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Swish by Han?

  • g

There's a new "tapas style" Korean restaurant called Swish by Han that's supposed to open on Wellington St, in the space formerly occupied by the Solferino gelato cafe. Several weeks ago I peered through the windows and everything seemed ready to go, nice rustic tables, wooden floors and lots of exposed brick. Looked wonderful. Then they papered over the windows again and... nothing. No signs, no website, no hint as to when or if this might open.

Does anyone have the scoop? Are they perhaps caught in "permit limbo" due to the city strike?

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  1. the guys at swish are waiting on a liquor license and have been screwed by th city strike.


    1. I noticed yesterday this place is finally open. Hours are 12-2 for lunch, and then again in the evening for dinner. The menu posted on the window looked interesting. There were a few tables of customers, but none were drinking beer or alcohol, so I'm not sure if they have their LLBO license yet.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Gary

        this place looks really interesting
        i'm excited to go try some shabu shabu :D
        I just hope it's not just dressed-up bad food!
        I'll be harsh on it for sure. We're talking about food that i know and love!

        1. re: CoffeeAddict416

          The place is really great, I've been there twice for lunch already. Last I heard they were still waiting on their liquor license.

      2. http://compendiumdaily.wordpress.com/...
        found this which gives some background, a good pic of the joint and pics of the menu

        1 Reply
        1. re: CoffeeAddict416

          That's my site... I've scanned the menu too.

        2. We had the shabu shabu (not what I expected, but I've never had Korean shabu shabu before. It was okay), the bi bim bap (good), the jap chae (okay), and the cheese steak (not good).

          I really like homestyle Korean dishes and Korean BBQ, but I'm not sure I really enjoy the type of food Swish is serving. Some of it was fine enough to warrant a return (the more strictly Korean dishes were the better items on the menu), but the cheese steak was pretty terrible.

          1 Reply
          1. re: the dude

            I've only tried their lunch menu. It seems like a fusion-Korean restaurant. The only problem is that the really creative dishes probably aren't good (unless the cheese steak was a fluke), whereas the standard Korean fare is just fine.

            The only problem is that there are much better restaurants where you can get regular Korean dishes (bi bim bap for example) than Swish, for much less.

          2. Just had lunch there today. Our waitress said they still don't have their liquor license, but they are going to start opening for dinner anyways. My boyfriend and I ordered the Ssam Bap (Beef), Swish Beef and the side order of the Kimchee trio. My boyfriend taught and lived in Korea for a year and said it was pretty close to authentic. The problem is as tjr stated- you can get the same dishes at other Korean restaurants for much, much less with probably bigger portions. Our bill came to $37 and change.

            If you live or work in the neighbourhood its worth the trip. Everything we had was good- nothing outstanding but on the same level as any other Korean resto I've eaten at in Toronto. The price you pay seems to be more for the up scale atmosphere and neighbourhood. I live and work close by so I would definitely go back whenever I'm craving kimchee. If you aren't a fan of kimchee this may not be the place for you as a lot of their menu seems to be centered around it.

            All in all I'm excited to have a Korean resto in my hood, even if I do end up paying a bit more for it.

            PS- The prices increase slightly for dinner- so its a good idea to try lunch there first.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gourmetnista

              Maybe they shouldn't post their dinner hours until they actually start opening for dinner. Had gone last Friday after having seen the menu/hours on the window only to find the restaurant closed. Didn't make a good first impression on me.

            2. Went to Swish last night! They now have their liquor licence and it was a really fun experience. The only problem is that it was 8pm on a Friday night and it was dead .... me and my other half were the only people in there so please go down and enjoy we want this place to stay open.

              We had:

              A portion of the dumplings ... although these were deep fried they were very light and not even slightly greasy which was nice. The filling was a minced pork and they had been drizzled with soy sauce to serve.

              A seafood shabu shabu ... this was a nice selection of scallops, shrimp, mussels and squid also vegetables including several different types of mushrooms and greens. All the fish and vegetables were fresh and tasty. You took each item and cooked it in the accompanying fish broth over a portable gas hob. The fish broth was very nice and fresh ... when it started to run low the waitress came over with a bit more to make sure we could cook everything. All accompanied with a nice (but unfortunately not homemade sweet chilli dipping sauce). After we had finished the seafood and veg we were offered either porridge or noodles - we chose noodles. A nice way to finish.

              The only down side is, although they do have a liquor licence now, they do only offer 2 different beers (steam whistle being the choice my other half had) and house white and house red wine so not a large choice.

              The waitress explained fully how to use and eat everything so don't worry about not knowing what to do.

              Highly recommended please keep this place alive!

              1. Toronto Star had a review today..not too positive..I always enjoy Corey Mintz' http://www.thestar.com/living/restaur...

                5 Replies
                1. re: burlgurl

                  I read that review with interest, too. Agree that Corey Mintz seems to make pretty good calls when it comes to restaurants I've been to. I usually agree with his observations. I wouldn't say this was a terrible review, though. He obviously liked a lot of things about Swish and really just wished they would kick the spice levels up a few notches and stick to the basics rather than try to be too "high end". Those things are fixable.

                  I'm still looking to try this place (we went by one Saturday just after noon and they were closed; but it was the Labour Day weekend, so I'm assuming they were just closed for the holiday, though a sign indicating this would have been nice).

                  1. re: Gary

                    Okay, we tried to go AGAIN yesterday, around 12:30pm, and once again found ourselves outside a darkened restaurant pulling on a locked door that says they are open Saturdays for lunch 12 - 2. Highly annoying. This marks our third failed attempt to eat here. They've been open for months, the Toronto strike is long over... what's the deal? Either open when you are supposed to or fix your signage.

                    I've yet to eat here and already I'm becoming annoyed by this place. Not a good first impression.

                    1. re: Gary

                      I'd be pissed as well and question how dedicated one takes his restaurant if he can't even open on time or advise potential customers of temporary changes in opening hours.

                      1. re: Gary

                        Hey Gary,

                        This is Leeto Han, co-owner of "Swish by Han." I'm so sorry we've left such a bad impression on you, but there is a family issue which leads us unable to open on Saturdays for the time being. We apologize for no signage, but we just didnt want it to be made so public about there being a family issue. We are open for dinner on Saturdays though.

                        Please except this as an apology from both Han brothers and hope to see you soon.


                        1. re: leeto

                          Leeto, thank you for taking the time to post an explanation, I do appreciate it. We still look forward to trying Swish for a Saturday dinner or weekday lunch when we get chance!

                  2. Went to Swish by Han tonight for dinner with a party of four and had an amazing dinner. We ordered five dishes and shared them all. The best dishes to share were the Seafood crepe (4 pieces for $10) and Spicy Pork Tacos (4 pieces for $10), so ideal for our group. The Spicy Tacos were on the "specials" menu, but we loved them so much, we asked the staff to please put it on their regular menu. That was the hit dish of the night, with the perfect balance of spicy, sweet, savoury, and on a small crisp taco "shell".

                    Also enjoyed the beef swish (basically a shabu shabu hot pot) that came with "bonus" noodles at the end ($25). We also ordered the chicken drummettes (6 pieces for $10), which were also good, and the kimchi trio ($5), though I'm not really used to paying for kimchi at a Korean restaurant so was a bit surprised by that at first.

                    We ordered dessert as well, which was a shaved ice dish, similar to Taiwanese icy plates or Japanese kakigori. For $7, you get two scoops of ice cream on red bean and flavoured shaved ice.

                    Only downfall is that service was really really slow tonight, with a full 15-20 minutes between plates. We think it was because there was a big family group there at the same time, as my friends say they've never experienced such wait times before in their prior 3-4 visits.

                    In the end though, a beautiful venue with tasty unique creations. This is not your typical Korean restaurant and you shouldn't expect it to be. It's more like a modern take on Korean-food, with stylish flare. We'll definitely return and bring foodie friends.

                    Swish by Han
                    38 Wellington St. East, Toronto, ON M5E 1C7, CA

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: gomachan

                      Has anyone had their all you can eat korean bbq? I am thinking about taking my SO there after the symphony on saturday.

                      1. re: cutehinano

                        Ended up going to Swish by Han after the symphony on saturday. Great timing as the symphony ended up really late and we got there at around 10:40. Had the spicy pork neck tacos (came on hard taco shells which was unexpected but good flavour) and the all you can eat bbq. Honestly there's no need to go for all you can eat because we could barely finish two orders of the rib eye (the only meat option for all you can eat bbq) with all the ban chan, tofu stew, rice, etc. Loved the lettuce and the sauce that came with it - was fun making wraps with bbq. Overall it was a good experience but would probably return for the regular menu as there's way more options (their late night menu had limited options).

                        Swish by Han
                        38 Wellington St E, Toronto, ON , CA

                    2. Just realized I never followed up on this thread. My wife and I finally visited here a few months ago and the experience was very positive. We didn't have the "swish-swish" and instead ordered a selection of dishes from the menu and the specials blackboard.

                      Because I've waited too long I can't remember everything we ordered, but I remember the ssam wraps were delicious, and I know we enjoyed the various kimchis although (as previous reviewers have noted) they were not particularly spicy. There was an excellent fish dish off the blackboard, and a braised beef dish that was good but filling.

                      Overall impressions were of a beautiful space (particularly nice bathrooms!), friendly, non-pretentious service, and food prepared with care. And while the prices were higher than what you'd find in K-Town, for example, they were not outrageous.

                      1. Has anyone dined at Swish lately?

                        Thinking about trying the seafood crepes, possibly the Swish, maybe the tofu stew.

                        What are your favourite dishes?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: phoenikia

                          We ended up ordering 5 dishes: shrimp & spinach mandoo, lobster bibimbap, seafood crepe, spicy pork and baby octopus with rice noodles, and the chilled jellyfish with mustard sauce. This ended up being a lot of food for 2 people. I'd order the seafood crepes again if I return, and maybe the bibimbap. Has anyone tried the bibimbap rolls that are on the menu?

                          The portions were much closer to main size, so 3 dishes would have been plenty! Including 2 pomegranate punches (very sweet carbonated drink that reminded me of Tahiti Treat), our meal came to $70 including taxes but not tip.

                          While $70 might be double the cost of similar meal in Koreatown, this is one of the better value meals in the St.Lawrence Mkt area, and the service was quick and friendly. Good place for a pre-theatre meal.

                        2. The service is horrible.
                          My food was burned and it is nothing special.

                          I will not be back.

                          Swish by Han
                          38 Wellington St. East, Toronto, ON M5E 1C7, CA

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: leemonk

                            We dropped in last week for dinner w/o a reservation. We had the same experience with, if not horrible, as least far from friendly service. The server who greeted us looked like it would have killed her to crack a small smile. She sat us down and came back 5-10 mins later to see if we were ready to order. We had no idea what "ssam sets" or swish lists were. In the end, the couple sitting next to us explained everything on the menu and echoed our sentiment about the server being less than welcoming and helpful. To be fair, the other servers (who showed up after we'd ordered) were much friendlier and helpful than the Asian server who first met us at the door. First impressions often set the tone for the rest of the dining experience. The food was a bit disappointing. Grilled pork belly ssam set was good (but not great) and the grilled rib-eye ssam set made me feel we were the suckers for paying so much more for a similar dish that was less than half the price at Buk Chang Soon Tofu. Maybe BCST can't match the surroundings, but the service is infinitely better (and we've been going for years).

                            Swish by Han
                            38 Wellington St. East, Toronto, ON M5E 1C7, CA

                            1. re: leemonk

                              What other restaurants do you recommend?

                              1. re: leemonk

                                A friend and I went for lunch today - I was quite excited since the menu looked great. The service was prompt but certainly not at all pleasant. I found the food rather bland across the board (except for the apple kim chi salad which was great!). I have heard the dinner menu is better (even from the server).

                                1. re: Joshman

                                  Very much agreed with this. A friend had given it a rave (for dinner mind you), lunch was disappointing. Each dish we ordered tasted the same as the last one, and it was all quite bland. Maybe we didn't order the right things? Also, found it pricey for the very simple, homey fare we were offered.

                              2. NOW magazine gave it four Ns in their latest edition...


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ylsf

                                  Swish is a slam dunk...keep hating the rest of you...I want it for myself.

                                2. We were really looking forward to trying out this restaurant and were sadly disappointed. We bought a "deal" for a set dinner for 4 and it sounded awesome on paper. The set dinner sounded like it was enough to feed 4 people and then some, however, when we ordered, we were told that it was recommended that we order a couple of appetizers. After reading many of the reviews from Chowhounds, I suggested we try the pork tacos. Too much mayo for my liking...first strike!

                                  The giant hunk of pork arrived with the lettuce wraps, rice, kim chi and 6 oysters for 4 people. This was good but does not warrant another visit back. Then it was time for dessert. First of all, it was very difficult to catch the attention of a wait staff so we could order the dessert and then after the long wait, we find out they no longer serve the highly anticipated shaved ice. The *only* dessert choice was a wild blueberry tart; once again, nothing special. Strike 2!

                                  We finally get the bill and was SHOCKED to see that our bill came out to over $400 for 4 people and that a 15% gratuity was automatically charged. Strike 3! Fortunately, with our "deal" voucher, our real bill still totaled about $260.

                                  My lessons learned from this experience:
                                  1) never buy "deal" vouchers...they will always get your money some other way

                                  2) I should have saved my money and booked a trip to NYC to have the Bo Saam meal at Momofuku. For $250, it serves 8 instead of just the 4 of us.

                                  3) Sorry but three strikes and you're out. Won't be returning....

                                  Swish by Han
                                  38 Wellington St. East, Toronto, ON M5E 1C7, CA

                                  1. Loving that everyone is hating on the service. I have been coming to this restaurant semi-regularly (I've been 5+ times?), despite the horrible service. The Han brother who cooks in the kitchen is great -- we don't have this kind of Korean food in Toronto. The other brother who works FOH has been terrible, and so have his female waitstaff, most of the times I have visited. My service expectations here are generally very low, as they have no sense of hospitality whatsoever. That said, the last few times I have visited (within the last 2-3 months), service has been okay. I think it's because they have received press from NOW and now the restaurant is actually somewhat busy. I bought the deal that sabwong is talking about, but not the deal for 4. I purchased two separate vouchers for two people each, and was turned away to use one of the vouchers in a COMPLETELY empty room. I had to go to another restaurant to dine, whilst the other half of my party was seated. The restaurant remained virtually empty for the rest of the evening, according to my companions. Regardless of the service (which, I have to say, HAS improved...), I really enjoy a majority of the dishes on the menu. The quality of the product they buy is good (i.e. the meat). The kimchi ban chan isn't so good, the beef Swish is great, I enjoy the pork buns (huge!), as well as the steamed pork buns (although Momofuku obviously takes the cake for that), the pork tacos (not bad), and I really enjoy the shrimp appetizer, for some reason. I normally hate shrimp. Anyway, I still like the restaurant despite the middling service. No one is really making food like this in Toronto in the Korean vein, so I keep going back.

                                    1. I purchased a voucher last year to try Swish by Han but never got around to it until recently. Given the fact that they had enforced a 20% + tips on our bill for two, I don't think I will ever return to this restaurant. I adore Korean cuisine but there is something about the server telling me not order something because the table has to be turned around by 7:15 when the restaurant is half emptied. I want to order what I want to eat. Isn't that what people do in restaurants?

                                      Torched Mackerel $15 (4.5/5)
                                      The mackerel was marinated with rice wine. The server torched the mackerel at our table, I can smell the skin searing. The aroma was so intense! It is making me salivate just thinking about it! It was definitely sashimi graded Mackerel! The dish is severed with sweet soy sauce, grounded ginger and chopped green onion! It delicious and simple enough for me to duplicate at home!

                                      Spicy Pork Neck Taco $10 (4/5)
                                      For a low low cost of $10, you get two mini pork neck tacos. The flavor of the pork neck wasn't very strong. They give you two wedges of lime to add a hint of freshness to the dish. The tacos were a hand full! I would not recommend this dish if you are on a date. You will end up with very messy hands....it will be an added obstacle if you are trying to flirt with someone ;) The dish was structured well, but to be honest, I don't think it is worth the price.

                                      Beef Short Ribs: “Galbi” Marinate $29 (3.75/5)
                                      This table top BBQ set is served with kimchi trio, spicy tofu stew, and ssam box. Ssam is referred to “wrapped” in English. Leaf vegetables are used to wrapped a piece of meat. The leaf vegetable tends to cut greasiness of the meat. The ssam is paired with ssamjang (a Korean style hot sauce) and a banchan (kimchi). It is served with a grill and is meant to be eaten fresh off the grill. I think the short ribs was marinated with a little too much rice wine. It actually added a slightly bitter undertone to the dish. The soup was very flavourful. You can taste the complexity of the broth.

                                      My overall experience at Swish by Han was 3/5. I blame my frugal Chinese heritage. The server and the hidden gratuity had really ruined our time there. Despite the fact that there were other dishes I am interested in trying on the menu, I will not be returning to this establishment.


                                      Swish by Han
                                      38 Wellington St. East, Toronto, ON M5E 1C7, CA

                                      1. Well, they must have listened to the complaints! We went for dinner last night and the service was FANTASTIC. We had three people serving our table, which is usually a recipe for trouble, but everything was great. The staff was friendly, fun, and accomodating, and even though the restaurant was full, we felt well taken care of and not rushed in any way.

                                        Also, really enjoyed the cocktails and the food. We started with the prawns and the mackarel, which were both great and then we both had the hangar steak BBQ set. Certainly weren't hungry by the time we were done.