I am originally from B.C. and I love going home. I love seeing my friends and family and usually spend most of my time in Northern B.C. and on Vancouver Island. “(I usually pass through Vancouver on the way to other places. Besides its beauty, I think that Vacouver is the capital of Asian tapas!! Tapas has always been my favourite way to eat, and Asian food is usually the cuisine that most delights my palate…especially Japanese and Korean.
I have tried a few places already: Bao Bei, which is wonderful and serves Chinese tapas calling themselves a “Chinese brasserie”. Guu in its early days and Happa Izakaya for the Japanese-style tapas or Izakaya eating. On my last trip, though, I tried a new placed called Damso. It is tiny, the décor minimalist and welcoming and the food de-li-cious!! It has just the right mix of Korean and nouvelle cuisine that I like and the Chef makes some surprising combinations.
I also often mix Korean food with western food. In fact, I believe that the best condiment I made in my life was a mix of southern-style chow-chow in which I replaced the cabbage with homemade kimchi. (I also make kimchi with kale, as you can see in this youtube video that I made in the hopes of going to Korea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK5bj8oBGrY)
I went to Damso with my cousin Sarah, her husband Danny, who is a chef, and my sister-friend Tisha who don’t eat-no-powk (swine). We had a nice little dinner and it was a great evening out. Tisha had never tried Korean food, and neither really had Danny and Sarah. Though this place is not at all traditional, it is great both for the uninitiated to Korean cuisine and for people like me who have a weakness for novelty.
Here were the dishes:
The pickled vegetables were beautifully presented, but they were too vinegary and traditional to me, and it would have been nice if each vegetable was pickled in a different way.
This was a just a straight-up fresh salad with the usual suspects in Asian western fusion: sesame, daikon, onions and sprouts, but then there was a bit of sweetness and the homemade bacon that brought it all home: simple, but well executed.
Here is toast with foie gras shavings and tomatoes confits. It was really intriguing, but overall, I felt the tomatoes confits were over-powering the foie gras shavings. It seemed like a dish that could work, but was unbalanced.
Tteokbokki is a very traditional dish with rice cakes in a spicy sauce– and he definitely got it right. Not only was it a hit with everyone, but it meant my friends also got to try some traditional stuff.
Here we have Korean-style chitterlings (fried intestines). My friend Tisha may not normally eat swine, but she’s got a soft spot for southern food and this was the best of both worlds.
Squid stuffed with squid sausage served with its ink and caviar: REALLY wonderful! Beautifully presented with delicate layering of flavours.
This was everyone’s favourite: the tongue. Simple and well-done. It had a gentle meat-glaze-esque sauce, velvety with collagen and flavour. J
The pig’s ear salad was the least favourite – I had pushed for it, but I was disappointed too. (I often eat pig’s ear salad, buying the ears already cooked and sliced, and there’s a reason for that; if they are over-cooked, the meat starts to peel off the cartilage and if they’re not sliced thin enough, they are too chewy and the experience of chewing through thick pieces of cartilage is unpleasant. Indeed, these were a bit too thick. The sauce was also a bit too sweet and I would have preferred julienned vegetables instead of the leafy greens. I did, however, like the ground black sesame. It was beautiful in the plate 🙂
I really loved the spirit of the place. Some of the dishes were extraordinary and some were missing a bit of finesse, but I could feel the dedication of the chef. I admired his willingness to take risks and even make mistakes, and the dishes that were super-dooper came out of his daring combinations of Korean cooking with for the most part French nouvelle cuisine. Koreans are fairly chauvinistic about food, they don’t usually want to pay much. In fact, this place remains very affordable but at the same time offers dishes that are definitely off the beaten track and beautifully presented and the tapas tasting style was refreshing. I would definitely go back to try some more :).
I forgot to take a photo of the Korean taco and the pancake, a traditional dish that they nicely re-invented as a waffle Sorry! I guess you’ll have to go and try it yourself!
867 Denman St, Vancouver, BC
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