From serial restaurateur Sang Kim (Blowfish, KI Modern Japanese, KOKO! Share Bar) comes Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co. – a two-tiered fusion of Japanese and Korean caj (you know, the casual form of casual?). From the glowing embers of the charcoal grill to the inviting wood bar, Yakitori Bar welcomes one in with its ambiance even before getting a taste of the food. What’s more impressive is the story behind the opening of this restaurant… pieced together in just one month. Kim, a well respected author (A Dream Called Laundry, Ballad of a Karaoke Cowboy, and coming soon, Woody Allen Ate My Kimchi) catalogued his whirlwind experience blogger-style with How to Open a Restaurant in 30 Days.
House-infused soju and exquisite hand-crafted sake from the Metropolitan Hotel, liquors that Kim claims to be “Asia’s answers to vodka,” provide the base for many inventive and fresh cocktails. A full cold sake bar, draft and bottled beer, affordable wine selection, imported Korean soft drinks, and fresh squeezed juices round out the drink menu.
With an array of interesting side dishes ranging from kimchi flights to pork stuffed chili peppers, kimchi poutine to my favourite Korean street food, duk bok ki, there’s always something different to pair with your meal. The center of the concept, of course, is the yakitori – small, skewered, little two-bite blessings. Cooked proper over a mix of charcoal and Japanese white charcoal, the menu features 11 different types of tantalizing meats, seafood, and seasonal veg.
Also in the pipeline will be a quarterly “Yakitori Top Chef” competition. Open to traditional and amateur chefs alike, Kim is giving a few bold souls the chance to have their winning skewers featured on the Yakitori Bar menu for 3-months, and he’s even offering up a share of the profits!
Seoul Food Co. takes East-West mashups to the next level with takeout dishes for those with a more hurried hunger. Bulgogi Burgers, Kalbi “Philly” steak sandwiches, and kimchi French fries are just a few of the eventual offerings. My taste of the mini bibimbap assured me that I’ll be returning speedily to this side of the resto.
The night I visited for the media launch, samplings came from the Yakitori Bar competition itself. Some favourites: the Diabla’s Alligator Kiss, by freelance Chef Rossy Earle who’s SupiCucu hot sauces can be found at Culinarium and Pimenton; Chinji Yamaguchi, owner/chef of Gushi (a shipping container street food stall on Dundas Street) put out a sweet offering with his Godzilla Skewer, ground chicken balls with onion soy sauce and coriander smothered in his trademark Gushi teriyaki sauce. Lastly, Chef Vanessa Yeung (Aphrodite Cooks, The Singles Supper Club) brought her A-game with her Aphrodite’s Salty and Sweet Beef Satays. Marinated for 24-hours in salty soy sauce, hoisin sauce and sugar, the shaved flank steak was caramelized on the outside and rare on the inside, and were perhaps the best yakitori I’ve ever eaten!
I’m not sure if the ballots are cast yet, but whether for a quick snack, a fresh cocktail, a new competition-winning skewer or a menu standard, I will be voting to come back to Yakitori Bar with uninhibited frequency.