105 - A Hankering for Korean
Published: September 28, 2005
Celebrities usually know a thing or two about where to source the best food when they're in town -- and when it's authentic Korean dishes they're after, you'll find the stars at the Korean Village Restaurant.
The charismatic Mrs. Lee has owned and operated this institution for about 30 years, serving up some of the best bulgogi in the city. Meaning "fire meat" in Korean, bulgogi is best described as barbeque with an Asian twist. Contrary to what the name implies however, this dish is not as incendiary as other Korean fare, unless you want it to be.
Thin strips of tender beef (or any other meat) are marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, green onions and chilis to absorb the robust flavours. A curved iron hotplate is then presented to the table with the grilles fitted over portable burners. You have to ask for tabletop cooking -- otherwise you'll get your meat pre-cooked in the kitchen and it's not nearly as fun. The idea is to cook as much meat as you like, sharing with those around you for a communal dining experience.
The meat is typically served with rice, a hot bean-paste sauce called gochujang and lettuce for wrapping everything up in tidy, bite-sized bundles. Other accompaniments, known as panchan, are also served. These tasty side dishes can include glass noodles, pickled vegetables (kimchi) and seasoned bean sprouts.
You don't have to take my word for it -- Jackie Chan, members of the Blue Jays and Chow Yun Fat all dine at Mrs. Lee's when they're in Toronto and hankering for Korean dishes. Some predict Korean food is fast becoming as popular as Japanese or Chinese cuisine. One visit to the Korean Village Restaurant and you'll know, that's no bulgogi!
Korean Village Restaurant
628 Bloor St. W.