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Aug 3, 2009 04:48 PM

Korean food for a newbie

I love Korean food and I've convinced a white bread friend of mine to take the plunge and try it. He hasn't a clue what it's like. The problem is, I'm not sure of where the best place to take him.
My idea so far is Yummi BBQ on Bloor@Bathurst. Now, before the snorts of derision start, I want to say that although the atmosphere is lacking, the food they serve is decent and fairly representative of simple Korean food, at least as far as I can tell not being Korean and having never sampled true homestyle.
As I said, my friend is a total newbie and so has no pre-conceived notions of what it should be like. What do you guys think? I just want him to come away from it thinking that Korean food is something good that should be revisited.
Other suggestions are fine but the restaurant must be downtown; i.e. around Christie, and for the aforementioned reason, preferably not to "exotic". Cheers

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  1. My favourite is Ka Chi, at Bloor and Palmerston. They have a lot of "entry-level" dishes -- spicy meat on rice, etc. I sold it to my newbie friends as "like Chinese, only spicier" (which I know is completely incorrect on so many levels, but it worked).

    1 Reply
    1. re: piccola

      I second Ka Chi. Small menu that covers a lot of "standard" Korean fare.

    2. I'd start off with any korean BBQ. Seriously who doesn't love BBQ? The side dishes and order some seafood pancake or something similar like that to introduce some korean flavours.

      2 Replies
      1. re: szw

        Just make sure that you don't go to the "Korean BBQs" on Yonge or Queen west, they are not authentic Korean.

        1. re: Teep

          Yes, but authentic or not... the Korean Grill House is soo delish.. I love their soy sauce thing and the chicken..

      2. Thirding Ka Chi, Thumbs up Korean, or really any of the small Korean places in Koreatown. My favorite Korean place downtown is Na Deul Mok (on the corner of Bloor and Christie); everything I've ordered there has been pretty solid and they can be very generous with the side dishes too.

        1. I actually had dinner at Ka Chi for the first time last night. Portions were good and the food seems authentically Korean ( I am not Korean, but like Korean food). There was a steady flow of customers the whole time I was there, which is good. I liked this place and would go back if I was in the area.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sweetie

            Thanks for the recs guys, much appreciated. I have to go on record here as saying that I'm not a fan of Ka Chi, I've eaten at both locations and it's always seemed just ok, and their side dish portions are tiny. Granted it has a better atmosphere than Yummi, but the food isn't great. I must say that Yummi always seems to have more Korean customers than Ka Chi. Food for thought, so to speak. Actually I've considered Ka Chi, but the only reason I would choose it is for the atmosphere.

            1. re: ziggystardust

              That is true, I noticed that at least half the people packed into the restaurant the night I went were not Korean. It did give me pause, but perhaps because I am not Korean the food suited me fine.

              1. re: ziggystardust

                Okay, how about Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu then? I think it's a pretty good taste of Korean food. I get the stew and my friends get the platters. :)

            2. I'm a Korean food newbie as well. I absolutely love Yummy BBQ because of it's very low key and casual type of environment. Almost like a fast food and food court ambience where you can just walk in and grab a bite. Been to 3 different Yummy restaurants in the city and love their food, but none of them have my favorite dish:

              Spicy Seafood Noodle (Cham-Pong or Jampong)



              Cham-Pong is a popular noodle dish that is prepared in a red, spicy seafood broth containing hearty vegetables and various sea foods. This dish presumably has its origins in Japan with influence from China and is known to be very popular at various restaurants or at homes. Instant noodle versions are also popular which can be prepared with a microwave in less than five minutes.

              However, to enjoy this authentic dish, many Koreans go to Korean/Chinese restaurants where noodles are mixed in with real seafood such as squids, shrimps, clams and scallions. Fresh vegetables such as onions, red peppers, green onions as well as many others are included in this dish to compliment the spiciness of the base soup. Champong is considered to be mild to high in spiciness so expect to sweat while consuming this dish.

              Can somebody please recommend a very casual place I can get some amazing Champong in the city? A place where you can just walk in and eat a delicious bowl of noodle in soup and leave non-chalantly. Really wish Toronto had more casual noodle bars in the streets like in Asia. ;)

              1 Reply
              1. re: YummyYummy

                Il Bun Ji on Bloor St West has very good Jjamppong/Cham pong - huge portion, lots of seafood, right amount of spice/heat ie. not so overly hot that your throat is blistering after the first gulp....I think it may have the best jjampong in t.o. in my memory .... Il Bun Ji may not be in the casual noodle bar category that you seek but is informal enough with zero snob factor to allow you to slip in and slip out after a soothing bowl of jjamppong....I believe Wonjo on Yonge/Steeles also has jjampong but it's been a while since I've had it there - they are pretty reliable