A Vegan-friendly Menu at Song Cook’s: I chose Song Cook’s Authentic Korean restaurant to review first on ATK Magazine because it was one of the few Korean restaurants that I have seen in Toronto that have vegan options labeled on their menu.
They put a green leaf beside everything on their menu that can be made vegan. To be perfectly clear, these are not vegan dishes, but they can be made vegan or vegetarian upon request. The menu actually has “vegan” written on the menu rather than “vegetarian,” which implies that they know which dishes are truly suitable for vegans.
The restaurant was larger than I had expected from the view from the parking lot, in the back of the strip mall behind the Galleria at Yonge and Steeles. When you walk in the first set of doors, there is a shelf covered in Korean magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets for customers to take, which was nice.
The restaurant is divided in two halves. One side is with more traditional Korean dining, with low tables and (heated) seating on the floor. The other side has higher tables and chairs. It looked open, inviting, and well maintained, and the atmosphere was quite pleasant. I enjoyed the décor.
One slightly peculiar thing about this restaurant is that they have a giant screen on one side of the dining room, and they were showing a kid’s show on it while I was there. There were other screens as well (I noticed one other), but this particular screen was quite close to my table and was huge. It made it seem as though the space may have been a dance club at some point. Despite that, I thought the interior was beautiful.
The service was good and quite fast, and my waiter was very patient and knowledgeable. My waiter was unfazed about my questions about the dishes I considered, which was great. I needed to clarify a few things about what a vegan doesn’t consume, but he seemed to know the dishes and their ingredients very well, and reassured me that things could be made vegan.
They brought tea as soon as we sat down, and took our order quite promptly. The food was served quickly.
Editor’s note: the romanization of the food names is spelled as it appears on Song Cook’s menu. The capitalization may be different in other places.
I ordered the small NuRoongJiTang (누룽지탕, a thick rice soup with vegetables and rice crisps) to start, and the DolSotBiBimBap (돌솥비빔밥, a mixed rice dish cooked in a stone bowl) as my main dish. I specified that I needed it to be vegan, since it says “vegan friendly” in the description, not vegan. It is a thick rice soup with vegetables and rice crisps, so there is no identifiable animal product in it, but be sure to specify that you want it to be vegan.
I ordered the bibimbap without the beef and without the egg. The waiter came back and asked me if I would like tofu instead of the egg, so I said yes (of course).
The waiter brought the banchan (반찬, side dishes) without saying if they were vegan or not. This was most likely impacted by the fact that I was dining with someone who is not vegan, so they ate these side dishes. I asked about whether these banchan were vegan and he was unsure. I asked if the kimchi (킴치, spicy fermented cabbage) was made with fish sauce and he told me that it was actually made with shrimp sauce. So, I ended up staying away from the side dishes. They included bean sprouts, which were most likely vegan (there was some kind of a sauce on them), but my dish had sprouts already and I felt bad for asking so many questions, so I avoided them. There was also (cabbage and radish) kimchi (which is NOT vegan), and a small dish of pickled radish, which I’m fairly sure was vegan. Side dishes came with tongs and scissors, and chopsticks and spoons were in a box on the table.
If you are trying to get only vegan items on your table, as I normally would, I would recommend questioning them about the side dishes before they put them on the table, just to be sure.
My NuRoongJiTang arrived very quickly, and the server added the nuroongji (누룽지, rice crisps) with tongs as he served the dish. They sizzled in the soup, and were crispy as long as you ate them fairly quickly. This dish was delicious. The soup was thick and somewhat gelatinous, and there was a nice variety of vegetables in the dish. The broth was delicious, and the veggies were cooked perfectly. The vegetables aren’t listed on the menu, but my soup had broccoli, baby corn, red and green pepper, mushrooms, and perhaps bamboo shoots and palm hearts, and possibly some others.
My bibimbap arrived very shortly after my soup. It was sizzling in the stone bowl (dolsot), and looked great. The added tofu was uncooked and cold, which wasn’t exactly to my taste, but it was still appreciated. It had bean sprouts, shredded carrots, lettuce, mushrooms, cucumber, and shredded seaweed on a bed of white rice. A moderately spicy sauce that I assume was gochujang sauce (고추장, red pepper paste) was on the table and could be added as desired, and the veggies were nicely seasoned.
The bibimbap came with a small cup of miso soup that was quite delicious.
Additional Vegan Options
The dishes I ordered were just a couple of the many vegan options on the menu!
Some other dishes that are vegan-friendly there include Wrap Vegetables (모듬야채, vegetables used for wrapping your rice and other ingredients), Sashimi Salad (회샐러드, a mixed salad topped with salmon sashimi, but the salmon can be omitted), Spring Rolls (춘권), KongNaMulKuk (콩나물국, bean sprout soup), GanJaJang (간짜장, black bean sauce noodle dish), YangPoni BibimBap (양푼이 비빔밥, the extra large bibimbap), BoKeumBap (볶틈밥, stir-fried rice with vegetables), TangSuYuk (탕수ㅇ육, sweeet and sour pork, chicken, or mushrooms), YuSanSel (유산슬, bamboo shoots with beef and shrimp), JapChae (잪채, a glass noodles stir-fry dish), and GoChuJapChae (고추잪채, a shredded pepper dish served with steamed buns).
They also many rice options that look great. You can choose white or brown rice and there are rice options that include barley, beans, dates, ginko, pine nuts, sweet potato and ginseng. All of their rice options are listed as vegan-friendly.
Many of the dishes listed above have meat or seafood as a major component of the meal and some have meat or seafood in the sauces, so just be sure to order carefully!
The prices were around $10-$20 for most dishes, and many dishes come in small or large sizes. They also have an “Imperial Menu” that ranges from 20-$50 per item, with larger portion sizes, and they have many combos and set course menus for various sized groups. The price ended up being a little higher than I would normally like to spend, but still reasonable, especially considering the fairly large portion sizes (and I only ordered small dishes!).
I enjoyed my trip to Song Cook’s Restaurant. It seems like a great place to have some vegan Korean food. Portion sizes are good, service was quick, the setting is very nice, and the food was very tasty.
This restaurant seems to be familiar with catering to vegans. If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, you can go here and know that you have many different dishes to choose from, and that they won’t be completely puzzled when you ask for a meat dish without the meat!
This restaurant can be a great place for vegans and vegetarians, and for groups that include people who eat animal products and those who don’t.