been cratered by the overdose disaster.

After eating places are reopened for indoor eating, the key slowly begins spreading by phrase of mouth: the beautiful $20 Han Sang lunch particular is among the finest offers on the town.

With none promoting or media push, evenings get busier all through the summer season. They open a small patio, seducing new prospects one attractive sesame-infused whiskey bitter at a time.

A yr later, in mid-October, Zoomak Korean Tavern celebrates its first anniversary – and it turns into nearly unattainable to get a reservation with out two weeks discover.

Sesame bitter cocktail.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Okay, the lengthy waitlist won’t heat everybody’s cockles. However in a yr that was mired by an excessive amount of distress, it is a nice success story, and ought to be celebrated.

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The restaurant’s house owners are Eric Choi and Bobby Shin, who additionally co-owns the lauded Maru Korean Bistro in North Vancouver – which, though much less polished than Zoomak, took child steps in the identical trendy, fusion-y culinary course.

Right here, Mr. Shin runs the front-of-house operations. Though he has struggled to seek out workers, the service on three visits was very candy and well mannered.

The costs have been saved extraordinarily affordable for the standard of the meals. Mr. Choi, who runs the kitchen, has a powerful résumé. After culinary college, he lower his enamel on the fine-dining Cioppino’s Mediterranean Kitchen. He will need to have impressed chef-owner Pino Postero, who later despatched him to England and located him a job on the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn, owned by Albert Roux.

The Han Sang tasting tray lunch particular.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

After two years, he returned to Vancouver, spent a number of months at Bao Bei and labored his method as much as the meat/saucier place at Botanist within the Fairmont Pacific Rim.

“At Botanist, I labored with Pacific Northwest delicacies, mixing all varieties of flavours with native elements,” Mr. Choi defined by telephone.

“That’s what I’m making an attempt to do at Zoomak, however the flavours are primarily Korean. I wish to do one thing that different Korean eating places right here will not be doing.”

Steak tartare is a wonderful instance of his melded influences. Lean eye of the spherical is lower to order and completely diced with sharp knife work. His method is flawless. Tender, bouncy and pleasantly served at room temperature, the meat is tossed in gochujang, Parmigiano and horseradish for funk, further umami and a slight hit of warmth. Then it’s fantastically plated with egg yolk and yam strings.

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You’ll have to arrive early for the well-known Han Sang lunch particular, which options 10 small dishes – all drawn from the common menu – plus soup, rice and (for an extra $5) alternative of protein.

Mr. Choi solely prepares 12 to fifteen orders a day. It’s first-come, first-served. And there may be typically a lineup outdoors the door earlier than the restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m.

Gorgeously arrayed on a picket tray, the dishes would possibly embody house-fermented kimchi, creamy custard, silky pork cheek, melting smooth beef shin and excellent Korean fried rooster.

For the latter, Mr. Choi makes use of a Chinese language frying method, using potato starch combined with oil and egg white because the batter (as a substitute of cornstarch), for a fragile, long-lasting crisp.

If the lunch particular is bought out, you received’t go unsuitable with jjam bbong, a standard noodle dish, however one with an attention-grabbing lineage. The spicy pork and seafood broth will get its dark-crimson color from gochugaru, a dried chili powder that’s candy and smoky with a mild warmth.

However this sizzling, steaming bowl, chock-full of mussels, shrimp and charred greens, is definitely a Chinese language-Korean dish. It was created by Chinese language immigrant restaurateurs, who needed to adapt their cooking to native palates. It’s form of just like the Korean chop suey.

Beef tartare.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Should you’re simply stopping in for a drink at evening, there may be nice collection of inventive cocktails, native and Asian beer, soju, sake, Japanese whiskey and regionally made makgeolli – a milky, evenly glowing rice wine.

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No matter your poison, they might all go swell with the stellar ban-chan aspect dishes and snacks. The crispy kombu sprinkled with sugar on a creamy mattress of miso hummus is completely addictive.

For a extra substantial meal, strive oysters fried in a crunchy fluff of panko breading. It’s served with an herbaceously vivid tartar sauce that Mr. Choi used to make for workers meals on the Waterside Inn.

His pork potstickers are a murals. Mr. Choi steams the succulent pork dumplings in a young-rice slurry (quite than the everyday cornstarch), which anchors them on a skirted pedestal of skinny, crispy tuile.

If you’re very hungry, the bossam wrap is a plentiful DIY platter with agency tofu and meltingly tender pork stomach that’s roasted to a crackling crisp alongside the sides (in most eating places, the meat is boiled).

There actually isn’t anything like Zoomak in Vancouver. Damso on Denman Road has lengthy been an innovator, however the meals and setting is rather more informal. PiDGin has at all times featured some nice trendy Korean dishes, however it’s solely a small a part of their pan-Asian repertoire.

The closest comparability can be Raisu or Kingyo, the fantastic Japanese izakayas.

Just like these eating places, Zoomak has efficiently wooed a loyal Korean following with its genuine flavours, but additionally appeals to a broader clientele.

Mr. Choi and Mr. Shin have fulfilled their imaginative and prescient with flying colors. The lineups and waitlists are effectively deserved.

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