Showing posts with label japchae. Show all posts
Showing posts with label japchae. Show all posts

Neon Tiger (Toronto)


Neon Tiger seemed to sneak up on me as I was walking down the dark Dupont Avenue, it’s glowing neon image a welcoming bat signal against the cold winter night. The eerily glow continued as I entered the restaurant and was led to our table on the second floor – the workers must have buns of steel scaling up and down the three flights during every shift.

Somehow, my typical glass of wine didn’t seem like the right drink of choice with Neon Tiger’s speakeasy vibes. Instead, I opted for the Vice City ($16) a creamy cold frothy cocktail made with pitu cachaca and coco Lopez cream tinged with blue curacao. It was a delicious sipping drink with just a hint of sweetness from the pineapple juice. Toronto’s snow was momentarily forgotten and replaced by the sea breeze of the tropics.  


Who would have thought I’d enjoy the spicy scallions and avocado slaw ($11) so much? The simple mixed green and vegetable salad was enhanced with a flavourful sweet and spicy sesame dressing, pickled chili, and crispy shallots. What a refreshing way to start the meal and a good palette cleanser for the heavier dishes as well.


We found the scallion slaw was much tastier than the Hakka ginger mushroom salad ($14), where the ginger soy glaze was too pungent and thick against the deep-fried mushrooms, which were great on their own. The dressing almost seemed like a very gingery hoisin and chili bean paste that overpowered all the fungi and vegetables. A lighter vinaigrette tossed with the mixed greens, carrots, and green onions, while leaving the fried mushrooms simply seasoned with salt would have worked better.


The jap chae ($14) is large enough that it can even work as a main for one person. While the sweet soy sauce was too liberally added, I liked the abundance of mushrooms, vegetables (bok choy, carrot, bell pepper), and seasoning (pickled chili and crispy shallots) that were evenly distributed amongst the glass noodles. The starch itself was cooked perfectly so there was a bit of bite to the noodles. A sprinkle of scallions or some other herb on top would have added that fresh element that would really round out the dish.


As we were working our way through the starters, we realize that Neon Tiger doesn’t provide any sharing utensils with each dish. Ultimately, they ended up giving us extra pairs of disposable chopsticks to use, which is environmentally wasteful considering they could just invest in some fork and spoons. My plea to restauranteurs and chefs: if you are going to serve a sharing menu, you need to invest in sharing utensils. It’s expected, even more so when we are in a COVID era.

The golden curry snapper ($33) was a strong dish with great flavours, the finely chopped gai lan and red cabbage adding a wonderful crunchy contrast against the curry rice. While the menu notes the dish uses steamed basmati, I found the starch almost had a creamy risotto-like consistency; although, I could have done without the hard bits that made its way into some bites. The dish could be improved if the fish were done less - I enjoyed the crispy skin but the flesh was too dry.


There’s not one thing I would change with the prawn tacos ($17), which were absolutely delicious made from crispy hot prawns, paired with a pickled iceberg lettuce & radish slaw, and creamy Thai remoulade. It all sat on a warm, soft, and chewy tortilla that almost reminded me of a thicker Peking duck wrapper. I could have devoured a whole order of these.


Even though Neon Tiger presents a speakeasy vibe, there was a hurried frantic pace to the dinner. Perhaps it’s due to the strict one-and-a-half hour seating limit, but the dishes come out way too quickly so we couldn’t enjoy each one fully - it seemed like we were always trying to make room for the other. I’d suggest ordering in two batches to avoid having everything arrive in such quick succession. 

There’s also no dessert menu to ensure you don’t loiter past the time limit, so you’ll have to make do with another cocktail if you’d like to finish with something sweet. All in all, the restaurant is best for a quick catch-up or if you were like me, for a brief period of respite against the outdoor elements. 


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 14 Dupont Street


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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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Song Cook's Authentic Korean Restaurant (Thornhill)

Song Cook serves up authentic Korean cuisine and a lot of it (good luck narrowing down your order from their extensive spiral bound menu). The restaurant has an equally large dining room that’s separated into areas with regular tables or tatami sitting, if you’re in for a truly authentic experience. As a warning, the tatami tables are the real deal: there’s no hidden cut out holes so your legs can dangle, therefore a meal could really be an endurance for your core and flexibility.


Luckily, service at Song Cook is speedy, so unless you want to stay for hours, food arrives quickly after placing your order. The menu lists dishes by category (noodles, saam, rice dishes, etc.), but pay attention to the prices as some are large platters best shared amongst groups of five or more. 

Take the haemul pajun ($27.99), the seafood and green onion pancake could be mistaken for a medium pan pizza. Its sheer size allows for large chunks of octopus, shrimp, and green onion to be incorporated into the batter, which is really like an omelette with glutinous flour added for a bit of chewiness. By itself the pancake can be a bit bland, but a dip into the sweet soy sauce makes it delicious.

Another platter that feeds a crowd is the jap chae ($26.99), the warm chewy glass noodles tossed in a fragrant sesame oil soy sauce with beef and vegetables. It’s a decent version of the dish but surprisingly expensive for what you ultimately receive.  


The last of huge shared plates we tried included:
  • Tang suk yuk ($24.99), a sweet and sour chicken whose sauce, although not the vibrant red variety found in Chinese restaurants, is still flavourful. However, there’s just way too much breading on the chicken itself … really the speck of meat in the middle could be anything.

  • On the other hand, the spicy don ka su ($16.99) didn’t skimp on the meat, with the cast-iron skillet holding two long large pork cutlets. The dish is best eaten right out of the fryer, when the breading hasn’t gotten soggy from the thick spicy sauce the cutlets are smothered in. Overall, the don ka su could have been delicious (I loved the kick from the sauce), but the breading had a stale aftertaste and needed more seasoning.
 

As a warning, their grilled ssam dishes don’t actually include the lettuce wraps (for this you’ll need to add $5). The sam kyup sal consisted of three slices of relatively thick pork belly ($12.99). It lacked any flavour on its own, so really required the sweet bean paste and garlic oil that’s included on the side. Without the actual lettuce and herb garnishes the dish is pretty plain. The LA kalbi ($21.99) was better given the short ribs are marinated in a sweet garlic sauce, so is still tasty on its own. Like the jap chae, the kalbi was good, but not outstanding to warrant the much higher price compared to other Korean restaurants.


Not everything at Song Cooks is overpriced; most of their noodle and rice dishes are competitively sized and priced. I loved the chewy doughy noodles used in the ja jang myun ($8.99), but would have liked a bit more salt in the thick black bean sauce and the dish served hotter.


Their del sot bibimbap ($11.99) is fantastic with plenty of toppings and the most wonderful crispy golden crust develops where the sticky rice meets the hot stone bowl. The red bean sauce it arrives with seems spicier, so use less to begin with as you can always add more.


The ddukbokki ($8.99) is stir fried in a similar spicy sauce and intensely flavoured. It’s such a simple but satisfying dish – the logs of chewy rice cakes is addicting. To make it even more filling, we added ramen noodles ($1.00), which is great for ensuring every ounce of the spicy sauce is soaked up.


Perhaps what I like most about Song Cooks is the atmosphere … the restaurant is such a great laid-back anything-goes environment. While some establishments may give dirty looks to large rowdy tables, the staff at Song Cook join in the celebration, even demonstrating and introducing us to new drinking games. It’s that friendly attitude that makes me want to return for another order of bibimbap to wash down the 'Hulk Smash'. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Thornhill, Canada
 Address: 72 Steeles Avenue West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Song Cook's Authentic Korean Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Little Piggy's (Toronto)


This Little Piggy went to the market and the market appears to be in Bloor West. The owners of Thornhill’s Piggy recently opened a second location downtown offering a condensed menu of Korean favourites. When Meet-Up group Eat N’ Mingle organized a dinner to the restaurant, Rey made it sound so delicious I had to try it out. The actual cost for the meet-up was $35 per person; regular prices are included below for reference.

Following traditions, a selection of banchan (side dishes) containing pickled vegetable and fermented kimchi arrives before the meal begins. Prior to the onslaught of meat and carbohydrates, I rather like the custom of eating vegetables first. After all, the salads help to negate the effects of pork belly, right? Aside from the flavourful sangchu geotjeori, a leafy salad dressed in a spicy vinaigrette, the restaurant also serves a mild iceburg topped with a creamy sesame dressing.

Their mixed BBQ combination ($41.95) contains pork belly, Korean-style beef and garlic pork. Personally, I prefer the meat marinated so you don’t need to rely on the garlic oil or bean paste condiments for flavour. Moreover, as the marinade’s sugars cook, they give off such a lovely aroma and leaves a lovely caramelized crust on the meat.


Luckily, Little Piggy’s beef was well infused with flavour: the restaurant uses fruits in their house-made sauces instead of just sugar. On the pork there’s a thick garlic and green onion paste that you can certainly smell as the meat cooks.


The restaurant uses a portable cooking plate, brought to the table only if Korean BBQ is ordered, helping to save space. However, the downfall of it not being built into the table is that while food cooks the juices and oil splash over the edge (sometimes giving you a sting on the arm). You’ll want to ensure drinks are nowhere near the cooking vessel unless you want an oily film on top.

In terms of starches, our meal had the typical favourites:
  • Japchae ($8.95): chewy glass noodles tossed in a sweet soy seasoning and slivered vegetables. The dish was decent and had we not inhaled it to start could have complimented the cooked meat nicely.

  • Tteokbokki ($7.95 additional $2.95 for the fish cake): sticky rice cakes smothered in a sweet gochujang sauce with onions and fish cakes. The sauce was too sugary for my taste – even a neighbouring table described theirs as sweet Ragu sauce. To be fair, ours still had a hit of the fiery kick from the red chili paste, it was simply overpowered by the sweetness. Additionally, we all agreed the tteokbokki needed more rice cakes – with a table of four we each only consumed about two rice cakes compared to the mountain of other ingredients on top.

I’d go for the UFO fried rice ($12.95) instead. Served in a hot cast-iron plate, the fried rice is surrounded by a thin steamed egg. The egg is good by itself or once mixed around into the rice and left for a while, starts to develop a lovely crust on the bottom. The saltiness from pieces of beef and bacon (?) and the crispy potato slivers on top makes for one interesting and tasty dish.



Something I’ve seen all over Instagram is their cheerful cocktails – the sweet fruit punch-like grapefruit soju ($7.95) arriving in a smiling cup that admittedly is infectious.


Additionally, another well photographed signature dish is the Oink Oink soft-serve ice cream ($2.95 for the dessert size) – don’t worry, despite the name there’s no pork in the dessert – a vanilla soft-serve topped with honeycomb. Although it makes for a great picture, the actual product isn’t the tastiest given the ice cream’s cold temperature causes the comb’s wax to harden. In the end, after trying the honey, you’re left with a chewy ball of wax to spit out.


My advice to the owners is to reformulate the dessert. If you’re going to title something “oink oink” why not actually add something pig related to it? A really thin piece of candied un-smoked bacon could pair better with cold soft-serve. After all, if this Little Piggy’s going to the market, it might as well bring something special.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 469 Bloor Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Little Piggy's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato