Bloor Jinmirak Korean / Japanese Restaurant

 708 Bloor
416-536-0545

Faline, Daniel, and I met up for dinner on Sunday night and we opted for something different than our usual Indian or Thai cuisine. We chose to go to Bloor Jinmirak, a favourite hangout of Faline’s in the Korean Business Neighbourhood at Bloor and Christie. I remember going with Wendy for dinner there to meet Faline and her friend Gail in 2001 prior to Daniel’s arrival to Toronto and I remember enjoying the food and service very much. With those cool Japanese closed-off booths and that big heavy wood door, all I remember was the marvellous combinations of little side dishes that really satisfied my apetite. I do not remember eating a large meal, rather snacking on small dishes.

On this occasion, 4 years later, the place still looks the same. With all meat dishes, I was pleasantly relieved to find that the staff were flexible. They mentioned in their broken English that any meat (beef, chicken, pork, fish, seafood) could be removed. I spoke slowly as I ordered the Den Jang Chige ($6.99) ( a tofu stew with squash, onion, mushroom, and carrot) in a delicious tomato broth. The dish came with pork but I asked to spare the poor pig. The dish was aromatic, and was accompanied with a free side order of white rice and was served piping hot in a sizzling stone bowl. I made sure to speak slowly and repeated, no animal products please. This means no fish, no chicken, no beef, no pork, no animals in this dish please. She assured me that this dish was vegetarian. Faline ordered Jam Bong, a HUGE bowl of soup with noodles and seafood. The dish contained a thick tomato broth and had squid, shrimp, many vegetables, in a spicy tomato broth. She loved it and it was only $7.99. Daniel ordered the Dol Sot Bibm Bap, which was comprised of shredded beef, vegetables, rice, a fried egg on top, and the Korean bbq sauce in a sizzling stone bowl. One of the best dishes Daniel claims he has ordered.

Half of Bloor Jinmirak’s menu includes a large variety of sushi dishes. The sushi bar serves a variety of sushi types ($9.95-$14.95) and patrons can order sushi as complete meals or a la carte ($3.00-$5.95). In addition to sushi, tempera dishes ($7.95-$35.00) and dumplings (steamed or fried) are also available ($3.99-$7.00), but unfortunately, veggie dumplings are not available.

The fun part of this place are the side dishes. The waitress brought little dishes of an assortment of spicy appetizers. My all time favourite appetizer is Kimchi – pickled cabbage in a spicy red pepper sauce (I think), YUMMA!. Other appetizers include water chestnut jelly in a hot pepper sauce, pickled radish, thick and crunchy, in that roasted red pepper sauce, bamboo shoots, seaweed in a hot pepper sauce, spinach (or parsley) in a hot red pepper sauce, thin, fine rice noodles, and black sweet beans, which are super crunchy and sweet.

The bill for 3 people was only $23.00 and we were stuffed. Food is very fresh, piping hot, very spicy, very affordable, and thankfully all of the dishes can be made vegetarian. Portions are huge, service is stellar, and they accept all cards, including Interac–a no bullshit kind of place!

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Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Korean Restaurant

 691 Bloor St. west
(416) 537-0972

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu is a small restaurant in the heart of the Korean Business District located on Bloor between Bathurst and Christie. This place is named after a popular street in Korea (Buk Chango Dong) and Soon Tofu, meaning Soft tofu. Located right near Christie subway station, the restaurant contains about 15 tables in a very brightly lit, casual dining environment

I avoid dining in this neighbourhood because I fear that there will not be any vegetarian options for me. On this particular evening I dined with Daniel, his friend Grace, and Grace’s roomate Anna. Both Grace and Anna are Korean. I was hesitant about going out for dinner in the Korean neighbourhood but Grace reassured me that there were vegetarian options for me. It also made it easier since she spoke the language.

At Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu the menu only contains 6 items. I was disappointed to find out that there was only one vegetarian item for me to choose from. Items include the Combination Soon Tofu (meaning Soft Tofu) dish which includes beef, shrimp, clam, and soft tofu, Seafood Soon Tofu includes a medly of seafood (oyster, shrimp, and clam) with soft tofu. Dumpling soon tofu is a beef and tofu dumpling. Soy Bean son tofu is a mushroom , clam, beef, and tofu dumpling. Vegetable soon tofu is a soup of mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, and onion, with soft tofu.

I ordered an alternative version of the Dolsot Bibimbab, a wonderful stone pot layered with rice, 6 veggies, and topped with beef and egg. I asked for them to omit the beef and egg and substitute it with a large serving of soft tofy (soon tofu). Staff were flexible and accomodating

Anna, who is also vegetarian had the vegetable soon tofu but she thought it was too watery. Grace and Daniel both had the Ddukbego Bulgogi and Dolsotbab, which is a stone bowl full of beef soup with vegetables, and glass noodles. All of their dishes came with purple rice while my dish came with white rice. Both Grace and Daniel loved their meal very much and Grace really liked the sweetness of the dish.

The last item was broiled bulgogi (beef?) and dolsotbab, a stew of beef and vegetables. Our meals came with an assortment of 4 free appetizers. Among them was the traditional Kim-chi, a pickled cabbage in a spicy red pepper sauce. It is as common to Koreans as white bread is common to North Americans.

In addition to Kim-Chi, other wonderful appetizers included Kong Na Mul (bean sprouts), Kong Ja Bon (beans with anchoves), and Do Ra Chi (Pickled raddish root). All of the dishes were $6.95 except Broiled Bulgogi and Dolsotbab which was $7.85

I would definitely go back. Portions were sufficient, service was good, and food was piping hot, fresh, and made to order. They accept cash and Interac. A bit noisy and crowded. Excellent prices.

Paldo Kangsan

694 Bloor St. West

416-536-7517

 

It is nice to have friends who are willing to try different cuisine. Too many people are unwilling to put their palettes to the test and are content eating the same bland food they have for years. While that may work for them, I think it is vital to one’s personal growth to try new things including attempting foreign cuisines that may at first appear daunting. With that audacious and perhaps slightly judgemental declaration, let’s discuss Paldo Kangsan, a Korean restaurant on Bloor just east of Christie.

Having only had tried a little of someone’s Korean dish at the fabulous Japanese/Korean restaurant San, I was excited for my first real experience. The restaurant’s ambience leaves a little to be desired with uncomfortable benches in what appears to be the traditional Korean high wall encasing. To me, this resembles more of a jail cell though it does provide a degree of privacy from the blathering masses. Radio commecials blaring from the speakers don’t help matters.

Putting aside my reservations about the ambience for a second let’s get to the important stuff. With some help from our very friendly waiter we ordered several dishes to share including the popular “Bi Bim Bop”, fried beef ribs and pork dumplings. Bi Bim Bop is served sizzling in a large stone bowl, on a bed of rice cooking on the bottom, with variety of vegetables and shredded beef and a sunny side egg as a garnish. I can’t recall what the pre-dishes consisted of, nor did I really know what they were at the time of consumption, but I do know that there was some Kim Chi in a spicy sauce which supposedly is cabbage that is stored under ground. Another dish appeared to be a very sticky and sweet entaglement of sorts but turned out to be a very fishy and fairly disgusting inclusion.

All of this may seem like a normal size order for three people but including the several pre-dishes that I believe come with every meal, I can say this restaurant has amazing value. We were not nearly able to finish off all this mostly tasty food and we each paid less than $10. So despite the less than desireable ambience, it pays, or should I say it doesn’t pay, to go off the beaten trendy track sometimes.