Last year, NongBu secured a spot as the best new restaurant in Edmonton in Avenue‘s Best Restaurants list, so it’s no surprise that it’s found its way back on to our list, this year, at the top of its game in the Korean category. With its modern approach to Korean food, wild creations such as the ddukbokki (rice sticks) – small, tender rice cake cylinders – are playfully set as fun one-bite appetizers ahead of the rest of your dining experience. And the seafood Pa-Jeon (think seafood pancake) is like a green onion cake but stuffed with shrimp, squid and long shreds of green onion.
But the greatest thing NongBu has done for Edmonton’s dining scene is to forgo diners’ expectations. Where the thought of Korean food once simply brought up images of bulgogi, bibimbap or Korean barbecue, the restaurant has introduced Edmonton to the modern street food of Korea today. –Cory Haller
8115 104 St., 780-989-0997
Seoul Fried Chicken
Chef Jake Lee completely reinvigorated the old Lee House space in Old Strathcona by transforming it in to Seoul Fried Chicken last year. This little walk-in eatery is home to seven powerhouses of Korean fried chicken recipes, each made with the restaurant’s signature chicken – brined overnight and prepped to order each day. The crispy, succulent pieces are chopped old-school Korean-style – haphazardly separated by cleaver whichever way the blade lands. But diners need not worry if the pieces aren’t as uniform as, say, a certain Kentucky variety, since a half-chicken will be five pieces – no matter how you slice it. –Cory Haller
Lee House is fantastic for communal eating – so bring a big group. The restaurant serves the famous pork bone soup – a meaty, spicy red broth that’s the perfect tonic for a cold day – in a large pot that puts “family size” to shame. Potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms can be found, alongside hefty bones with some meat still left on them. Whether it’s noodles or rice dishes or a really great super-large order of fried chicken, the airy atmosphere and big, picnic-like tables allow you to pass around the wonderful appetizers and share the mains. And, if the server tells you the dish should serve two, it really serves four or five. The portions are designed for people who, well, are about the size of Jabba the Hutt. –Steven Sandor