Review: Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food, Baldwin Street’s two-in-one Korean restaurant
Restaurateur Sang Kim helped bring clubby Asian food to Toronto in the early oughties at Blowfish and Ki. Now he’s gone lo-fi with his two-in-one spot on Baldwin: Yakitori Bar, specializing in Korean kebabs, occupies the front of the room, while Seoul Food, a takeout stand, is in the back. In the narrow, barnboard-bedecked space, Kim greets 20-somethings, food bloggers and grandparents with the same garrulous hospitality. The playlist, which includes Michael Jackson and Guns ’n’ Roses, makes an anachronistic accompaniment to the muted K-pop videos flickering on 80-inch screens. Chef Shin Aoyama works magic with grilled kebabs; our favourites include tender, deliciously fatty pork belly and plump, salty scallops. A tasting flight brings three batches of kimchee—one made that day, one made two weeks earlier and one made three months earlier—and showcases the pickle’s evolution from fresh and pungent and to mellow and smooth. Squash duk bok ki, a mash of rice, fish cakes and chili paste baked in a buttercup squash under a blanket of melted mozzarella, sounds compelling on paper, but tastes bland. Takeout bibimbap from Seoul Food lacks the caramel crunch of the traditional hot stone bowl, but draws plenty of flavour from pickled carrots, spinach and huge dollops of chili paste.