Small family restaurant serving hotpot and other Korean dishes.
This is a smallish, Korean run family restaurant on busy Denman street. Of the few items we ordered for lunch at our last visit, the little side dishes (bean sprouts, fish cakes, seaweed ...) were all pretty good, deserving a 3 rating, but the beef soup was totally lacking in flavours. Service was minimal. There was only one server and she pretty much just took our order, delivered the food, and brought the bill. She didn't even have time to fill our tea cups, and the restaurant was not even full at the time.
I have been eating at Madangcoul for several years. There have been periods when I ate there a few times a month but usually it's just once or twice a year. I ate there tonight - with some trepidation I might add after reading a few bad recent Google reviews.
I've got to tell you, Madangcoul hasn't changed a bit. The food is outstanding, price is about average for local Korean restaurants, service and atmosphere - well, you need to downplay your expectations at this kind of restaurant. I'd say it's equivalent to a diner.
You can't bbq there but it's nice that you can order individual portions of bbq, and the way they cook it is pretty good. The banchan are my favourite in town. The best potatoes the best bean sprouts. (2nd place on the bean sprouts: Royal Seoul House on Broadway.) The kimchee is the fermented kind, which I prefer. And they almost always have served bean jelly (nokdumuk), it may be their signature. Typically I will get a soup there, like tteokguk or tteokmanduguk. Damn.
I'm quite surprised by the low rating in here. Might be inconsistency but I don't know. I was recommended this restaurant by another friend of mine, who also likes to try different things.
Well, this certainly met my expectation.
This place is certainly serving much more traditional korean food than what I've had before( ie. Jang Mo Jib, Kyung Bok Palace, whatever )
We ordered Bibimbap ( love it, best one i've had ) Tofu Pot ( acceptable, portion can be a little more generous ) Seafood Pancake ( must get ) and Tteok bokki ( spicy rice cake, also great ). Kimchi = authentic, other side dishes not too shabby, but we didnt had chance to ask for refill since we were full.
Overall, based on this one time experience, I would recommend this place. Will come back and re-rate next time I go back.
I have been a regular at this restaurant for years, and the owner recognized me by face. When the food and service was good, I also tipped quite a bit too, but that was years ago. The service has been sliding but the food was kept ok.
Lately, I went back, and noticed that they had done some minor renovation, but looked very different because they have dimmed down the atmosphere, plus changing to dark colour (chocolate) tables and chairs (to be more "modern"). They used to have this bright look, more like a cafe look.
But what a nightmare. It was a busy weekend evening, so I gave them some slack. Before I waited to order, I had no water nor tea served. After I ordered, still nothing. I waited 10 minutes patiently to get served some water or tea, but nothing came. I then asked nicely to the server (young female Korean, speaks English fluently) if I can have a cup of tea. She acknowledged but didn't come back with it. Later she came back, but only asked me to move table to a smaller one (understandably because they are busy so larger table is ok to give up to a bigger party), and she even told me that she'd bring me tea (she didn't forget, that's amazing). But after changing to the new table, I waited another 5 minutes and still no tea. I don't know what's going on.
I noticed that the owner wasn't smiling and he didn't recognize me or he just wasn't in the mood (he used to greet me when he saw me). I wonder what's going on. I also noticed (while waiting at 1st table), that the owner and the server had some problems w/ some order and paper, and I noticed that the server wasn't very nice (polite?) to the boss.
[Trivia: owner wearing the Q-Ray (is that the name?) bracelet from the TV infomercial, never saw him w/ one in the past.]
I was hungry and tired so I didn't have a lot of patient, so I intended to leave. But I did tell her briefly why I was leaving, again, as a matter of fact, but I wasn't "not being nice" or anything.
It's too bad, because I was going to try their grill pork belly w/ the tofu soup, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be. It's sad as I have been their big supporter for years, and bringing many friends there, and promoted this "hole in the wall" place to many.
Michael Smith (of Food Network fame) said it right at one show (think it's Chef At Large?), "good service can cover for mediocre food, but bad service cannot cover for even great food.". Case in point.
It is a sad case. They cannot work that way, at least not in the downtown area, serving an international clientele. It is not the first time I have had poor service at Korean restaurants, or any restaurants for that matter. But it's one of the very few that it happened after I have been a loyal customer for many years. Guess the luck just runs out.
As for food: I like their "beef bone" soups, and their small dishes (I think their small dishes is actually one of the better ones out there). They do not have BBQ, at least not on the tables. So it's a disadvantage, but they do have the grill dishes on the table (not to be confused w/ the BBQ kind) like pork belly etc (using a butane stove). Their dumpling plus rice cake (2 in 1) is also good value.
The best small dish is the "fish cake", a thin sliced fried fish cake (soaked in some sauce?), which is uncommon, but very good. They don't have it all the time though.
They have an inconsistency about the small plates: sometimes you get more, sometimes you get less, and sometimes they let you pick them out of the menu (choose 4 or 5, I forgot). Often, you don't get to choose. They just can't make up their mind how to do it. But years ago, even when I went by myself, the very nice server would ask if I want extra, and I sometimes did. But then I also gave a lot more tips (in the ratio of 40% to 50% of the bill sometimes) because of that (knowing that they were loosing money giving me those extra small plates).
For those who aren't familiar with Korean restaurants: most will serve unlimited (in theory) small plates (refills), but an extra bowl of rice will cost you a dollar. Doesn't really make sense but that's their tradition, something akin to an "all you can eat" thing, but not really. But in practice, most will have limits, or depends on how much you have ordered.
I think their biggest problem is that they don't know how to manage a restaurant, and cannot get good front end staff (or keep them to stay). They keep on getting inconsistent, inexperienced staff, with a lot of turn over, and it seems to get worse over time.
I'm not going back there, time to hunt for a replacement in the area. And the surprise is that the Richmond's Jin Mo Jib (sp?) has gone better lately (haven't been back for years). Oh well, I digress.
Stumbled on this place in an inadvertent act of spontaneity after enjoying a Satuday afternoon on Robson.
My order, DaeJee BulGogi (broiled thin sliced pork marinated in house special sauce), was okay but little tough and a bit dry. For my taste, it wasn't spicy enough but my girlfriend seemed ok with it.
However, my complain lies with their overall service: Our server had no business being a server! How can you not even know if your menu offers more spicy levels? Never mind not having a clue what I was ordering and then not putting in the order at all, having us wait 30 minutes with no food. The manager tried to recover but there was not much she could do to make our experience pleasant. Of course the service got better once I got frustrated and my girlfriend started to complain in Korean to the Korean manager. I think if we kept speaking English, we probably would have been continually ignored.