Sort-of Secret: Comma, a Korean restaurant on Queen West serving raw marinated crab

Sort-of Secret: Comma, a Korean restaurant on Queen West serving raw marinated crab

And pairing it with scotch whisky

Raw marinated crab in spicy sauce at Comma, a Korean restaurant in Toronto

More Sort-of Secrets

The sort-of secret: Comma, a family-owned modern Korean restaurant on Queen West
You may have heard of it if: You’re on the hunt for raw marinated crab
But you probably haven’t tried it because: It’s only been open since September

There’s no shortage of Korean restaurants in Toronto. Koreatown has its row of spots along Bloor West selling hot stone-bowl bibimbap and tteokbokki. And in North York, specifically around the intersection of Yonge and Finch, there are even more Korean kitchens. But there’s a lot of overlap in the food that’s available. There are endless options for Korean rice dogs, sundubu, bulgogi and Korean fried chicken—but things like ganjang-gejang, or raw marinated crab, a dish that’s just started to gain popularity in North America, are a bit harder to find.

Victoria Kim wants to change that. With her new Queen West bar, Comma, she hopes to elevate Korean bar snacks—and make scotch whisky their go-to drink pairing.

Comma's chef-owner Victoria Kim and her daughter Emily Kim
Chef-owner Victoria Kim (left) with her daughter Emily Kim

Kim and her family aren’t new to Toronto’s restaurant scene. Comma is their third restaurant, including the Grange food court’s now-closed Fiesta Burrito and Myeongdong Gyoza Kalguksu, a Korean restaurant with locations in the Annex and Thornhill. It’s Kim’s background in the industry that inspired the menu at Comma. “Our staff meals would usually be Korean, but then we’d try adding new ingredients and experiment on the dishes,” says Joseph Kim, who has worked at all three of the Kim family restaurants and is now co-head of marketing for Comma. “We’d make all these crazy combinations—but then put them aside because Myeongdong is a more traditional restaurant. Comma is where all of that creativity shines.”

A chef holds a crab above a container of marinade

A chef sprinkles chives on a plate of raw marinated crab

Another departure from standard Korean fare is that all the food at Comma is imagined with a scotch pairing. While beer’s carbonation or the smoothness of soju pair well with typical Korean bar snacks like fried chicken, dishes at Comma are designed to go well with whisky. A long-time scotch lover, Victoria discovered that the spirit’s peatiness pairs well with the earthiness of Korean dishes. So, while there are a few cocktails at Comma, Victoria says they’re proud to serve Ardbeg scotch whisky, and she’s always happy to provide guests with recommendations.

A tri-colour Korean seafood pancake filled with blue crab
The tricolour pancake, looking like a tasty pie chart


Jajangmyeon, a Korean dish of noodles and seafood
Jajangmyeon in its sizzling-hot cast-iron serving dish

At Comma, the goal is to experiment. “The name of the restaurant signifies an ongoing journey with food and food cultures,” Joseph says. The bar bites are all twists on classic Korean recipes. One of the most popular dishes so far is the tri-colour pancake, which gets its pinwheel-like design from the three different sections of potato, seafood (squid, shrimp) and kimchi. It’s a three-in-one dish that combines a trio of popular Korean pancakes into a single aesthetically pleasing one. Another must-try is the grilled seafood jajangmyeon. Typically, jajangmyeon is served quite simply: thick wheat noodles dressed with an inky-black fried bean sauce, which has a nutty, almost caramel-like flavour. At Comma, they add squid, mussels and shrimp and serve it all on a sizzling-hot plate.

Soy-marinated raw crab
A dish of the soy-marinated raw crab

Related: A Q&A with Vartan Fresh, a Toronto mukbang artist who left the family business to eat professionally

And then, of course, there’s the raw marinated crab. Though the dish has become trendy on TikTok (with mukbang artists noisily slurping up the jiggly sweet raw crab meat), there aren’t many places in Toronto that offer it. There are a few in North York and a couple in Thornhill, but south of Bloor, anyone with a craving for raw crab would be hard pressed to find it. It’s difficult to prepare, says Joseph, which makes its appearance on Comma’s menu all the more impressive. They make it two ways: a soy-marinated version and a spicy one. Regardless of how it’s sauced, raw marinated crab is an umami bomb: the cold crab meat retains its sweetness, and the tomalley (a green paste also known as crab fat, technically a digestive gland) provides an addictive straight-from-the-sea flavour. Each of Comma’s variations is a veritable bap doduk, or rice thief—a dish so good you end up eating bowls and bowls of rice with it. The spicy crab in particular will easily make two bowls of rice disappear: the heat level is no joke, so rice plays an important tempering role.

A plate of spicy, raw marinated crab
And this is quite obviously the fiery-hot version, paired with a snifter of Ardbeg whisky

It’s a dish that Joseph worried wouldn’t have a place at Comma. But, after they put it on the menu, customers went wild for it, snapping photos and spreading the crab gospel online. Eating raw crab is especially postable because of how fussy it is: you need to put on plastic gloves and dig out the jiggly meat with your fingers. “And the whisky just pairs so well with seafood,” says Joseph. “You get the whisky, which has a very fine and delicate flavour. Then the marinated crab and the spiciness, which can be a bit overbearing. But, all together with rice, you can make the perfect bite.”

At Comma, the team is always looking for the next perfect bite. Fried chicken and beer are an iconic couple for a reason, but Joseph says they’re on the lookout for the next classic pairing—and it just might be raw crab and whisky.

Comma, 490 Queen St. W.,, @commatoronto

A spread of Korean dishes, including raw crab, at Comma