In a city where people are always eager to try something new, it’s the perfect place for culinary innovators to make their mark. While over here, cheesy back ribs is almost unheard of, it’s a crowd favourite in Korea, where James Cheese Back Ribs originated. Thanks to its popularity with tourists, this unique concept has traveled overseas, and Torontonians are the first in Canada to try it out. James Cheese Back Ribs can be found on Spadina, close to Chinatown.
Situated on Spadina in Chinatown, James Cheese Back Ribs serves Korean-Western fusion cuisine, where they put a creative spin on traditional dishes. The restaurant worked with Executive Chef Graham Pratt from The Gabardine to come up with a menu that would suit the North American palate. Many of the ingredients are imported from Korea, and everything is handmade in-house daily.
The interior was designed by PROP, a local architecture/design firm. There are brick walls on either side, with wood paneling on the bottom. The cheery yellows and dark browns found throughout the interior balance each other out. Paintings hang on one wall, and in neon lettering, the restaurant motto rests on the other. Overall, the space feels comfy and inviting, making it an ideal place for groups to dine and socialize.
In addition to James Cheese Back Ribs’ food menu, they also have quite a selection of drinks. Their beverage list features 15 types of sake, most of which can’t be bought from the LCBO; sparking sake, as well as a sake sampler for those who aren’t familiar with the drink. They also have three types of soju, plum wine, and a cocktail list.
The cucumber yuzu cocktail is the perfect summer drink — refreshing, subtle, and easy to drink. The sparkling sake ($30), which is like a cross between champagne and sake, was flavourful, alternating from sweet and sour.
Before you get to the main dish, try out some of their appetizers. Recommended items include the seared pork belly ($8.7), fried corn squid ($9.2), and fried chicken wings ($7.9), which is the second bestselling item.
The pork belly was tender and fatty, full of flavour from the Shichimi dry BBQ rub. The salad cuts through the richness nicely by bringing hints of acidity and crunch.
The corn fried squid is also definitely worth trying. It has a light and crispy batter fried to perfection and topped with a creamy chili mayo sauce.
An Asian take on beef sliders, the McRibs come with a juicy pork patty, BBQ sauce, mayo and pickles nestled between fluffy steamed buns.
A bowl of soft udon bathing in a hearty broth and topped with braised beef, veggies, tofu, and a soft-boiled egg makes for a satisfying, heartwarming meal.
No visit to James Cheese Back Ribs would be complete without ordering their most famous dish. This giant platter comes with racks of ribs, a heap of mozzarella and corn, and five seasonal sides, all to be cooked on a portable stove.
When you order their ribs, you get dinner and a show. The staff cook the food right in front of you, and when the mozzarella melts to the perfect gooey consistency, they expertly wrap it around the ribs and serve them hot off the pan.
The laborious process of preparing and season the ribs leaves a huge impact on the taste. The sweet and slightly spicy marinade penetrates every part of the rib, and when paired with the richness of the mozzarella and the sweetness from the corn, it becomes a heavenly combination. All the sides are tasty, and complements the ribs. This dish is every bit flavourful as it is indulgent, and it’s great for sharing.
If there’s still room for dessert at the end, the matcha cheesecake is a good option. It’s silky smooth, creamy, and has a light matcha flavour. With a sweet crust on the bottom, and tart fruits on top, it makes for a perfectly balanced dessert.
While they have a good sized menu for their soft opening, James Cheese Back Ribs is currently expanding their menu as they prepare for their grand opening in the next week. Soon, Torontonians will get the opportunity to experience a different side of cuisine that’s full of flavour, and full of potential.
James Cheese Back Ribs is open at 409 Spadina Ave. in Toronto, Monday to Sunday from 5pm to 11pm.
Will you try James Cheese Back Ribs? Let us know what you think about the new Korean spot in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.