Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Anju Restaurant

I've gotten the chance to visit the renewed Anju a few times since its reopening. I returned again this past Saturday with my family in celebration of my mom's birthday. To ensure that we wouldn't be placed on a insanely long wait list, I made a reservation nearly two weeks in advance. We arrived and was promptly seated in the booths found at the back. This was a different experience for me - the previous times I've came, I was always placed at the high top counters facing the street of 17th ave. I love those window seats because it gave my dining companions and myself the entertainment of people watching (whether it be those passing by or the bustling staff found in the kitchen). This time, we were placed in the "den", and while the seats were comfortable, the noise level was a bit too high for my party's liking.

Fortunately, none of my family members were familiar with the menu, so I got the honor and satisfaction of ordering for everyone.

Please note that most of the dishes that came with a specific quantity is typically served with 4 pieces. We added an additional piece for those particular dishes as we were a party of 5. I will put an asterisk* beside the dish name to indicate add-on's.

Spicy Salmon Tacos* (Avocado, sesame slaw, masago, nori, green onions, homemade wonton shells, topped with lime juice). These tacos are a flavourful delight and really gets your cravings started for the night.

Oxtail Tortellini* (Soy sauce, truffle oil, grana padano). This tortellini is smooth and seriously just glides down your throat. However, it is disappointing to see that the tortellini is quite small, making the deliciousness end just when you thought it had begun. 

Salmon and Tuna Sashimi Salad (Artisan greens, masago, daikon, sushi rice). There was nothing too special about this dish. The raw fish were fresh, cut in thick slices, and served at a just below chill temperature.

Gochujang Vinaigrette that was paired with the sashimi salad

Wagyu Beef Tartare (Korean pear, quail egg yolk, wonton chips). The seasoning of the beef is just perfect beyond words. A word of advice, the portion of beef to chips is 3:1, so be generous with your portions!

Yam Fries (Truffle oil, gochugaru aioli, korean sea salt). These fries are cut thick but still maintains that crispy factor through the batter that is used to deep fry it. The sauce, on point. During a previous visit, my company and I had kept the sauce even after having consumed all the fries, just so we could use it for other dishes. Feel free to employ the same tactic as us ;)

Crispy Tofu (Pork belly, sweet sautéed kimchi, citrus aioli). Because I knew how popular and tasty this dish was, I made sure to order this dish twice. The sweet sautéed kimchi sauce is what makes this dish and pairs really well with the crispy tofu. However, the pork belly doesn't do much for me.

Ssäm a.k.a. Lettuce Wraps (with choice of protein - we chose pork belly). This dish didn't really have anything "Anju" about it, aside from the personalized condiments. It felt like more of a rice filler than anything.

6 pieces of succulent pork belly

Condiments for the Ssäm dish (garlic chips, jalapeño, chili oil)

Samjang sauce for the Ssäm dish

Green Onion & Seafood Pancake (Prawns, squid, mussels, clams, soy dipping sauce). Unfortunately, the pancakes were a disappointment. There was nothing fusion about it, and if traditional was what it was going for, I felt like I've had better pancakes at other traditional Korean restaurants. I will probably avoid ordering this again in the future.

Baked West Coast Oysters* (Gochujang, garlic butter, parmesan). Delicious, but unfortunately too small :( I have ordered this on previous visits, and the oysters felt bigger in comparison. Perhaps it was an off day.

Top Picks: If you are headed to Anju soon, and there is a limit to the dishes you can try, I would highly recommend getting the Spicy Salmon Tacos, Wagyu Beef Tartare, and Crispy Tofu!

In terms of service, I am reluctant to say that although it wasn't terrible, it wasn't good either. On all previous visits, service has only been so-so. For my first visit, I had an average server. On the second visit, my server didn't seem to have had any experience serving (he was absent-minded and not listening throughout the night. For one of our conversation, my friend had asked if the bar could a specific alcoholic beverage a virgin, to which the waiter replied yes without hesitation. My friend wanted to confirm once more, so he asked "So there won't be alcohol in it right?" and the waiter all of a sudden became confused and replied "This is an alcoholic drink. Let me see if they can make it without alcohol for you."). Moving onto the most recent visit, the server was attentive and came frequently to top off our water, but he served us with a emotionless face that showed he didn't want to be there. In comparison, it felt like I had received much better service when Anju was at its old location.

I was a bit reluctant in mentioning the lack of service because although it isn't that great, I would highly recommend paying Anju a visit for its food. I would return without a doubt, and would hope to see improved service in the future.

Anju Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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