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Sariwan – Best Korean BBQ in Toronto? (review + pics)

BokChoi Sep 25, 2008 06:08 AM

Due to some interest in Sariwan, thought I would start a thread on it and get some feedback. I’m interested to see if there are better Korean BBQ restaurants out there, preferably North of Finch on Yonge, and/or East of that location.

I have found the kalbi to be exceptionally sweet, well marinated, and tender. The bibimbap is just OK for me, the crust at the bottom was not as pronounced as I would have liked (Any suggestions on the best Bibimbap in the same described area?). The pork belly is served alongside some fresh lettuce leaves and condiments. Once grilled, much of the fat is rendered off and what is left is quite emaciated, but still quite tasty – just not very filling. The side dishes are also amongst the better side dishes I have had in Toronto, and quite generous in portion (even though they are unlimited in most places – but I usually forgo asking for seconds). As with typical Korean BBQ places, they do a lot of the cooking/cutting for you – a drastic change from the AYCE places for me, which is popular in my area.

Managed to dig up some older photos taken last Christmas:

BBQ Kalbi and Side Dishes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Closeup of Grilling Action: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Bibimbap: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Pork Belly BBQ: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Basically looking for any suggestions from seasoned Korean Food Experts out there – TIA. (emphasis on the North-East end of Toronto

)

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. T Long RE: BokChoi Sep 25, 2008 02:25 PM

    Are you perhaps posting about Sariwon at Yonge & Clark?

    1 Reply
    1. re: T Long
      BokChoi RE: T Long Sep 25, 2008 05:52 PM

      You are correct, T Long. I should have proof read my post a bit better.
      Cheers

    2. Full tummy RE: BokChoi Sep 25, 2008 07:29 PM

      I can't say that I've been to many Korean BBQ places, but I am familiar with Korean food, lived with Koreans for many years, and recently went to Sariwon with a Korean family; we were all quite happy with the food and service, and they seemed quite convinced the meal would be hard to beat in Toronto.

      1. Royaljelly RE: BokChoi Sep 25, 2008 09:11 PM

        I used to go to Sariwon a lot and thought their BBQ was one of the best, but after today's meal at Seoul House nearby Yorkdale, I've found a new favorite.

        They use charcoal mixed in with the natural gas grill to give that extra bit of flavour. Their marinated Kalbi ribs were beautifully done tonight, good portions, nice marbling and not too sweet like Sariwon's. The miso/garlic/spicy meat dipping sauce was stellar, so good in fact that I could have eaten it alone with a bowl of white rice.

        Side dishes are ok (not the staggering 10-12 that Oh Guel Boh Guel gives you). Only problem is that their vents didn't seem to work too well. But that was probably the best DIY BBQ kalbi I've had in a long time. Even with the meat sitting on the top of the grill, it just wouldn't get dry like other BBQ places I've been to. Make sure you order the marinated one, since the "fresh" ribs might not have the same flavour.

        BTW, awhile back someone on CH mentioned that Sariwon also used charcoal in the BBQ.. can anyone confirm this?

        9 Replies
        1. re: Royaljelly
          v
          vacuum RE: Royaljelly Sep 25, 2008 09:58 PM

          BTW there's also another Seoul House at Yonge and Steeles area.

          IMO, charcoal Korean BBQ is fairly hard to find, so they're generally very good. As previously mentioned, I've been both Sariwon and Seoul House, and I love both! I do find slight differences though:
          Seoul House (for some reason the I remember the Yorkdale one seemed tastier) has a great grill and marinate.
          Sariwon is close, but when I was there (only been there twice), I find the meat quality slightly better. The fat on the Kalbi was very fine and evenly distributed....

          Although... the best Korean BBQ that I've been to is still Brothers in San Francisco.

          1. re: vacuum
            Royaljelly RE: vacuum Sep 25, 2008 11:06 PM

            Good to know Seoul House has a second location... is the Yonge/Steeles location as spacious as the one on Orfus Rd? Today there was a huge bus load of Korean tourists at their Orfus Rd location and we hardly noticed them, since they sat in a completely different eating area (they must've been doing their shopping rounds to be in that area).

            1. re: Royaljelly
              v
              vacuum RE: Royaljelly Sep 26, 2008 10:18 AM

              I haven't been to the Orfus Rd location in many years... the interior was fairly outdated back then whereas yonge/steeles is newer, also fairly spacious. Although I'd hope the original location have renovated by now =)

              1. re: vacuum
                Royaljelly RE: vacuum Sep 26, 2008 08:36 PM

                No renos as far as I can tell, place still looks dark and dingy.

            2. re: vacuum
              BokChoi RE: vacuum Sep 26, 2008 05:42 AM

              Any other tasty menu items to try at the BBQ place besides my tried, tested and true favourite of Kalbi?

              1. re: BokChoi
                Royaljelly RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 06:01 AM

                Only other dish we had was the deep fried korean dumplings, which was just ok (my kid gobbled them all up).

                1. re: BokChoi
                  TorontoJo RE: BokChoi Sep 27, 2008 07:08 AM

                  The daiji bulgogi at Seoul House is seriously tasty. We did a chowmeet there this past winter and there was a bit of bulgogi snatching going on by the other end of the table that led to some harsh words being exchanged. :) Note that it's not cooked on the grill, but it's worth ordering anyway.

                  1. re: TorontoJo
                    TorontoJo RE: TorontoJo Sep 27, 2008 09:30 AM

                    I should clarify that the daiji (pork) bulgogi is not cooked on the grill, but it is cooked at the table in a big saute pan over a portable gas burner. The marinade/sauce is really good.

                    1. re: TorontoJo
                      BokChoi RE: TorontoJo Sep 27, 2008 02:20 PM

                      Sounds interesting. Thanks TorontoJo for the dish recommendation. Bulgogi snatching, eh? Ahh what good food will reduce is to - always great fun. Make sure you guys order enough at Grand when you head there - they offer things by the piece, so just make sure you're not forced to share a dumpling. I recommend bringing cash, as that is the only way you will get the cash back incentive for future use (even though they take credit card).

                      Cheers!

            3. duckdown RE: BokChoi Sep 25, 2008 10:37 PM

              So thats what Korean BBQ is... Doesn't look like my kind of food

              Is there any chicken breast or steak?

              1 Reply
              1. re: duckdown
                w
                warlock RE: duckdown Sep 26, 2008 02:53 AM

                This might give you a better idea

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_b...

              2. red dragon RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 04:59 AM

                Hi BokChoi,

                Do you have a problem with asking for the grill to be exchanged for a new one? After awhile, I find the grill gets full of that black charred residue (which is not healthy). Sometimes, we get one no problem, other times, it's been refused, depending on where we go.

                36 Replies
                1. re: red dragon
                  BokChoi RE: red dragon Sep 26, 2008 05:29 AM

                  Hi everyone,

                  Thanks for the tips on places to try - Yorkdale is still relatively close to my area, so I will eventually check this one out. As far as I could tell, Sariwon did not use charcoal, but perhaps someone else is more familiar and could shed light on this topic.

                  red_dragon, since Sariwon is not AYCE, there is not really a problem with the grill being coated with charred meat. The serving is just one strip of ribs, as indicated in the photo. At about $23 per serving, it is quite a bit pricier, but the taste is unparalleled. I would recommend trying it and seeing if you would like it as much as the AYCE - this is just my interpretation of your question about the change of grill. Please correct me if I am wrong.

                  Thanks for the tip on what to order, RoyalJelly. I will add that on my list of what to get.

                  1. re: BokChoi
                    skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 08:38 AM

                    In a Korean restaurant, depends on what you order, if you order Bulgogi for BBQ, usually you just put a whole lot on to the grill pan together with the sauce, not piece by piece. With the sauce and the way the meat is marinated, it is rarely over burnt with black charred residue all over the grill like those in a AYCE place. Kalbi is a whole strip, which is cut into pieces when it is ready. My preference are places which use silver chopstick with the half circle turtle back grill, just give me more of a korean feel...

                    1. re: skylineR33
                      BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 10:05 AM

                      SkylineR33, I have yet to try the Bulgogi at a Korean BBQ place - would you recommend it when comparing it to the Kalbi?

                      1. re: BokChoi
                        v
                        vacuum RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 10:21 AM

                        I find since bulgogi is much more heavily marinated, you don't get as much out of the charcoal as kalbi... so I usually leave bulgogi to the regular korean restaurants. BUT, charcoal still makes a great difference on the bulgogi.

                        1. re: BokChoi
                          skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 10:34 AM

                          I like both. Bulgogi is not as expensive and usually well marinated to very tender. Let it cooked longer if you like the charcoal taste more, it is tender even with a longer grill time. It always taste better if you grill it yourself.

                          Also, with the large portion of bulgogi, I am always happy to see the grill full of meat so I can eat like no tomorrow ! It is fun.

                          1. re: skylineR33
                            BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 11:36 AM

                            Thanks vacuum and skylineR33. All this talk of food is making me hungry. Not good as I just had lunch and it is only 2:30. Must drag some more people there next time to sample more types of meat. I always like my meat extremely rare though, so I really worry about leaving it on the grill for along time.

                            Thanks for the reminder about minimum orders, vacuum.

                            1. re: BokChoi
                              skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 11:50 AM

                              Don't worry, bulgogi is always cooked to at least medium well to well done to give out it's taste and it is always (or supposed) to be tender, no one eat it extremely rare.

                              1. re: BokChoi
                                Full tummy RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 03:10 PM

                                If you want to eat the meat that rare, you should definitely try the kalbi, as I found it very tasty and tender at rare and medium rare. At Sariwon, the scissors (used to cut the meat) are left right by the grill, and you can turn the meat over at your will. The meat is relatively thin, though, so it does cook through if you're not fast enough!

                                1. re: Full tummy
                                  BokChoi RE: Full tummy Sep 26, 2008 04:25 PM

                                  Full tummy, skyline - do the servers find it rude if I prematurely turn my meat, or take my meat off too early? As well, I never know when it is 'safe' to take the meat off the grill for fear of bacteria, etc as I am not sure of the quality of the meat. I find that at normal restaurants, I find the bulgogi a bit overcooked for my taste. I tend to like rare/blue even when ordering steak - or just tartare it and that's my favourite.

                                  1. re: BokChoi
                                    skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 08:17 PM

                                    Having steak in a steak house is a different thing from bulgogi. You will not ask how you want it cook when ordering bulgogi, if you find your dish of bulgogi overcooked, it is just that the restaurant does not make it right. It is same when you are ordering a beef dish in a Chinese restaurant, it is weird if you tell the waiter you want medium rare on a typical beef dish. Back to your question, I don't think it is rude.

                                    1. re: skylineR33
                                      BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 08:54 PM

                                      I tend never to order beef dishes at Chinese restaurants, just because I find they use too much tenderizer (that I don't agree with physically), as well due to my affinity for rare meat. They also tend not to use the best pieces of meat.
                                      It could just be my preference, but I will attempt to ask for it rarer the next time I order bulgogi. Thanks for the response

                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                        skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 09:10 PM

                                        Sure, try ask for a blue version.

                                        1. re: skylineR33
                                          BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 09:14 PM

                                          Now that's being snippy (though I'm not quite sure of the tone of that comment - the original intent of the written word often gets muddled, I find. Please correct me if I am wrong).

                                          I would not go as far as to ask for that. I am sure if I am courteous about it, they will hopefully accommodate my request.

                                          1. re: BokChoi
                                            skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 09:23 PM

                                            No, I mean they do have marinated tartare with raw egg, may be they will just give you that.

                                            1. re: skylineR33
                                              BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 09:25 PM

                                              They do? I have never seen this option at a Korean Restaurant. Very interesting. Where have you seen this? What is this dish called? Thanks for opening my eyes onto this.

                                              1. re: BokChoi
                                                skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 09:30 PM

                                                Here it is :

                                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukhoe

                                                It is indeed in many korean restaurant. I think you will like it.

                                                1. re: skylineR33
                                                  BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 09:32 PM

                                                  That looks and sounds very tasty. I will keep my eye out for this dish from now on. Have you had this dish in Toronto? Who serves the best version IYO? I will definitely have to try this sometime. An interesting spin on one of my classic favourite dishes, the tartare.
                                                  Thanks for the tip, skylineR33.

                                                  1. re: BokChoi
                                                    skylineR33 RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 09:36 PM

                                                    I have this dish in quite a few restaurant in Toronto, also in some korean owned Japanese restaurant. I like it in the beginning but after a while, I find it too red for me....I am not sure which one makes it the best. But in general, I do not find it too much differences in different restaurants. Maybe some one here can help you out !

                                                    1. re: skylineR33
                                                      BokChoi RE: skylineR33 Sep 26, 2008 09:38 PM

                                                      Thanks for the tip though - I was not aware of this at all and will try it out. You are right - it seems like it is right up my alley. I will await to see if anyone has any favourite places that serves this dish.
                                                      Cheers!

                                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                                        v
                                                        vacuum RE: BokChoi Sep 27, 2008 04:22 PM

                                                        I second that tartar dish... yummy! Although I didn't have it in Toronto... sklineR33 - which restaurants do you get this in Toronto?

                                                        It reminds me a bit of the Lebanese tartar dish (also ground beef)..

                                                        1. re: vacuum
                                                          skylineR33 RE: vacuum Sep 27, 2008 07:41 PM

                                                          Masamune and Arirang in Mississauga, also used to have it at Icihban Yorkville, but that is very long time ago and it has even changed hand ... and a couple of Korean owned Japanese restaurants in Scarborough long time ago. Actually I really like it in the beginning but kind of lost interest on it after a while...

                                                          1. re: skylineR33
                                                            aser RE: skylineR33 Sep 28, 2008 12:23 PM

                                                            They also have it at Il Bun Ji on Bloor. I've had outstanding versions of this there but sometimes the meat is still partially frozen when served. They freeze the meat so that it can be shaved thinly.

                                                            I haven't been to Sariwon in a while, but I recall them serving Sikhye for dessert. A great post meal treat.

                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikhye

                                                            1. re: aser
                                                              BokChoi RE: aser Sep 28, 2008 06:11 PM

                                                              Learning so much about different Korean dishes - thanks for the information aser and the rec on the restaurant. Have you had those dishes there recently?

                                    2. re: BokChoi
                                      Full tummy RE: BokChoi Sep 27, 2008 01:59 PM

                                      Hey, BokChoi,

                                      I haven't eaten bulgogi in a Korean restaurant, so I can't address this. We had kalbi, which has picture links by the op. Please check that out, since that's what I would order (just my preference). The servers at Sariwon seemed to not mind at all if I turned the meat, cut it, and ate it when I felt I wanted to. However, they were always milling about and would come over if it hadn't been turned by the time that they determined it should--from what I could tell, my Korean companions tended to eat the meat medium well or even more cooked than that. Since it's beef, and it's not minced or ground, I would suspect that as long as the outside is cooked, you shouldn't need to worry about it being "safe". I'm no expert, though...

                                      1. re: Full tummy
                                        BokChoi RE: Full tummy Sep 27, 2008 02:22 PM

                                        Hi Full_tummy - the OP is actually myself! So yes, I agree their kalbi is very good. Seems like a safe enough bet, you are right. Perhaps I will ask them the next time I head in and see what they recommend, as they will probably know the quality of their meat the best.

                                        Cheers!

                                        1. re: BokChoi
                                          Full tummy RE: BokChoi Sep 28, 2008 10:47 AM

                                          Oh sorry!!!

                                          Let us know what they say!

                                          1. re: Full tummy
                                            BokChoi RE: Full tummy Sep 28, 2008 06:09 PM

                                            No worries at all, Full tummy. I most definitely will. Cheers!

                          2. re: BokChoi
                            v
                            vacuum RE: BokChoi Sep 26, 2008 10:21 AM

                            Like BokChoi said, it's about $20-$23 per serving at these places, and usually you need to order a minimum of 2 servings to use the bbq tables... so it's better if you go in a group so you can taste more types of meat

                          3. re: red dragon
                            Ginsugirl RE: red dragon Sep 26, 2008 08:49 PM

                            The place I go to (New Generation in the Annex) replaces the grill mid-meal, without our asking (or despite my husband's protests, he likes that burnt stuff). I've never had a problem having the grill changed, but have only ever asked when with a larger group.

                            1. re: Ginsugirl
                              j
                              jambonhandy RE: Ginsugirl Jan 2, 2009 08:40 PM

                              In Korea when ordering BBQ they will replace the grills up to several times if necessary to ensure there isn't too much charred build-up. Also, the turning and cutting of the BBQ meat is usually done by the waitress/server, and not the diner - although the servers are sometimes absent helping other customers. Depending on how upscale the place is in Korea, they'll either apologize for not being there to flip or cut your meat . I've been to some high-end BBQ places in Korea - prices of $70-$100 per person per order of meat - and where you need about 1.5 orders or more to get your fill - and there the service is very doting. You don't do anything but eat.

                              So the thing about Toronto Korean places (and I mean the real ones, not the AYCE joints) is that the Korean population here is generally older and so generally they're stuck in suspended animation about how different service is in Korean restaurants today. Many Korean immigrants - unless they're recent, eg. within the last 5-10 years - have a skewed view of Korea, and many of the Korean restaurants here that have been around for a long time reflect the same stasis: their menus are old, and their concept of service has changed. This is to be expected - it is Canada after all, and NOT Korea. So if the customer flips over a piece of meat when the server's not around - no biggie. But the server should change the grill once there's too much char on it - and it's not rude to ask and if they refuse then you have every right to speak to the manager about it because your server is just being lazy.

                              1. re: jambonhandy
                                t
                                tjr RE: jambonhandy Jan 2, 2009 11:30 PM

                                At $100/pp, you expect good service. At the price most Toronto Korean restaurants charge (especially considering most are AYCE bbq places), you probably shouldn't. They are mainly the haunts of students (if packed with young people) and pretty cheap, or packed with older Korean couples who don't feel like cooking (and, again, are pretty cheap). The ones frequented by non-Koreans are mostly cheap AYCE places.

                                When you have a restaurant you're paying bottom dollar to eat at, and the service is mostly well-meaning students, you're not going to get the same service you'd get at a restaurant where service is a profession (or part of the family business).

                                1. re: tjr
                                  BokChoi RE: tjr Jan 9, 2009 08:17 PM

                                  Even though Sariwon turns and cuts the meat for me, I actually prefer to do it myself (I know to which doneness I enjoy). And to top it off, I find it is a lot of fun. A great place to go with friends. What is better than meat over fire?
                                  Cheers!

                                  1. re: BokChoi
                                    t
                                    tjr RE: BokChoi Jan 10, 2009 08:58 AM

                                    I like turning the meat myself as well. I wish there was a great yakiniku restaurant in Toronto...

                                    1. re: tjr
                                      BokChoi RE: tjr Jan 10, 2009 05:21 PM

                                      I have never sampled yakiniku. It looks fantastic though. I can only imagine what this open flame BBQ would taste like. Looks like fun as well.

                                      1. re: tjr
                                        Charles Yu RE: tjr Jan 10, 2009 08:32 PM

                                        Whether its great or not? I don't know?! But I know there's one on Silver Star Boulevard in Markham. Open flame and all. Can someone confirm its still there?

                                        1. re: Charles Yu
                                          T Long RE: Charles Yu Jan 11, 2009 10:29 AM

                                          Which section of Silver Star is it at?....assume you meant Silver Star in Toronto (Scarborough) What's the restaurant's name?....does it have "yakiniku" in the name?

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