Come for the crispy, crunchy, Korean-fried chicken at Queen's Korean Chicken & BBQ.
Then, return for the showstopper – the chicken BBQ, a mildly spicy chicken stir-fry served in a large cast iron pan surrounded by a cheese trough that is melted at your table over a portable gas burner. It's an interactive dish you can't get enough of, and a signature item at this strip mall-located hidden gem by CF Polo Park.
What’s it all about?
This well-ventilated 100-seat restaurant with spacious table arrangements is owned and operated by brother and sister duo, David and Amber Lee. David expressed his restaurant’s name alludes to his favourite Korean dish, dak-galbi, which essentially is what their chicken BBQ is. “Dak” means chicken while “galbi” is the concept of marinated ribs for barbecuing. His sister Amber is an experienced head chef from Korea, and her menu also features several flavours of fried chicken, K-box bowls (versions of bibimbap), and a number of large colourful desserts. She's also the queen in the kitchen.
Must-have dishes and sides
The restaurant’s chicken BBQ (dak-galbi) medium portion serves 1-2 people, while the large portion serves 2-4 people. This dish originates back to the 1960s-70s from Chuncheon, a city 75km outside of Seoul historically known as a chicken farming region. Chopped chicken is marinated in a mild sauce consisting of gochujang (Korean chili paste), gochugaru (Korean chili flakes), rice wine and soy sauce. The chicken is then stir-fried in a round cast iron pan with sliced green cabbage, sweet potatoes, kimchi, tteok (Korean rice cakes) and green onions. Be sure to add extra rice cakes and udon noodles to lap up that red sauce, along with extra cheese for the trough so you can fully experience the pan’s moat of melty cheese to run your ingredients through.
If you’re shy about the level of spice, order a side of steamed egg to mix into your bite of food. This egg dish is a proven fan-favourite for all ages and is cooked in earthenware to become soft, fluffy and light as air.
Consider ordering a gimbap (Korean seaweed rice roll) to snack on while you wait for your main event to be prepared. There are eight different varieties, but the original one has yellow pickled radish, ham, crab stick, fish cake, egg, carrot, spinach and burdock root.
Chef Amber’s Korean fried chicken is also crowd-pleasing and makes for excellent leftovers if your eyes are bigger than your stomach. It involves a two-day preparation that includes marinating, breading and frying to create a succulent, flavourful meat and crispy skin. Like your chicken finger-lickin’? That crunchy exterior coating will hold-up and not become soggy once covered in sauce. Try an order of the half-half (half original fry, half Korean spicy sweet sauce) or the 'Somazing' which is coated with soy and garlic sauce.
There’s always room for dessert
You’ll notice the branded ‘Snow & Moon’ white table settings and wonder if there’s any relation to the Snow & Moon Dessert Café (1727 Kenaston Blvd, Unit 5) across the city. That answer is, 'yes.'
David and chef Amber originally had two Snow & Moon Dessert Café locations, but when the pandemic happened, they converted the current location to a full-service restaurant because they noticed more customers ordering meal deliveries over dessert orders. They call their Korean frozen treats “snow” because they felt that description would resonate and be familiar with Winnipeggers. You can now enjoy these cool desserts at both locations.
They have imported special machines from Korea which transforms 100 per cent Canadian milk and cream into crystallized milk, which has the texture of light, fresh powdery snow. They do not add water to the process because the duo takes great pride in maintaining the high-quality standard of this dessert, similar to the passion and dedication they have for all their menu items.
When asked what they would like readers to know about their restaurant and café, their sweet parting words were, “you don’t need to travel so far to try unique Korean food.”
Be sure to follow @queenskoreanchicken to be aware of upcoming promotions and see other delectable food pictures.
Queen's Korean Chicken & BBQ is located at 1045 St. James Street. It is open noon to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday; from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.