So in my joy that the -40°c temperatures were over (for the moment) I somehow forgot that it was still January, and failed to dress for actual winter weather. Out on the hunt for my next review and freezing, I chanced upon the doors of Owl of Minerva, in our quaint-as-hell Uptown Waterloo. Aware that Owl was a chain but having never experienced a Korean restaurant before, I was willing to take on an adventure.
I’d arrived in the right place. From the Korean Christmas party that was taking place, to the Canadian ice skating Olympics on T.V., the place was a spectacle as the waitresses scuttled about the tile floor with the door dinging every time customers arrived. I stood there confused and took a seat, where I was promptly handed a stainless steel bowl, plastic chopsticks, and a dangerous-looking pair of scissors. My confusion continued.
Looking through the menu, I was dazed by its massive selection, echoed by back-lit menus on the wall. After a quick interrogation of the waitress, I ordered the Kamjat’ang (pork bone soup) and Korean dumplings (also pork). The dumplings sounded familiar enough, but the Kamjat’ang had always intimidated me. I mean – how do you even begin to pick through those massive bones? However, my order arrived before I could question myself any longer, and I was face to face with the monstrosity.
Starting with the familiar, I tried a dumpling and was mildly disappointed. The dumpling sheathed pork filling that, although adequately cooked, was devoid of any actual flavour asides from the meat and a few sparse onions. The dough was also slightly undercooked, and I found myself wishing I’d ordered something else of better value (it cost about $8).
Continuing to hope for the best, I moved on. Gingerly poking my soup and attempting to look like I knew what I was doing, I tasted the broth. The flavour was interesting and complex with a bit of a kick, but the red hot pepper base was hearty enough to stand against the harsh winter cold. Emboldened by the soup’s tastiness, I started on the pork bones that were surprisingly easy to manipulate. Finally understanding the scissors’ purpose, I used it to navigate the awkward bone around my dish and get to the delicate pork that fell off the bone with just a slight nudge of my spoon. I was impressed. Combined with the dish’s starchy potato and the crunch of green onions and cabbage, I was delighted with my purchase that was exactly what the doctor ordered.
However as the meal wore on, I found myself struggling with the collective spiciness (due to my weak Filipino taste buds). The side dishes that came with my meal didn’t help in this regard as the kimchi varieties of cucumber, cabbage, and radish were all coated in the same sauce which, although offering a huge bite of spice, resulted in three repetitive sides that made me glad I’d ordered the bland dumplings.
Overall, Owl of Minerva was a refreshing experience, providing a nice departure from the other restaurants of Uptown Waterloo. Asides from the dumplings, the rest of the menu was amazing value, many dishes ranging around $10 (my soup being $7), and the quantities were generous. Although not the most classy experience, it definitely fulfilled my desire for adventure and I was certain I’d be back again.
Published at http://www.uwimprint.ca/article/3938-hot-soup-and-clean-bones
From the Author:
Along with being a designer/artist by day, I also love wondering what and where I'm going to eat next. I'll go out and eat with you - just don't call me a 'foodie.'