Showing posts with label ssam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ssam. Show all posts

Té (Toronto)


There’s a cheekiness to Té that I enjoy. The French flair added to “tea” to form their name, the unexpected breezy décor that flies in the face of traditional Korean restaurants, or even the silent black and white Sailor Moon that graces the television in their bar area. Té is different and certainly won’t please everyone.

Starting with the rustic look of their kimchi devilled eggs ($7 for 3). The yolks are mixed with sesame oil and kimchi paste, instead of creamy mayonnaise, creating a stiffer paste to pipe back into the egg white. I could certainly taste the nutty oil that always makes my taste buds sing, but would have liked more of the gochujong as there wasn’t much heat to the egg. In fact, aside from the sesame oil these tasted like any other deviled egg. Swapping the bacon bits for chopped kimchi may give it that element it’s missing and make the dish vegetarian-friendly to boot.

Similarly, the kimchi was lost within the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan mixture in the toasted kimchi ravioli ($13). Chances are any ingredient wouldn’t be able to hold up against the swiggle of honey wasabi pesto piped on top of the crispy ravioli as the wasabi was so pungent and overpowering. Some reviewers rave about this dish, but I found the panko crust made it too dry and the pasta was overly chewy. It’s not one I’d order again.

The bulgogi sliders ($15) were good with a pile of thinly sliced sweet-soy marinated sirloin topped adorned with a perfectly cooked quail egg, which is runny so makes for a messy first bite. The sliders would be even better if there wasn’t wasabi in the mayo (Té’s chef certainly loves wasabi) and the buns were warm and toasted.

If you really want to try the bulgogi I’d opt for one of the main dishes instead. Té’s bi bim bap ($17) follows a traditional recipe where the beef is accompanied by cold sesame-marinated vegetables and a fried egg. They swap out the white rice for nuttier purple rice instead and Té’s sweet chili sauce is thicker and spicier than other ones I’ve tried.

Sadly, the bi bim bap wasn’t presented in the typical hot stone bowl. That vessel is so important as it creates the crust on the bottom of the rice and the heat warms up the cold garnishes and sauce so that once everything is mixed together the flavours really melt and meld together.

There’s plenty of bulgogi on top of their mac and cheese ($18) and the pasta was excellent as well. I enjoyed the creamy gooey cheese sauce and the parmesan panko crisp on top adds a lovely textured crunch for those who want an extra pop of flavour.

Other stand-out dishes were the following small plates. The braised pork crostini ($14) features a juicy hunk of five spice-soy marinated pork belly that seeps into the crusty toasted bread. It’s simple but such a lovely bite.  

The pork belly and kimchi lettuce wrap ($14) was also a hit. In this dish, the pork belly is thinner and grilled to give it a lovely caramelized crust. Sitting on a layer of kimchi, pickled daikon, and crispy lettuce with a sweet garlicky chili paste the wrap is a lovely balanced bite and one of the better ssam I’ve had.

And you really can’t go wrong with freshly fried chicken ($9 for 2 pieces of $16 for 4 pieces) that arrives steaming hot and begging to be eaten. I’m glad Té left off the typical sweet, sour, and spicy red sauce and kept the chicken lightly dusted with five spice seasoned flour. It keeps the skin crispy and the chicken was juicy enough to not require any sauce.

It’s remarkable how much they create in-house, including a handful of baked goods. The butterscotch caramel cheesecake ($6) wouldn’t have been my first choice for dessert, but I’m glad we went with our server’s suggestion as it was a nice blend of sweet and gentle saltiness, and smooth cake with a bit of crunch from the toffee bits.

For those who’d rather drink their dessert, Té has plenty of cocktails to choose from at $14.50 each. The mango black Té is their play on a mango bubble tea except spiked with Scotch for a boozy adult take on the classic drink. It’s a tad gimmicky as the drink isn’t executed well given the mini tapioca pearls are rather hard and the straw not thick enough to actually allow them to pass with the tea.

The bobaless drinks were more my style, having sampled a lovely vivid-pink strawberry with Proescco cocktail that really hit the spot and their seasonal feature drink that is almost like a mojito incorporating lemonade so that it’s extra refreshing.

As a warning, service can be a tad slow, for drinks and food, as everything is freshly made - I wouldn’t dine there if you’re in a hurry or starving. Té should consider creating a banchan platter for the table, which they could split in advance into little dishes stacked on top of one another allowing servers to just grab-and-go. Patrons may be a little pissed that they’ll be charged for it (banchan is normally complementary at Korean restaurants), but at least it will help ease the wait and can even double as a “bar snack” for cocktails. They could even add their flair to the name… parTé platter perhaps?

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 70 Ossington 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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Orote (Toronto)


There's something about a tasting menu that gives me a thrill - it's oddly freeing to detach myself from decisions and just be ready to experience. Almost like a rollercoaster for eating where I strap myself in for a ride and hope the track is enjoyable.

Orote presents a six-course menu ($78) where there are some decisions: a choice of main course  and whether you want any of the supplementary ingredients and courses. It's not overly exhaustive, I settled on the fish and as a table we decided to add on everything we could. Let the ride begin.

It starts off slowly, as we made our way up the dinner hill. The thinly sliced pork belly with boiled daikon and pickled parrilla leaves is a dish that's better as a whole than each of the individual parts. Yet, the kitchen needs to work on balance: there's too much parrilla so the acidity overwhelms the delicate pork belly and the chunk of irregularly cut daikon makes it really difficult to create a roll. If these ingredients were smaller, the diner would have a better opportunity to taste the paper-thin pork belly and its dusting of savoury shrimp powder. 


We begin to pick up steam when the skewer of lobster and pumpkin robata arrives. It was fantastic, each bite augmented with black garlic and bits of walnut. The spices and grilled preparation gives the lobster such a unique taste that I couldn't register the protein during the first bite, wow was it meaty. 


As we make our way to the top of the plunge, I'm momentarily skeptical of the "salad" course... there's an awfully large portion of what looks like unadorned leafy greens. We're told to make sure to dig to the bottom where we'll find poached mussels and a wonderful consommé. All in all, I didn't mind the  leafy greens and sticks of daikon, it made for a nice cleanser between the grilled lobster and the following dumplings. I just wish the greens were quickly blanched so it wouldn't cause the rest of the dish to cool down so much. Make sure you get every drop of the lovely soup. 


I was thrilled with the two plump mushroom and tofu dumplings. On its own it may seem a bit plain, but as I broke them apart and had bits of it with the bonito dashi, it was delicious. If there's one thing Orote does well it's their soups - they seriously should consider having a larger soup course. For this dish we added shaved truffle ($10) but it didn't make that much of a difference. Give me an extra bowl of dashi any day. 


For the main, I opted for halibut, a nice thick meaty piece that was cooked superbly. It just needed more seasoning - there was so much sesame sauce on top of the fish, yet it added more of a creamy texture than flavour. Even the broth served with the halibut wasn't as strong as the previous dishes. All in all, the main was fine, but not overly exciting. 


Had I known, I would have gone with the pork loin, which was way more flavourful and tasty. The pickled kale made me think of the dish as a lighter and less greasy form of braised pork belly with preserved vegetables, the Hakka mu choy cow yok (from the Cantonese dialect). The pork also went better with the bowl of miso yolk rice ($4), which I forgot to take a picture, but imagine a bowl of steamed sticky rice topped with shaved egg yolk and way too many green onions. 


The shared add-on dishes were sprinkled throughout the ride. Orote's chicken ssam ($12) consists of large mounds of cold shredded chicken topped with a slice of daikon. You can't really wrap it up like bo ssam, so it is slightly strange the dish is named chicken "wrap". I recommend including some of the pickled greens on the side: it would give the chicken more flavour and would provide diners with ingredients to make chicken ssam two ways.


If you're sensitive to salt, Orote is actually a great place to dine at as even the truffle rice cake and perilla seed ($25), described to us as a really creamy rich dish, wasn't overly heavy or powerful. Sure, the sauce was thicker compared to the broth that adorned other dishes, but it wasn't creamy in the traditional sinful sense. If anything, the best part of the dish wasn't it's "creaminess", truffle shavings, or the perilla seeds... it was the soft chewy pieces of rice cake.


Overall, the ride ended on a high: I thoroughly enjoyed the barley cream dessert, which is like a really fluffy panna cotta topped with finely grated chocolate shavings, puffed buckwheat, and black sesame. Creamy and light, it had a great texture that I wanted to savour, yet also wished I could just pop half of it into my mouth and allow the delicate sweetness to flood my taste buds.


The newly opened Orote offers a wonderful tasting option for those who are looking for a healthier meal that doesn't leave you feel stuffed and heavy. I can certainly see Actinolite's influences in Chef Kwangtaek Lee's menu. Though I urge Chef Lee to consider bringing in even more of his Korean influences into the dishes, especially in the mains and add-ons to really give it some pizzazz. As it stands, Orote is nice and solid, but there's the potential to make it really thrilling. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 276 Havelock Street


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!

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CLOSED: Krazy Corean (Toronto)

Krazy Corean


With a name that would irk any editor, Krazy Corean is increasing the diversity in Little Italy with their menu of Korean offerings. Their signage introduces the cuisine as fusion: although there are several blended plates, the restaurant serves a number of traditional offerings as well. Don’t worry, there’s nothing particularly “crazy” about the food, unless you count the baskets of complimentary freshly made buttery popcorn, served in lieu of bread, wild.


Of all the dishes we tried, the bul-na ($10) (bulgogi nachos) was the most crazy fusion dish. In place of typical chewy rice cakes were crispy thin warm tortilla chips. On the side, a decent pile of well-seasoned bulgogi (thinly shaved beef marinated in a sweet soy sauce), onion, broccoli and jalapeno, smothered in cheese.


The dish needed more sauce and I could have done without the small broccoli florets, which was a strange combination with nachos (bell peppers may be a better choice). Personally, I would rather have the toppings covering the tortillas to allow the flavours to meld together. There’s something about the process of searching for a chip that has the best combination of toppings that’s so satisfying – it’s almost like a treasure hunt. However, the dish is perfect for individuals who hate soggy chips and will allow people to customize the toppings on each tortilla.

Although not overly battered, the Korean style chicken wings ($8) had a nice crunch and were smothered in a tasty sweet and slightly spicy sauce. For the price, there was a fair amount of wings and each piece a decent meaty size. Pine nuts, crushed peanuts and green onion slivers top the wings providing added crunch and flavours.


I love ssam and Krazy Corean’s kalbi version ($14) was satisfying. The marinated BBQ beef short ribs were served with plenty of leaf lettuce and boiled cabbage for wrapping. Ideally, with all the vegetables, the kalbi pieces could be cut larger – two was too much to hold in the wrap but one became somewhat lost amongst the foliage. On the side, slivers of jalapeno and garlic, spicy kimchi and ssam-jang (a sweet and spicy sauce) to add into the wraps – their kimchi was crunchy and delicious. 


Although Krazy Corean isn’t a Japanese restaurant, I thoroughly enjoyed their volcano roll ($13); my favourite dish of the evening. Inside the maki was a plethora of delicious ingredients including shrimp tempura, crab meat, avocado and cucumber. To further augment the roll, the rice was wrapped with salmon and scallop that’s then blow torched to char the protein's fat. Even the garnishes, fried lotus root slices, were fantastic … we finished every last piece.


Despite the narrow store frontage, their dining room is well laid out and the tables easily convertible to accommodate large groups. Being opened until 2am makes the restaurant popular with the late night crowd looking for drinks. Their Tokyo iced tea ($9) is a good choice; made with rum, gin, vodka, trip sec, melon liquor, lemon juice and sprite it doesn't taste alcoholic until you give it time to settle.

Overall, if you’re looking for outrageous creations, Krazy Corean still has a ways to go. But, for reasonably priced dishes and fairly price cocktails, it’s a good choice in Little Italy. Who knows after a few Tokyo iced teas, maybe you’ll make the restaurant live up to its name after all.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10*
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as stated in the mission statement, I will always provide my honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 598 College Street

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: