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Korea town and Korean food virgins!

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Hi Chowhounders...

I am embarassed to admit... my boyfriend and I are total Korean food virgins. We have decided that we are going to travel there this fall and want to get a taste of the food we will be eating and well... don't really know where to start.

So this Friday we are going to go to Koreatown for our first of potentially many Korean dinners.

What I am looking for:
1. A restaurant recommendation in Koreatown... your favorite,
2. What we should have. Keep in mind we are new to it, so start us off easy.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. I like Il Bun JI the most on the strip, it's more expensive than a lot of the other bunsik joints populating the strip. I notice the difference in quality.

    Their chapchae is top notch, some of the best in the city.

    1. Walnut cakes. Yep. Though my fave one is up in North York. ahh.. custard walnut cakes!

      http://www.foodpr0n.com/2009/03/06/wa...

      And fried chicken. Ajuker is my choice, but it's not "traditional" food.

      1. And those six or eight small dishes of pickled veg and kimchee that show up before everything else are not the first course. They're meant to be eaten alongside whatever you like that follows as condiments. I've seen first-timers polish them off all by themselves. It's like drinking a bottle of ketchup.

        I like Korea House, it's a bit classier than some of the others, tho the decor is kinda hokey. A lot of Korean eateries have sushi on the menu, too, so stick to barbecued beef ribs and bi bim bap, oven-cooked stone bowls of rice and various toppings. And kimchee, of course.

        For the full effect, drink a 26-er of Scotch with dinner, then break out the karaoke.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Dimbulb

          Thanks for the tip on the small dishes; I always thought they were intended as a first course, and I've been eating the stuff for years. <feeling shame>

          To the OP, my personal Korean favorites are bi bim bap (with "dolsot" in front, it means it comes in an insanely hot stone bowl), hwae du bap (sashimi, vegetables, and rice that you drizzle with hot sauce), chap chae, and tofu stew (usually has the word "soon" in there). Be warned: Korean food is HIGHLY addictive!!

          Il Bun Ji is my new Korean go-to on the strip, but Korea House is good too. For tofu stew, I like the place at the south-east corner of Bloor and Clinton.

          1. re: Olivia

            It's OK to nibble them with your drinks while you wait for the mains to show up.

            I took a very hungry friend who had never been to a Korean restaurant to SeJong and she polished off nine little plates in about 10 minutes much to the amusement of staff.

            1. re: Dimbulb

              I'm confused: so it's okay to have some before the food comes, as long as I don't finish them?

              1. re: Olivia

                Well, it's a supplement to the meal. So yes, okay to eat before the meal comes (at least I do! And no one's told me not to yet...) but not meant to be polished off before your "main" arrives.

                1. re: Olivia

                  well, it's a cultural thing - if you eat it all, you leave nothing for the meal and the sides are supposed to be eaten with the rice; also, if you are eating with someone else, it's kind of considered poor manners to finish off a dish that is meant to be shared....having said that, traditionally, the oldest person (elder) dining with you is never given the last remaining morsel, it's the youngest who is allowed to clean off the plate...counterintuitive in some ways, since i'm always inclined to give the last remaining bite to the most respected in the party (ie. the oldest) -- anyways, here in Canada, I don't think any restaurant will refuse you more side dishes if you finish it before your meal

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Some of my favourite and safe Korean dishes:
              Bulgogi - thinly sliced, marinated beef with vegetables Bibimbap - rice topped with vegetables and meat with a slightly spicy sauce Kalbi - marinated beef ribs Sangyeopsal - side pork Tang su yeuk - battered and deep fried chicken (pork, shrimp, beef) in a sweet and sour type sauce Ja jang mein - noodles in black bean sauce