There has a been a mini-Korean restaurant explosion in Edmonton over the past year or so – every time I turn around, it seems like someone is talking about another new place! The newest restaurant on the scene is NongBu Korean Eatery and it is a good one – it is actually just off Whyte Ave in Edmonton instead of along the Ave like my title suggests but close enough? I originally had plans to go with a bunch of my Edmonton food friends, but alas I had a case of the flu and all my plans were nixed. However, good things come to those who wait and when friends up from Calgary asked if I was up for a visit to NongBu – my answer was an enthusiastic yes!
It was a crazy weather day when I popped over to NongBu as there was rain, sunshine and hail all in a very small time frame, but it was great to walk in from the hail/snow to be greeted with a glass of Soju mixed with Milkis (Korean soda)!
In addition to the Soju and Milkis, which my friends is amazing – you can’t taste the soju at all – the owner John also suggested we try the Maehwasu, a plum flavoured liquor. This was really nice with a plum flavour that was a great complement to all the dishes that were coming out as well as the Jap Chae banchan that was on tap that night.
The first dish that hit the table was the fried ddukbokki (rice cakes) with sweet and spicy sauce. We learned that in order to get the contrast between a crispy outside and still soft inside, the ddukbokki must be fresh and NongBu gets them in fresh every day, so if they run out or don’t receive any fresh ddukbokki, this dish is not an option. I love this dish so much and think I have an addiction to them now. The texture and flavours were just so on point that I don’t think I can eat ddukbokki any other way again.
The Gemma Roll is not quite Korean but it’s an ode to John’s Mom as this is something she used to make when he was a kid. I can totally relate as there are definitely some dishes that are not “authentic” but something that reminds you of childhood. I really liked the Gemma Roll as it was filled with bean sprouts (another favorite of mine) and beef and is actually quite similar to something my Mama makes too – like a Chinese eggroll but not authentically Chinese? Ambiguously Asian comfort food for the win!
We ordered both the mung bean (bindaedduk, not pictured) and seafood pa-jeons (pancake) and with my shrimp allergy, I didn’t have first hand experiences with the seafood pancake although everyone else did rave about it. The difference between NongBu’s seafood pa-jeon and other places is that NongBu’s version is filled with seafood with a little bit of batter to hold it all together, whereas most other places have a lot of pancake batter and very little seafood. I did sample the bindaedduk and while it tasted quite good, I didn’t love the texture of it. You can definitely tell there are mung beans in the pancake and I think it is something you have to acclimatize yourself to.
I always forget about kimbap as being Korean because it looks like sushi, but I really enjoyed NongBu’s kimbap. The pickled vegetables are fantastic and have a nice crispness to it. I really like the kimbap as an appetizer but I would probably prefer them cut in half as I found it a little awkward to try and eat the entire roll as it is.
We decided to try 2 of the 3 Ssam (lettuce wrap) dishes and these are the sharing sizes, but there are individual size portions that are about half the size. If there were only 2 of you dining, you could definitely share an individual size and order a handful of other dishes. The Bo Ssam is slow braised pork that was not dry and quite lean, which I like as fatty pork is not my favorite. The Ddukgalbi Ssam is new to me – I have never had this before and I thought it was very interesting. The rice cakes were almost sandwiched within the patties and not ground in with the ribeye like I imagined it would be. It was really good and certainly not something I have seen in Edmonton before. Our Ssam dishes were served with perilla leaves in addition to the lettuce as that is quite traditional in Korea, but John mentioned that most people were not eating the perilla leaves – it is a little bitter – so he is no longer serving it. I liked the perilla leaves but could see how it is an acquired taste, but I thought it was great with the two proteins.
As we moved down the menu, the last two items we chose were the Kalguksus (hand cut noodles). John makes and hand cuts all the noodles himself and they are absolutely fantastic. I love handmade noodles and these two bowls did not disappoint. The mussel/seafood option luckily does not contain shrimp so I was able to have some and at first blush, I thought it was a little bland, but a sauce is provided for you, so you can mix it in to your tastes. Once I added the sauce, I found it much more flavourful. But if I had to only choose one of the kalguksu, I would go for the DwenJang (Korean bean paste and Pork). The DwenJang had a greater depth of flavour and more umami in my opinion – I just found it more complex and perhaps with the weird weather, a more comforting dish.
We were pretty much stuffed to the max when John suggested we try a Melona Cider… a Melona what? For those that are unfamiliar with Melona – it is a ice cream bar that tastes like melon and a Melona Cider is essentially an ice cream float. It was so good that I have been recommending it to all my friends!
Overall, I would say that NongBu is a fantastic addition to Edmonton’s culinary landscape as it showcases different types of Korean dishes that aren’t quite as common here. There is a lot of work that goes into these dishes and you can sense that they don’t cut corners and hold themselves up to high standards, which I appreciate a lot. NongBu currently sits at the top of my favorite Korean restaurants list and I am looking forward to seeing what else they have in store!
So What Would Argenplath Pay?
At the end of the day, our table of 6 paid around $184 for our meal pre-tip and I think after tip my portion came out to about $38. I think this is incredibly reasonable considering there was alcohol involved as well as 9 dishes off the menu. You can see the breakdown below of the prices of what we ordered, although I do believe NongBu has done a little bit of adjusting since I was there. Most items are about the same price but a few have gone up/down.
- Milkis – $3.50
- Soju – $16.00
- Maehwasu – $16.00
- Fried DdukBbokki (x2) – $17.00
- Gemma Roll – $8.50
- Seafood Pa-Jeon – $8.50
- Bindaedduk – $8.50
- Bo Ssam – $32.00
- DdukGalbi Ssam – $32.00
- Mussel Kalguksu – $14.00
- Dwenjang Kalguksu – $12.00
- Cider – $3.50
- Melona – $3.50
- Total: $175 + GST = 183.75
As a follow up – I did have dinner at NongBu over the long weekend with a few friends and the food is still phenomenal and for 4 of us (without alcohol), it came out to $85 after tax and tip ($21/person). So you can get away with a filling dinner for a decent price!