Monday Night Supper Club @ Anju
Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
I wasn’t going to write about Anju again since I already reviewed them here after a visit about a year and a half ago. But the meal I had last Monday, as part of my friend Dan’s Monday Night Supper Club was so delicious I just had to blog about it.
Some background first about the Monday Night Supper Club (#MNSCyyc) – during the Top Chef Canada run, Dan would reserve the big table by the bar at CHARCUT every Monday to watch the show with a bunch of his peeps and tweeps. By the time the show ended, the group had already become accustomed to having plans on Monday night, and so the Monday Night Supper Club was born. New “members” are always welcome, so if you’re interested in joining us, just send Dan a tweet!
We were so lucky to have Anju’s Chef/Owner Roy Oh and Manager Dave open the restaurant just for us on the Monday of the long weekend! Before the meal, which was a chef’s tasting menu for $40/person, Chef Roy came up to introduce himself and explain the concept for the restaurant – “anju” is the Korean word for small plates of food that you share over alcohol. Anju’s dishes uses familiar, local ingredients, but adds a bit of a Korean twist with the use of traditional flavours and seasonings.
First up were two dishes of hoe, or thinly sliced raw meats, topped with sesame, fried garlic chips and thin curls of green onion. The lobster was drizzled with chili oil for some extra heat, while the beef (tataki, so not completely raw) was dressed with plain sesame oil.
The lobster was sweet and meaty, while the dressing added richness and a little bit of heat. The more simply dressed beef really allowed the flavour of the meat to shine through. Roy didn’t want to leave out pescetarian Chelsea K, so he presented her with a plate of lightly seared tofu as well.
Next up was crispy tofu with sauteed kimchi and citrus aioli. This dish was the first of many highlights that night.
Seriously. I’m sure this dish will convert even the staunchest tofu hater. The crispy breading dressed with sweet citrus gave way to soft, pillowy tofu. I usually don’t like the harsh flavours in kimchi, but here, the sauteed kimchi was mild and sweet.
Next, we were presented with a bowl full of mussels seasoned with serrano soy sauce, onions, ginger, sesame and white wine.
These mussels were so easy to eat, and we found ourselves picking at them one by one as we waited for our next dishes to arrive. The light seasoning highlighted the fresh flavour of the mussels, but the best part was when we got near the bottom of the bowl and were able to scoop up some of the boozy broth before nudging the mussels out of their shells.
The following dish was well worth the short wait. Dave grinned as he laid two plates of chicken wings in front of us, “We don’t want people to confuse us with fine dining,” he said.
We hungrily dug in to the wings, which were fancy in their own way – the gochujang wings were sweet and sticky, with a bit of heat, while the flour-battered salt & Szechuan peppercorn wings were crisp from the fryer, with just a hint of the floral aroma of the Szechuan peppercorn (and fortunately, none of the numbing “mala” sensation). I have totally cut back on my chicken wing consumption ever since I learned that a wing is about 100 calories, but I would gladly use up my daily calorie allotment on these ones!
Finally, it was time for the main course – Bo Ssam, or lettuce wraps.
Large wooden tubs filled with butter lettuce (perhaps Roy read my last blog post saying that romaine lettuce was too crispy?), perilla (better known as shiso in some circles) and Thai basil were brought to each end of the table, along with an assortment of condiments – sliced serrano pepper, fried garlic chips, kimchi, peppery sesame oil, ssamjang and hoisin sauce.
Of course, the star of the show was the meat – first was the Berkshire pork shoulder, which was marinated with traditional Korean seasonings and slow-roasted for 24 hours.
We didn’t need any knives for this – as the pork was passed around the table, the meat slid off the bone easily with just a tug of the tongs. The meat was juicy and tender, and I snagged a piece of the crisp, fatty skin as well.
We also shared slices of marinated beef flatiron steak. Usually the restaurant serves up short ribs for the wraps, so Roy made sure to marinate the steak for a shorter amount of time so as not to lose the beef flavour. There was also a slab of grilled mackerel for pescetarian Chelsea.
These wraps were so good, and it was fun to get our hands in and make our own wraps with our favourite flavours and textures – the crisp lettuce, peppery shiso, sweet hoisin, crunchy garlic, spicy and sour kimchi, and of course, succulent meat… I couldn’t tell you how many wraps I had!
Of course, this would not be anju if there wasn’t any alcohol! Some ordered bottles of wine to share, while others tried their unique cocktails, like the Kimchi Caesar. Dan, of course, had his trusty Steamwhistle. B. and I tried to order a bottle of soju, but Dave only said, “Don’t worry about it,” and before long, pitchers of lychee-flavoured and yogurt-flavoured soju were brought to the table and passed around. I preferred the fresh and floral lychee-flavoured soju, which hardly tasted like alcohol. The yogurt-flavoured soju was a little stronger, but still sweet and easy to drink – I think everyone at the table was feeling a buzz by the end of the meal! (Everyone except B., who had to drive me home )
Somehow, after all that was left of the pork shoulder was bone and the wooden tub that was bursting with greens was bare, we had room for dessert.
There was no introduction for this dish of vanilla ice cream and berries, accompanied by a warm, crispy fried dumpling filled with… Asian pear, perhaps? (There is an Asian pear pie on the regular menu – perhaps this was the filling?) Dan could swear he could taste some star anise. No matter – someone at the table named this the Amazing Wonton of Goodness. (Although, I suppose, “Mandu” would be more culturally appropriate) A satisfying little treat to end the meal.
After the meal, Chef Roy came back up to some much-deserved, thunderous applause. He treated us to a round of a sweet, citrusy shot, and then we all slinked off into the night, our bellies filled with a delicious meal shared between old and new friends, amongst tons of fun and laughter. I won’t be waiting another year and a half before I go back to Anju again.
507 10 St SW
Calgary AB T2P 5B8
Restaurant open Mon-Sat 5-11 PM; Lounge open Wed-Sat 3-Late. Closed Sundays and holidays. Ample street parking (ParkPlus) available along 10 St and 5 Ave.