KIWA KOREAN RESTAURANT
Neighbourhood: Fort Garry
Address: 10-277 Pembina Hwy
Korean barbeque is virtually synonymous with tabletop grilling; a variety of meats sizzling on a table top electric grill, loads of accompanying side dishes and dipping sauces. It is a lively meal for a group of carnivorous friends, or a date.
Kiwa Korean Restaurant tucked in one of Pembina Highway’s ubiquitous strip malls, has been a popular destination for Korean BBQ and other traditional dishes of Korean cuisine for eight years.
It is not unusual to walk into a crowded weeknight room at this simple, sleek spot. Tables are filled with families, couples and groups of millennials. Clearly the place is on to something.
The menu features an impressive number of shareable barbeque and jeongal (hot pot) feasts and combination jokbal (pork) platters. While the multi-page menu is vast, categories of dishes are clearly identified and accompanied with pictures, making self-guiding easy.
Small plates identified as snacks include delectably crispy chicken wings topped in a sticky sweet and spicy sauce. This same kicky red sauce coats a plate of mini wiener-shaped rice cakes, fried crisp with a satisfying chew. Paired with a frosty beer, either of these dishes hits the mark as a crave-able late night snack. Seafood jeon, crêpe-like pancakes, features shrimp squid, carrots and onions, and packs an umami punch.
Bibimbap, a rice bowl topped with vegetables and protein, is a popular lunch staple or light meal and Kiwa offers ten varieties. Opt for the beef bulgogi topping and the rice below is infused with delicious saucy stir-fried beef. A mixture of tuna and salmon sashimi tops a refreshing cold version. Seaweed shavings add salinity to a vibrant veg mash-up.
Sizzling galbi (short ribs) are served on a hot cast iron griddle atop sliced white onions. Beef and short ribs are prominently featured in jjigae and tangs (stews) too — piping hot bowls, characterized by a hint (or wallop) of the fermented chili paste gochujang and sometimes kimchi. Don’t miss the tofu variety, its melt-in-your-mouth silkiness a revelatory addition to a bowl of vegetable soup.
For those who like to control their own dining destiny, flipping slabs of sirloin and thin slices of pork belly over the tabletop grill until crisp and juicy is a satisfying task. The meat is the draw here, and dunking the morsels in different sauces makes for a luxurious tour of flavour.
Whether grilling or venturing into classic dishes, Kiwa delivers the spice, funk and complexity for which Korean food became famous.