Showing posts with label bulgolgi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bulgolgi. Show all posts

Zen Sanuki Udon (Toronto)



While many Japanese noodle shops are small and cozy, Zen Sanuki Udon is palatial with a spacious and airy dining area. To the point they could add more tables given they’re at capacity so quickly – pretty much every table was filled when they opened at 5:30pm. More seats shouldn’t detract from service levels: they employ a lot of staff so that food arrives at a quick clip and there’s always people standing around waiting to serve.

Speed is important when you’re selling noodles in broth. At this Zen location, their menu is based around hand-made sanuki udon from the Shikoki region, which is square-shaped and thinner compared to the cylindrical thick ones found elsewhere.

I expected springy chewy noodles, but they arrived fairly soft for udon. If anything, they tasted like the hand-pulled noodles found at the neighbouring Magic Noodle, which while not terrible is also a dime-a-dozen in the Markham area.


The ebi-ten udon ($16) allows diners to try the dashi broth made with a combination on konbu, bonito flakes, and dried baby sardines in a neutral form. Not surprisingly, there’s a rich umami flavour and it’s just salty enough without becoming overwhelming.

But then they ruined by broth by throwing in so many tempura bits that as you’re sipping the hot soup, every mouthful is filled with mushy batter. A spoonful would have been fine, but it seemed like there was equivalent tempura bits to noodles. As much as I commend chefs who use food scraps to eliminate waste, they should serve them in a separate bowl so diners can add it to broth themselves.

Bits of lemon zest adds a refreshing element to the udon, but the citrusy taste could also be strange for some customers, especially if you’re hoping for soup that’s really hearty and savoury. Who knows, perhaps it’s just something they include during the summer months to lighten everything?

The tempura was kept separate and arrived hot and crispy. While the shrimp a good size and deliciously sweet, I would have liked a light sprinkling of salt on everything as the vegetables were bland so you had to dip it into the broth, rendering the crispy crust soggy, to add flavour.


Their beef udon ($17) is like having bulgogi with udon, the meat thinly shaven and even has the same marinated sweetness. Call me a traditionalist, but it’d be much better if the beef was served in thick slices, similar to the pork shoulder cut you find with ramen.


Large portions is something you won’t find at Zen; if you don’t have a light appetite, add the $3 to upsize the bowl. Even their sides are miniscule: the kamo (duck) roast ($14) only had five slices, which is surprisingly when the actual duck udon already contains four pieces. It’s a satisfactory side, the freshly grated wasabi a lovely addition, but the actual duck could be more flavourful and less chewy.

 

With Zen’s history of serving solid Japanese cuisine, their soft noodles, over garnished broth, and puny portions is rather disappointing. Which is dangerous since udon seems to be the next “it noodle” opening across the city. With competition, there are better options, in my opinion, to tuck back a bowl.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3720 Midland Avenue

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Type of Meal: Dinner
Address: 5445 Yonge Street

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu is a popular destination location in the Yonge and Finch area.  On the weekend, it gets pretty busy, so expect to wait. But, this no frills restaurant is packed with tables and due to the limited menu, patrons turn over quickly so the wait is never too long.

Soondubu jjigae (aka soon tofu soup or soft tofu soup) is Korea’s version of chicken noodle soup (without the chicken or the noodles).  It’s hearty and comforting, with the broth having such a depth of flavor, which is hard to describe – it’s spicy (depending on what type you choose) and savoury with an umami essence.  After doing some research online, the soup base appears to be made from anchovies, kelp and mushrooms giving you an idea of how the earthy savouriness of the soup comes about.  Then the soup’s spiciness is created by using kochujang (Korean chili paste) and/or red pepper powder. Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu specializes in this dish and dominates their menu.

If you’re not a fan of tofu you still need to give this a try.  The tofu used in the soup is silken egg tofu which has a very light taste and smooth custardy texture. Since the soup is very flavourful the tofu is never bland.  This may be the dish that makes you rethink your perspective of tofu.  

Before the main arrives you get four banchan (sweet soybeans, bean sprout, kimchi and kimchi turnip) and an egg (which is raw and meant to be broken into the hot soup and stirred).  Use of the egg is a matter of preference – it makes the soup thicker and more stew like.  Generally, I leave out the egg as I prefer the soup to retain its wateriness.  


All the tofu soups are $7.53 and provide you with the ability to choose the type of ingredients accompanying the tofu and level of spiciness. In terms of types, I’ve tried the combination, seafood, dumpling and kimchi (kimchi is the one pictured below).  Really there is not a huge difference between the offerings since the soup base is the same.  I don’t particularly like the combination or seafood options as I find overdone rubbery seafood unappetizing.  My go to choice is the dumpling which consists of thinly sliced beef and a couple of average tasting dumplings.  On this visit I ordered the kimchi version (also has slices of beef and pork) as I’ve heard it’s their most popular one.  After trying it, I’ll continue to order the dumping version as the kimchi one is too salty.

You also get a choice of having the soup white (no spice), mild, medium, regular or spicy.  I can handle some spice and generally go with the regular one which has a good heat but doesn’t leave you chugging water.  However, if it’s your first visit you may want to try the medium and go from there. 

To retain the comforting heat of the soup, it’s served in a stone bowl.  Sadly, on this visit mine didn’t arrive bubbling away; something about the crazy bubbling makes the experience seem better.  Nonetheless, the soup was still hot and remained so throughout the meal.  

Don’t let the word “soup” fool you; this is still a hearty meal.  Each order also comes with a bowl of Korean black rice, which actually is a beautiful lavender colour once cooked.  Studded with a few green peas, the rice is served in its own stone bowl and is scooped out by the waiter in front of you.  Generally, the waiter will pour water into the stone bowl and let it soak with the remaining rice.  I tried it during my first visit and found the concoction disgusting.  Rather, I ask them not to add water and just leave the rice in the bowl so I can scrape off any of the crispy bits and eat them with the soup.

As a warning, just because there’s tofu in the title doesn’t make this a “healthy” meal.  According to the Toronto Star, the vegetable version of Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu’s soup contains 4,200 mg of sodium (which is 1,900 over the recommended daily intake). If that’s the vegetable version, I can only imagine how salty the kimchi variety would be. To be fair, the Toronto Star did test the meal with the side of kimchi and bean sprouts accompanying the meal; normally, these side dishes would be shared amongst the table so you wouldn’t eat the entire serving.  Additionally, I’ve never finished all the soup as I will stop drinking it after the other ingredients are finished which also cuts down on the ultimate consumption of sodium.

If Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu’s soup is full of salt, than their bulgogi ($8.85) should be tested for its sugar content.  The dish was ordered once to share amongst the table and found to be extremely sweet.  It’s certainly a dish I’d never order again.  My suggestion, stick with what they are known for – soon tofu soup a delicious dish that leaves you oh so satisfied.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!