FYI: I’m not a restaurant reviewer or a food blogger although I do love to write about Korean food and occasionally about restaurants that serve delicious Korean food. What’s the difference, you ask? Perception, I suppose. My goal is to introduce Korean food to people who perhaps aren’t familiar with it not necessarily give you my opinion on it (although I do that as well).
But the main reason I would never consider myself a food blogger/restaurant reviewer is I only write about restaurants I like, restaurants I recommend. I totally admit that I’m biased that way. Life’s short, why eat bad food? Why write about bad food? If I’m writing about a restaurant, it’s safe to say I had a great experience.
This post is no different – it’s about a new restaurant that I checked out recently with a couple of friends and basically all I’m going to do is rave about it. Seriously, I’m already making plans on going back to sample more of the menu and the other half of it – Seoul Food Co. – now that it’s open. You see, I fell in love with one of the dishes before I even entered the restaurant.
Hmm… This probably isn’t making that much sense to you. I better backtrack and start at the beginning.
I found out about Yakitori Bar, a new restaurant on Baldwin Street (1 Baldwin, on the corner of Baldwin and McCaul Streets) a while ago when Say Kimchi – my Korean/English language exchange group – was looking for prizes for our annual Halloween party. One of my friends – and fellow Say Kimchi member – asked Sang Kim, the mastermind behind Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co., if he would donate a prize for our costume contest. He did (thanks again for that!) and in the process I learned about his blog – How to Open a Restaurant in 30 Days. One visit and I was hooked. I love learning about new things and while I’ve worked in restaurants a few times, including as a cook for a month (I filled in when the cook went nuts – no joke), I knew nothing about the restaurant business. So the blog was simply fascinating.
And then I saw the picture. I already knew I was going to check out Yakitori Bar but when I saw this one picture on “Day 25”, I was hooked. I knew what I wanted to order before I even stepped into the place.
Fast forward a couple of days and I’m at Yakitori Bar with two of my friends – Mary (the lovely lady who introduced me to Sang Kim) & Joe. Of course, even knowing what I wanted to order, I still looked at the menu and was glad we decided to just order a bunch of stuff and share. Fabulous way to try several different dishes! After a bit of discussion, we ordered 8 dishes.
What did we order?
Squash duk bok ki – this was the dish I’d been longing for ever since seeing the picture. And wow, did it ever live up to my expectations. It was beautiful, unique and wildly delicious. Such an amazing combination of flavours! I’d definitely – and without reservation – recommend it. Oh, for those of you not familiar with Korean food, dukbokki is rice cakes cooked in a spicy sauce, often with fish cakes, cabbage and other ingredients. In this case, the dukbokki is baked in a squash with cheese. But really, the description doesn’t do it justice – go try it! All three of us agreed it rocked.
Kimchi Flights – this is three types of kimchi: one day old, two weeks old and three months old. All were yummy (I love kimchi) but I was partial to the three month old myself. Definitely interesting to see the differences in flavour.
Kimchi 3 Ways – this is kimchi used in three different food: mandu (Korean dumplings), pancakes and a tofu dish. I particularly liked the tofu dish but didn’t try the mandu.
Kimchi Poutine – this is poutine (French fries, cheese & gravy for my non-Canadian readers) with kimchi. I’ve had this dish at a couple of other places and really enjoyed Yakitori Bar’s version. But how could I not? French fries, cheese & kimchi… I love them all.
Today’s Banchan – this is three different, fresh, marinated veggies. Banchan means side dish in Korean and some version of it always accompanies a meal. Our banchan was mushroom satay, bean sprouts and spinach namul. All were yummy but I favoured the mushroom satay.
Oxtail – this was braised in a red wine soy sauce. And wow, was it divine. Seriously melt in your mouth amazing. It was so easy to pull off a piece with your chopsticks and I really can’t say enough about the taste, totally yummy. Joe & I both loved it (Mary’s a vegetarian so she didn’t try it) and I’d order it again in a heartbeat.
BBQ Pork Bun – this was basically what the name said, barbecued pork on a bun. And it was the only dish I wasn’t enamored with. Not that it was bad, it wasn’t. But the other dishes rocked so much and this one was just okay, just a teensy bit dry for my taste.
We also order Edamane but I can’t comment on it as I didn’t try it. No reflection on the restaurant, I never eat it as I’d rather eat other food.
They also have an interesting cocktail menu with cool names. I had the Konglish (I had to try it simply because of the name. As an English teacher, I hated Konglish) which was a very interesting combination of flavours. I’d order it again, plus with the ginger in it I can convince myself that it’s healthy. ^^
All in all, we had an amazing night of delicious food. I’d highly recommend Yakitori Bar simply on the food (and I do recommend it) but the atmosphere and service was amazing too, so friendly and personal. I’m sure it helped that both Mary & Joe knew people there but I get the feeling from watching the servers, that it will always be that friendly.
But don’t trust me, go check out Yakitori Bar yourself! I know I can’t wait to go back after the holidays (and check out Seoul Food Co. too).
Have you been to Yakitori Bar or Seoul Food Co.? What did you think? What do you recommend?