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Best Korean food near Yonge & Finch? Review + pics on Nak Won

BokChoi Aug 29, 2008 01:36 PM

As I was in the area for some client work at Yonge and Finch, I decided to check out the neighbourhood dining scene. After doing a bit of research online, I settled on Nak Won Korean restaurant (5594 Yonge Street). There were a number of positive reviews of it, and since I had nothing to lose, and a lunch hour to spare, I headed there in search of some great Korean fast-food.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was not too bad at all. It was traditional and had a lot of unstained wooden booths. I ordered from the lunch special menu and had the Took Baeki Bulgoki – seasoned marinated sirloin beef in a hot stone bowl served with rice. At $7.99, how could you go wrong?

Décor: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

When I placed my order, a symphony of little appetizers was placed in front of me, typical dishes that I generally get at Korean restaurants. I particularly enjoyed the glass noodles and my favourite ‘beans’, though I never knew the name of them. They are a bit sweet and I am hoping someone can tell me their official names (foreground of Apps 2 photo). In total, I received 9 mini appetizers.

Apps: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Apps 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Then came the main course. It was a steaming bowl of beef that was so massive, I could only eat ¾ of it before I waved my white flag in defeat. And I can usually eat a lot. So that is saying something. The sauce was nice and sweet, the meat was thinly sliced and overcooked as usual, but that is just how the dish is usually served in my experience. It was satisfying, but not great food. I basically cannot complain for a feast at the price of $7.99 + tax/tip and would happily go again if I were in the neigbourhood. Would I make a special trip out there? Probably not, but I would recommend it if you were hungry, and short on cash and looking for some good, basic Korean food to fill the void. Dinner prices are only $1 more than lunch.

Bulgoki: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

I would like to know if anyone has any favourite Korean restaurants in that area that they could recommend. TIA.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. TorontoJo RE: BokChoi Aug 29, 2008 01:59 PM

    Did you get that lovely crispy rice crust at the bottom of the bowl that one gets with dolsut bibimbap? It's one of my favourite parts of the meal.

    And just an FYI, those little dishes are called banchan (or panchan) and are really meant to be eaten with your meal (a nice balance to the predominantly meat-oriented main dishes in Korean cooking). There's certainly no problem in treating them like appetizers, like many people do. But do try them with your meat and rice next time -- it's really yummy! A mouthful of kimchi, daiji bulgogi and rice is a wonderful thing!

    10 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo
      BokChoi RE: TorontoJo Aug 29, 2008 02:09 PM

      I love dolsot bibimbap as well - it's my favourite dish actually. But they only had the regular bibimbap at lunch, so it didn't have the crust, which is what I look for when ordering bibimbap.

      I did end up eating the dishes during my meal, but do I put them into my dish - is that what you are suggesting? Interesting - I will try that next time.

      I had a better meal at Sariwon: 7388 Yonge st, Thornhill, ON for BBQ, but that's like comparing apples and oranges I guess. Especially considering the price. Any suggestions for other restos to try around there, TorontoJo?

      Cheers!

      1. re: BokChoi
        Royaljelly RE: BokChoi Aug 29, 2008 03:35 PM

        Oh Guel Boh Guel is decent too, just down the street (near church st)... free parking in the back. Just as many banchans, but service is brutal if you go during peak hours. It's next to the Owl of Minerva (apparently good bone soup, but I'm not a bone soup fan).

        We used to go to Sariwon all the time too, esp. for the quality BBQ meats. But the last time we were there it's was such a terrible experience, that we stopped going all together.

        If you want a nice clean place, you can try Han IL House on Steeles north, west of Yonge (across the street from Cdn Tire, next to TD bank). Decent dolsot bibim bap and a not too spicy kim chee pork as well. Some nice grilled fish too.

        A question for the dolsot bibim bop experts... I've had the dish at a number of locations, and most of them can't get the rice to be fully crunchy on the bottom... is it because the stone bowl is not hot enough, or not enough oil is added, or the rice is too fresh/wet?

        1. re: Royaljelly
          BokChoi RE: Royaljelly Aug 29, 2008 04:57 PM

          Ah, thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely put them on my list, Royaljelly.

          g_lee, thanks for the proper names.

          1. re: Royaljelly
            sumashi RE: Royaljelly Aug 29, 2008 09:40 PM

            I love bibimbap!! I don't exactly know what the secret is to the perfectly crispy rice on the bottom, but they don't get it like that most of the time in Korea either!!! I've had it consistently good at only a couple places. I think it's a combination of everything you mentioned.
            From my experiences, the rice can't be too wet or else its mushy and won't taste good either. There also should be enough oil to coat the bottom, but not too much or else the rice gets soggy and won't crisp up. And I think the number one difference between the places that had it good and the ones that didn't is the temperature. The best ones came out SUPER HOT you could hear the rice crackling in the bowl for a long time.

            1. re: sumashi
              BokChoi RE: sumashi Aug 30, 2008 07:51 PM

              Where is the best place in Toronto for crispy rice bibimbap in Toronto? I need to find a consistently excellent place (preferably uptown).
              Cheers!

              1. re: BokChoi
                oohlala RE: BokChoi Sep 2, 2008 06:52 AM

                Book Chang Dong Soon Tofu on 5445 Yonge has pretty good crispy rice. I beleive there is one downtown location as well. The place is usually packed with koreans. The restaurant mixes two types of rice (regular and red) in a stone bowl. The waiters will provide water to soften the crispy part when u're at the end of your meal.

                I am not a big fan of their food, but that's just me :P you can probably give the place a try

            2. re: Royaljelly
              a
              Apprentice RE: Royaljelly Sep 2, 2008 07:32 AM

              Miga (Dundas/Erin Mills pkwy) served a REALLY HOT bowl that had nice layer of crispy rice at the bottom. Unfortunately, not very close to Yonge St north or south.

              1. re: Apprentice
                BokChoi RE: Apprentice Sep 2, 2008 08:40 AM

                Thanks oohlala, Apprentice, and moh for the suggestions. I will try to make it out there.

          2. re: TorontoJo
            m
            moh RE: TorontoJo Aug 30, 2008 09:43 AM

            "And just an FYI, those little dishes are called banchan (or panchan) and are really meant to be eaten with your meal (a nice balance to the predominantly meat-oriented main dishes in Korean cooking)."

            I agree with TorontoJo, these dishes are eaten in conjunction with the meal. The only comment I would add is that Korean cooking is not traditionally heavy on meat-oriented main dishes. In the past, meat was a rare commodity in Korea, and most of the dishes were seafood based or tofu based. meat was more often used as a condiment to the dish. Meat was very highly prized due to its relative rarity, and seen as a special occasion dish. But now meat is much more common, and Korean meat dishes are very popular with Westerners. So many restaurants serve many meat dishes. But when you eat at home, there is much less meat, and the diet is quite healthy.

            1. re: moh
              BokChoi RE: moh Aug 30, 2008 07:49 PM

              Thanks, moh, for the compliment.

              I am happy to find out that this type of meat-rich meal is not eaten daily - as I doubt anyone could survive on such a protein-laden diet. The glass noodles in both the side dish and the bulgoki tasted very similar to me - were they different in composition? If so, I totally missed on that subtlety... Either way, both of those dishes are frequently my favourites each time I have a Korean meal. Thanks for the information. Now I will know what to ask for if I ever need refills in the future!

              Cheers

          3. g
            g_lee RE: BokChoi Aug 29, 2008 03:40 PM

            I believe the glass noodle is called Japchae and the beans is called Kongjaban.

            1. m
              moh RE: BokChoi Aug 30, 2008 09:38 AM

              Very nice photos and report BokChoi!

              Re: the beans, I believe these are a variant of Black beans in soy sauce, also known as Kong Jo Rim. These are a common side dish, and have a sweet and salty flavour. As for the glass noodles, are you referring to a side dish or the noodles in the bulgoki dish? These are usually sweet potato starch noodles, and as g_lee mentions, are often used in Jap Chae, noodles seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, amongst other things.

              2 Replies
              1. re: moh
                grandgourmand RE: moh Sep 2, 2008 07:02 AM

                Is there a consensus place known as the best Korean restaurant in town? I love the food. Enjoy the banchan immensely.

                1. re: grandgourmand
                  m
                  moh RE: grandgourmand Sep 2, 2008 07:30 AM

                  Grandgourmand, I am not the best person to ask. I am of Korean ancestry, but was born here, so my tastes may be skewed to North American tastes. I would say I am pretty picky when it comes to Korean food, as my mother is an outstanding cook. More importantly, I live in Montreal, not Toronto. So I don't have the same opportunity to try many Korean places.

                  I am stuck in a rut, a good rut, but nonetheless a rut. When I get to TO, I always go to Korea House at 666 Bloor St. West. They have excellent food, everything is very well seasoned. Their soups are excellent (very tasty broths), the meats are delicious, and they have very good kimchi and ban chan. I have yet to have a disappointing meal there. The service can be plus minus, but the food is always plus. I am in no way saying it has the best to offer in TO, but I really love the food here. I know I should try other places... but I get tired of trying new Korean joints and being disappointed.

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