Sunday, March 6, 2011

Swish Splash

There's a block of Wellington Street E that I always make a point of walking along when heading home from St. Lawrence Market. It runs the length of Berczy Park, right by the Gooderham, one of my favourite buildings in the city (flatirons always makes me smile). There's a surprisingly high concentration of bars and restaurants in the red brick rowhouses that line the block (Lucien, Trevor, Pravda Vodka Bar) but Swish by Han, at #38, caught my attention and curiosity the moment I peeked in the window. The interior of reclaimed wood and contemporary art, with a communal table running down the middle, is warm and inviting. The menu, hanging on the door, presents an interesting modern take on Korean cuisine.

Always in a hurry to get home with my shopping cart filled to the brim, I never had time to just pop in for a bite. So for months I only imagined what the smells and flavours might be like, until we bought tickets to see a play in the Distillery District and wanted to have dinner nearby. Truth be told, we drove by Guu on Church Street first, hoping to snag a table at the perennially popular spot since we were eating so early. But with a crowd hovering around the entrance, we were skeptical about the reported 30 minute wait and continued on to plan B.

From the moment we entered through the thick curtains protecting diners from the cold, we knew we were in for a treat. The aroma was amazing - a mix of sweet and spicy scents swirling (or should I say swishing?) around us. We proceeded to enjoy what we both agreed was one of our best meals to date in Toronto:

Spicy pork buns - little pulled pork sandwiches on ciabatta-type bread

Tempura onion rings - fried in just enough tempura batter to make them delightfully crispy

Crunchy octopus - the actual name of the dish escapes me - deep fried and served with a spicy mayonnaise-y dipping sauce

Short rib ssäm set - literally meaning "wrapped," ssäm refers to a Korean dish that wraps meat in leaf vegetables. This set came with a stack of crisp lettuce leaves, grilled beef short ribs, hoisin sauce and a spicy fermented soybean paste

...all washed down with Sapporo beer on tap (it was tempting to order a soju cocktail, but I was worried I'd snooze through the show)

The service was excellent, the tables spaced well for intimate conversations, and the bill a pleasant surprise: under $80 for two.

There's not much buzz about this place on the internet, but there should be!
(647) 343-0268