Move over, sushi. Now there’s something sexier. The new Korean cuisine is exciting, modern and worth crossing town for
The seafood stew at Tofu Village (Image: Ryan Szulc)
National cuisines, like drunk-driving starlets, get the reputations they deserve. Korean food—dependably rough-edged, cheap and fiery in Toronto’s first-wave Korean restaurants—has suffered a serious perception problem since it first appeared near Christie Pits in the early 1970s. Korean expats ate Korean food. Starving, steel-gutted U of T students ate Korean food. The rest of humanity got along quite happily without it.
That started to change about 10 years ago, when South Korea launched a sustained and successful campaign to become a major cultural exporter. What began with film and TV—including several food-obsessed soap operas that drew massive audiences across Asia—soon trickled down to dinner, and as a new, more cosmopolitan generation of Korean chefs began to refine the cuisine, the gastro-weenies of the world took notice. In London, Korean went high-end, and in New York, David Chang, of Momofuku fame, created a hybrid Korean–French–Southeast Asian style that has become one of the most influential forces in the business. Over the past few years, this culinary renaissance set down in Toronto, too, hidden—or hidden to non-Koreans, at least—in plain sight between the all-you-can-eat bulgogi joints and bibimbap houses where serious foodies would never have dared to dine.
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