What’s on the menu at Orote, a Korean tasting menu restaurant from an Actinolite alum

What’s on the menu at Orote, a Korean tasting menu restaurant from an Actinolite alum

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Name: Orote
Contact: 276 Havelock St., @oroterestaurant
Neighbourhood: Dufferin Grove
Owners: Han Kim, James Lee and Kwangtaek Lee
Chef: Kwangtaek Lee
Seating: 28
Accessibility: Not fully accessible

The food

Lee has come squarely into his own after four years of experience at Actinolite, Justin Cournoyer’s renowned contemporary Canadian restaurant. Under his tutelage, Lee learned the virtues of locavorism, preserving and fermentation, and a creative, experimental culinary outlook that breaks a dish down to its components and builds it into something new. At the helm of Orote, Lee applies these principles to his culinary heritage reimagining classic Korean flavour profiles, turning condiments into main events, and peppering it all with a dose of thoughtful modern technique.

In Lee’s world, a shrimp-and-pork combo becomes cured, wafer-thin pork belly with a dusting of shrimp powder; mussels and dehydrated radish make their way into a verdant salad; roasted buckwheat tea is steeped in cream, foamed to an air-light whip, and dusted with chocolate. It’s all laid out in an elegant six-course prix-fixe menu ($78, plus optional additions), which will rotate at least seasonally.

For the menu’s first course, Lee reimagines shrimp and pork, a classic flavour combination in Korean cuisine. Pork belly—cured and pressure-cooked, which tenderizes the otherwise tough skin—is sliced wafer-thin and topped with toasted shrimp powder. Steamed kohlrabi and pickled cham-namul greens come with it; the root’s clean freshness and the herb’s bracing acidity are welcome foils to the melt-in-your-mouth richness of the pork.


Here we have two charcoal-grilled skewers of lobster and honey-sweet kabocha squash, topped with deeply savoury black garlic and shaved walnut. The charcoal stops just short of overwhelming the lobster; the result is a warm, earthy bite that whets your appetite for what’s to come.


Beneath this happy tangle of dandelion greens—laced with a mussel-juice dressing and topped with fermented, dehydrated radish—are tender seared mussels in garlic butter. No sad house salads here: this dish is all depth, umami, and character.


Mushroom tofu dumplings peppered with scallions, napa cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms sit in a warm, umami-rich bonito dashi. Nestled beside them are wild yellowfoot mushrooms (hat tip to Actinolite); lightly spicy horseradish oil is drizzled overtop. Add shaved truffle for an extra $10.


One of two options for the main event, this is the butter-basted halibut, sitting in a braised portobello mushroom sauce and topped with toasted sesame paste. Lee pressure cooks the sesame in salt water, which tones down its slight bitterness, before processing it into its silky final form. Bright, plucky yu choy plays off the dish’s deep, nutty bass line.


Perfectly tender charcoal-grilled pork loin, cooked to retain the faintest blush, is the other main course option. It’s served with braised kale and gochuchang-verdant broccolini, and a tangle of fermented leek.
Lee recommends adding the optional miso-yolk rice to your main, especially if you’re sharing. Grated miso-cured egg yolk, scallions, and a seasoned “secret soy sauce” adorn what is possibly one of the tastiest-ever elaborations on a simple bowl of short-grain rice. $4.


Dessert is what can only be described as a cloud of barley cream. Inspired by barley tea—a beloved staple across many East Asian countries—cream is steeped with roasted barley, whipped to an ethereal foam, and topped with puffed buckwheat, black sesame, and grated dark chocolate.


Here we have the chicken ssam, an optional addition to the prix-fixe menu. Pulled chicken, seasoned with soy and gochugaru, is topped with a chiffonade of aromatic perilla and blanketed with a delicate layer of pickled mu, or Korean radish. The elegant bundles get a final dusting of crunchy, nutty ground sesame. $12.


Chef Lee
The drinks

A tight but well-rounded selection of natural wines—including local and Old World labels—makes up the bulk of the drink menu. There’s also a handful of beer and cider options, a few non-alcoholic wine proxies from Acid League, and water from local producer Lark.

A current selection of the bottles on offer
The space

A slate grey, wood, and terra cotta palette gives the one-room restaurant a peaceful, modern vibe that pulls focus to the intricately plated dishes. Much of the plateware is handmade by local ceramicists like Akai Ceramic Studio. A massive mural featuring Orote’s tiger logo overlooks a row of comfortable bench seating and 10 bar spots, including a few facing the bustling open kitchen.