Victoria is not home to a huge population of Korean restaurants, but among the few, King Sejong is arguably the best. For reasonable prices, they will offer up large quantities of spicy, tasty, and (I am told) authentic Korean cuisine.
My girlfriend and I have a standing tradition going back to that fateful and awkward first Valentine’s Day. Rather than spend hordes of money on romantic fine dining meals, we seek out the forgotten, the dingy, and the more adventurous ethnic meals for our date. So, over the reading break, we got dressed up to spend an evening out in the humble settings at King Sejong (650 Yates St.).
Stepping into the warm restaurant, we gratefully accepted the tea that was offered to us. Served in plastic teacups, it had a toasted barley taste that was comforting and delicious on a cold day. Being too famished at this point to make any serious decisions about dinner, we ordered Yakimandu dumplings ($7.99) as a starter. Similar to a gyoza, the dumplings were crispy and filled with a garlic and green onion-pork mixture. They were also served at a near molten temperature; something I only discovered after popping one into my mouth.
Despite the scalded tongue, we were still eating the garlicky dumplings when our meals arrived. The Hotpot Bibimbap ($10.99) that I had ordered came in a stone bowl with a fried egg still sizzling on top; an addition that makes any dish better. My girlfriend’s soup-like Yuk Gae Jang ($11.99) was literally red hot and boiling when it was placed on the table.
To our surprise, our waitress kept delivering food. She laid out small side dishes of kimchi, cold bean sprouts, plain white rice, and spicy fish cakes, all of which apparently came with our meals. Finally, she placed down a small bowl of miso soup; something that made me want to question both my limited knowledge of Korean cuisine and my source that had vouched for the authenticity of this place.
The bibimbap was a giant bowl of goodness. The layers in the bowl revealed new surprises, as different flavours and textures were discovered. The pork and vegetables on top gave way to rice underneath that had cooked to the sides and bottom of the hot bowl, giving it a fantastic crispy texture.
The Yuk Gae Jang, while lacking the variety of texture and layers I was enjoying so much in the bibimbap, was also fantastic. The broth was just as spicy as its red colour advertised, and the glass noodles and vegetables floating in the broth added some needed substance.
Though, with its open atmosphere and vinyl/linoleum finishes, King Sejong may not have been the most romantic restaurant, we couldn’t have asked for a better Valentine’s setting. The food left us more than satisfied and was more enjoyable than some meals we have paid twice as much for. For the full Korean themed evening, we ventured into Lotteria Karaoke next door. It’s more fun than you might think; however, be advised, the prices there may not be as cost effective as King Sejong.