Roncessvales is hot. At the base of this culinary hood is 9 Restaurant: part tapas, part izakaya, all flavour.
John An is a contractor who has built some of Toronto’s most interesting restaurants. While working on a recent restaurant development, the caterer told him she owned a little shop at the intersection of King, Queen, Queensway and Roncesvales. She asked him to take a look and see if he could make something of it so that she could move on. Intrigued, he set the wheels in motion and built a Korean tapas restaurant that looks as if it were plucked straight out of a narrow side street in Seoul.
Korean script on the wall, rough-hewn polished tables, and a menu full of surprises. I love discovering these new little gems in Toronto. Jazz plays as we order cocktails infused with Korean ingredients like Soju. My Sojito has a refreshing spearmint essence, while the Seoul Mule of vodka, soju, gingerbeer, jasmin syrup, lime and lemon grass is an unexpectedly mellifluous infusion.
Bulgogi Poutine or Kimchi Fries? Tender braised oxtail in soya, mirin, chili and licorice root or sweet honey-mustard chopped sirloin with a sunny-side-up egg? And which of the three crackling crunchy Korean fried chicken dishes should we try? There is too much goodness to choose. We order the Omakaje Wooden Board and leave it up to the chef. Showcasing a panoply of Korean flavours like bulgogi rolls; karabi; fried garlic; crunchy Korean fried chicken; a frito misto of shrimp, cuttle fish and squid in tempura batter; tender oxtail with birds eye peppers; a stack of boston lettuce is offered to cup all these ingredients into one harmonious crunch that really packs the bold flavours, textures and temperatures perfectly. It’s rare to see a board with such variety. We can’t decide which is our favourite, because each one is so unique and absolutely delicious. An’s own recipe for kimchi is, “even better than my mother’s,” he laughs. Adding this shredded kimchi to our lettuce wrap of beef and miso paste is like a roundhouse kick to my taste buds. Wow! Infused with miso for 24hrs, the black cod is oven roasted-crisp to a golden hue and shows off another of the variety of culinary techniques in this kitchen’s arsenal. For flavour that packs a punch and a hip vibe that is off the beaten path, we’ll be at 9 tonight.
~ 9 Restaurant, 9 Roncesvalles Ave, 416-512-2589 ~