“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” Oscar Wilde.
To celebrate the completion of my MA, I hosted a party for 18 of my closest friends and family. After much research, I picked Anju restaurant. I liked how the venue was semi private as I was able to reserve the lower floor for my party. I also knew the food would be excellent. I had eaten there before and my friends and I loved the food and thought the tasting menu offered great value. The last time we visited, we had about 10 dishes, and every single dish was different in terms of taste. However, I do remember that with our crowd that night our drink bill ended up more than double that of the food bill. Whoops – those soju shots go down too easily!
I was planning my graduation dinner for months, and I have to say that I was becoming nervous as the big day came closer. There was one week before the party in which I couldn’t get a hold of the chef and owner, Roy. I went into panic mode but calmed down after cyber stalking him and finding out through Yelp that he was in Vegas for a week and closed his restaurant. Phew! He returned my emails about two hours after landing (again, I gleaned that information off Yelp). Don’t worry Roy, I’m in a committed relationship. I only stalk food, not men.
For the seating, I was happy to see we received one long dining table. I didn’t want our party to be split up into groups. I came in a bit early to arrange a seating plan for my guests. For the first round of celebratory shots, I ordered soju with passion fruit. For our wine, our server recommended a malbec and riesling wine. Both turned out to be good choices. Two guests who normally dislike riesling loved it and two picky guests enjoyed the malbec.
The first dish of the night was crispy tofu with saucy kimchi and citrus aioli. The presentation was perfect, and the taste of crispness of the exterior and softness of the inside of the tofu was mind-blowing. I think the panko bread crumbs and sauce really elevated the taste of tofu. Everyone loved it, I even got a thumbs up from my hard to please mother. My boyfriend’s mother hates tofu and she even scarfed it down.
The second course was oysters on the half shell with kimchi mignonette. I skipped the kimchi and just squirted some lime juice on the oysters. I didn’t want to cover the taste of the freshness of the oysters with anything. I thought the oysters were even better than the ones I tried at Big Fish on cheap oyster night. However, I would have preferred lemon juice instead of lime but that’s just me.
The third course was the crowd-pleaser – Korean fried chicken wings with spicy gochujang. The massive wings and drumsticks were meaty –the crunchy batter only accentuated their already impressive size. This is the only course I skipped out of – I had my makeup done for this dinner and I didn’t want to eat anything that would mess it up. But I have tried it before and I can say Anju has one of the best wings in town. Beware if you can’t handle the heat – the gochujang sauce was spicy.
The fourth course was my favourite dish – grilled Norway mackerel with citrus aioli and grilled lemons. Holy crap – I ate the entire fish. My neighbor didn’t care for fish, so her loss, my gain (weight wise). The skin was so crispy and the flesh of the fish was a tiny bit oily so that it was very tender. I must have eaten two bowls of rice with the fish, it was so good doused with wasabi soy sauce.
The last dish of the night was a whole roasted pork shoulder and a massive platter of emerald green romaine lettuce (by this time – the soju and wine were making all colours of the food more vivid), plus rice, and 3 sauces. The pork was shaped in a big square – there was a layer of fat on the top, which separated easily. The fat was there for flavor, but the meat itself was lean and juicy. The meat was so tender we didn’t need a knife, the pork just pulled apart with tongs. We were told to wrap the pork with lettuce, garlic chips, rice and sauces. The combination of meat, basil leaves, garlic and hot sauce made for a powerful punch.
Service was stellar. We learned later that night that another server had called in sick. So the lone star server did an amazing job to make sure we were well-fed and attended to during our three-hour feast. I also appreciated how the courses were paced well, which is unlike my experiences at most Chinese restaurants, in which everything seems to come out at once. The timing allowed us to savior the food, talk and pose for photos. We brought in our own photographer, Rachel from Ray’s Photography, to take our pictures. I’ll post the professional photos in the near future.