Just Opened: Swish by Han
It’s an old story: A restaurant has its opening put off again and again due to long waits for licences, construction work and inspections. But now, after nearly a year in the making, the Han brothers have brought a bit of South Korea to the Wellington strip with Swish by Han. The Toronto-born, Philadelphia-raised siblings include Leeto, a marketing major from Pennsylvania State University, who is now the restaurant’s general manager, and Leemo, a George Brown trainee and veteran chef at Edo, Japango and Omi.
The rustic space is a tribute to Seoul chic, heavily influenced by the modern interiors of fine dining restaurants in Tokyo and Korea. Floors are covered in unfinished wood, chandeliers dangle with factory lamps from the ceiling, and a large mural of kimchee pots and original artworks by the Hans’ grandfather (an art professor in Seoul) flank the exposed brick walls. The brothers created much of furnishing themselves, including tables made from old warehouse planks and metal and glass dividers from a GM plant. The chairs are from the 1940s and were acquired from an antique shop on Queen Street.
Leemo’s principle is to introduce a style of Korean cuisine that is “outside the box.” Unlike their Bloor-Christie cousins, the dishes here offer an unpredictable flavour experience. Han spices things up with a menu that’s composed of items from his own childhood: chilled kimchee noodles with sliced rib-eye steak ($10), traditional grilled short ribs “in a secret family kalbi marinade” ($10), a soft roll filled with spicy pork, roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese ($10), and the “Ssam Trio” ($9)—a mixture of Korean meats and some very Mexican corn tortillas. The Korean-based dishes have also undergone a contemporary transformation (think glamorized street food) that utilizes fresh market ingredients. Examples include the spicy dukboki (a.k.a. rice cakes, $15) with Canadian lobster instead of processed surami, and the popular carrot-chili soy-braised short ribs ($12).
Now in its sixth week of operation, Swish by Han has already amassed a crowd of regulars, business lunchers and walk-in diners. Think Cheers, but with folks crowding around bubbling “swish-swish” bowls (homage to their parents who own a chain of shabu-shabu restaurants in Korea) for their own DIY experience.
Swish by Han, 38 Wellington St. E. (at Church), 647-343-0268.