Great tasting food is the primary reason that influences my decision on whether or not to revisit a restaurant. I am willing to overlook A LOT of other unpleasant factors about a restaurant if it serves me delicious food. On the flip side, if the food that I receive at a certain restaurant happens to not be spectacularly tasty, I tend to look harder at the other elements of the dining experience. I focus on the dining environment, the menu prices, the portion sizes, and the level of service. A restaurant that scores above average in most of these categories will most likely become a candidate for a revisit. A restaurant that outclasses others in one of the categories will also be looked upon as a new addition to my dining-out rotation.
Chui is a restaurant that falls into the being-excellent-in-one-category classification. When my wife, son, and I had our lunch at the restaurant today, we were pleasantly surprised with their larger portion sizes and their generous inclusion of fresh ingredients.
The restaurant’s menu gave us absolutely no indication of their generous portion sizes. Given their card-sized lunch menu, and given their 50%-off lunch specials promotion, my wife and I were kind of half-expecting to receive the spicy pork belly on rice, bulgogi udon noodles, and spicy mussel soup we ordered off their lunch specials menu in minature-sized bowls.
As is evident in the pictures, the three lunch items that we ordered came in two normal-sized bowls and a normal-sized pot. But the size of the containers really didn’t mean that much if there was only a meager amount of food in them. Surprisingly, there was way more than a meager amount included in each order. The portion sizes – mainly the protein components- were deceivingly huge.
Although the flavours of the bulgogi udon were simplistically one-note sweet, and although the udon noodles were too-soft and not as teeth-bouncing as my wife and I would’ve liked, we totally appreciated the fact that there were more than enough tender slices of beef included in the bowl. There was so much beef included that I was able to pair up every single bite of udon with a substantial portion of bulgogi from start to finish.
Although the rice under the spicy pork belly was way too firm, and although the spicy pork belly itself was overcooked to a texture that made it almost too tough to bite through, there was more pork in the bowl than there was rice. After having pairing every single grain of rice with pieces of the sweet and spicy pork, I was surprised to find that there were still slices of pork left over. In the absence of rice, I had to pair up the slices of pork with the abundant strings of fresh scallion included in the bowl. The scallions actually acted as a flavour-enhancer. They created a dual contrast of spiciness between themselves and the sweet spicy sauce.
Although the spicy soup tasted rather generic, and although there weren’t much in the way of ingredients other than mussels and green onions in the spicy soup, there were so many mussels in the soup that it took almost two bowls to fill up the empty mussel shells. The mussels themselves tasted very fresh. They had a squishy-snappy texture that was nicely complemented by the semi-crunchy soaked sections of green onions.
The generous portion sizes continued with the non-lunch-special seafood pancake that we ordered off of their dinner menu.
Check out the cross-section of the pancake in the second photograph. If seafood pancake served at other restaurants are thin crust pizzas, the seafood pancake served to us at Chui was a Chicago-style deep dish pizza. The thing was one of the thickest Korean seafood pancakes that my wife and I have ever had. Not only was the pancake thick, it was stuffed with fresh and snappy chunks of seafood and scallions. The scallions were not cut-up partial sections but sliced full sections; the squid pieces were lengthy and teeth-bouncing; the shrimps included were whole, dense, and snappy. This generous inclusion of ingredients made the totally-not-crispy top and bottom surfaces of the pancake a mere afterthought.
There was actually one item that we ordered which was more modestly portioned. It was the chicken skewers we ordered for our son.
To be fair, the chicken skewers were supposed to be tapas-portioned. As a tapa, the three skewers were more than adequate. The chicken skewers were fairly well-cooked. The meat was tender and juicy, which was about all that we could expect to enjoy from a dish which we requested to be served without its spicy sauce. My son was not fond of the chicken in its plain, unsauced form. He, however, ‘loved’ it when the chicken was dipped in the included soy sauce.
Along with the dishes we ordered we were served three complimentary items: banchan, egg drop soup, and lemonade.
The banchan consisted of three items which tasted pretty generic. The fish cake was cold and almost flavourless; the kimchi was spicy and a little crunchy; the tofu tasted like tofu. The egg drop soup also tasted pretty generic; it tasted like cooked droplets of eggs in watered-down broth. The lemonade was a surprise. It was served right after we received our bowls and before we received the seafood pancake. I thought that the unsweet and slightly-sour lemonade was a palate cleanser at first. But it turned out to be more of a flavour enhancer after I had consecutive sips of it along with the spicy mussel soup. The acidity of the lemonade did a good job in bringing out the briny sweetness of the spicy mussel soup.
The flavours and textures of the dishes my wife, son, and I had at Chui were ordinary and unexceptional. But the sheer volume of protein ingredients (and scallions) in each dish that we received were extraordinary and exceptional. For this reason alone, we will be putting Chui on the short list of restaurants to visit when we are in the mood for Korean food.