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Ninth Gate -- upscale Korean


Endy'
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they bill themselves as a "Korean bistro". I was worried -- images of the Korean version of chop suey, or worse yet, fusion. But then a Korean friend of mine called it "the closest thing I've ever tasted to my mom's home cooking". High praise indeed -- I had to try it.

basically, I'm really torn over this place. Everything I ate was quite good (in the case of the kalbitang, excellent) and all quite authentic to what I've had at normal Korean restaurants. No mistakes at all. That said, I can't shake the nagging feeling of something being a little off about Ninth Gate.

you can see pics at my Flickr set, but it's done up really nicely inside. Ninth Gate is to Korean restaurants what Asian Legend is to Chinese. One thing I found odd though was the use of disposable chopsticks (I've noticed this at high end Japanese places too). Does anyone understand this?

the meal started with banchan: some kind of radish, a white kimchi, and daikon. Just decent...used to more variety though. Then haemul pajeon -- seafood and onion "pancake". Tasty enough, but it was $6 for a portion smaller than a CD. But they did avoid the problem of rubbery/not-so-fresh seafood other places seem to have. Kalbitang next (beef rib soup), which was really really good. Perfect texture on the daikon, tender beef, flavourful broth. Last, dolsot bibimbap (a mixed rice dish)...just OK. Although I was kind of bothered by the fried egg being a $1 addition when it's an inherent part of bibimbap.

IMO you can find food of similar quality if you're willing to try a bunch of Korean places around town, but Ninth Gate is definitely consistent, and a safe bet. (I can't say though how it compares to Dave's mom's cooking -- I've never been to dinner at his house.) The prices are higher than what you'd pay elsewhere, but in line with the ambiance.

in the end, I think the sleek, stylish décor made the restaurant feel kind of sterile to me. I'm used to holes-in-the-wall with stark lighting and K-pop (they play house instead -- felt like I was in a Club Monaco), puntuated by drunken Korean and laughter. Somehow the tranquility bothered me. That said, they have a brief wine list, cocktails (many made with soju), and they serve soju too (Chumchurum at $18/bottle -- not egregious), so maybe you can make your own fun.

really, I hope I'm the only one who's hung up over the way the restaurant looks and feels, because the food is definitely good *and* authentic. That much I can recommend.

NE corner of Jarvis and Front.

Edited by Endy' (log)
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One thing I found odd though was the use of disposable chopsticks (I've noticed this at high end Japanese places too).  Does anyone understand this?

While this doesn't make much sense for upscale Korean restaurants, since Koreans tend to use undifferentiated metal chopsticks and don't identify with a particular pair, the use of waribashi in Japanese restaurants has been discussed elsewhere on eGullet. Basically, Japanese tend to consider it somewhat strange to use someone else's chopsticks, and waribashi became popular because they guaranteed you were using ones that nobody else has used before.

I talk about it here:

http://moriawase.com/blogs/jason/archive/2...05/13/2389.aspx

Another thread where a New Yorker expresses bewilderment at disposable chopsticks in fancy Japanese restaurants, and I talk about the taboos related to chopsticks in Japan:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=78184&st=0

A thread in the Japan forum discusses it here, with a bit of an environmental focus:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...0entry1193143

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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Seems pretty enough, but I just ate at one of the random places around Yonge and Finch, (well, closer to Shepperd, actually), and it was really really good. Ten (!) intro dishes and a really good cold soba. We couldn't try the pork bone soup, as we were there at 11pm and they closed for the night shortly thereafter.

I'd certainly go back. Don't recall enjoying a Korean meal more.

foodpr0n.com 11/01/17: A map of macarons in Toronto // For free or for a fee - bring your bottle! corkagetoronto.com

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Sadly, no. But I can find out sooner or later. I'm around there all the time. It's the resto after the closed down "lol lol" shop. I know those should be korean characters, but... heheheh... I'll find out. I really want to go back and try their pork bone.

foodpr0n.com 11/01/17: A map of macarons in Toronto // For free or for a fee - bring your bottle! corkagetoronto.com

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if you haven't been yet, HARUBANG!! SW corner Finch/Yonge (below Twister if you know where that is). Seriously, best Korean food I've tried in Toronto, and I've been on a Korean-food kick for quite some time now.

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Just my comments about Ninth Gate a couple months back:

I can write in superfluous details regarding the modern décor of Ninth Gate; about its nouveau approach to reinvent a rustic, no frills, home style cuisine to a society that's attracted by bells and whistles and the next big trend; the attention to westernizing everything Asian, including the use of wait staff (and no doubt kitchen hands) who were anything but; or even its strategic location to be in an area that is both away from its cuisine's cultural origins and hence, competition to provide great value and/or flavour to a crowd demanding true authenticity.

Or I can say simply, it was a decent experience for what it was worth, in an area where you couldn't really expect any more for a restaurant of that calibre, and the place had pretty colours. :) To note, I've only been there a total of ONE time(s) so it's really not fair to write a review of a restaurant based on one meal. I had the dolsot bibimbap with brown rice and EXTRA chili paste (how I like it) and it was fine. I didn't get that many crispy rice bits at the bottom of my bowl (no searing sounds when I was mixing my rice and toppings with the sauce). It could be because the stone pot wasn't hot enough, or the fact that there WASN'T AN EGG in my dish at all (I looked at my dolsot dish, and it had some enoki mushrooms on top and not the shredded omelet that my friend got). It's just funny as I did inquire about the "egg" that was supposed to be in our dish. No matter. I'd recommend the place if you like places like Spring Rolls. :raz:

if you haven't been yet, HARUBANG!!  SW corner Finch/Yonge (below Twister if you know where that is).  Seriously, best Korean food I've tried in Toronto, and I've been on a Korean-food kick for quite some time now.

I personally like Korean Village on Bloor best. Even after a recommendation to try Sarawon I still like Korean Village a lot more.

(checked out your flickr site Endy' and saw you went to Omi. Don't you just love it? :wub: I suppose it's related to this link as Chef Lee is Korean. BTW, I like how you dine. I'd do the same if I were to stick around after an omakase meal. :wink: )

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I'd recommend the place if you like places like Spring Rolls:raz:

ouch :P

I personally like Korean Village on Bloor best.  Even after a recommendation to try Sarawon I still like Korean Village a lot more.

(checked out your flickr site Endy' and saw you went to Omi.  Don't you just love it?  :wub:  I suppose it's related to this link as Chef Lee is Korean.  BTW, I like how you dine.  I'd do the same if I were to stick around after an omakase meal.  :wink: )

I couldn't help it, everything looked so good! I guess I should be thankful for having a good metabolism ;)

I loved Omi. I went not long after going to Hiro...I feel like the differences between the 2 are such a matter of taste though (even more so than dining normally is). The food at Hiro is good, but I just like Chef Lee's departures and creativity more. And the vibe at Omi is totally different...louder music, people laughing, and Chef super pumped about everything, compared to the serene meditative experience at Hiro. I found it a really sharp contrast especially given that they're doing similar styles of cuisine.

my experiences at Korean Village have been kind of uneven. I liked the modeum bossam there -- a mixed cold meat plate with soon dae (blood sausage), jokbal (pig foot), and bossam (boiled pork belly) -- but the second time it didn't taste so fresh. I've since seen it on the menu at some place on that north Yonge stretch (Mandu Hyang? -- dunno if it has an English name), so I need to try that. Also (about KV), Korean places that also do sushi kind of irk me.

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I juuust went to Hiro, enjoyed it, but I do like the vibe at Omi much more. Of the two, I would opt to go back to Omi first. I did, however, really enjoy Hiro's kitchen foods in the sense that they seemed a little more traditional than fusion. My perception only, I'm sure.

foodpr0n.com 11/01/17: A map of macarons in Toronto // For free or for a fee - bring your bottle! corkagetoronto.com

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I loved Omi.  I went not long after going to Hiro...I feel like the differences between the 2 are such a matter of taste though (even more so than dining normally is).  The food at Hiro is good, but I just like Chef Lee's departures and creativity more.  And the vibe at Omi is totally different...louder music, people laughing, and Chef super pumped about everything, compared to the serene meditative experience at Hiro.  I found it a really sharp contrast especially given that they're doing similar styles of cuisine.

my experiences at Korean Village have been kind of uneven.  I liked the modeum bossam there -- a mixed cold meat plate with soon dae (blood sausage), jokbal (pig foot), and bossam (boiled pork belly) -- but the second time it didn't taste so fresh.  I've since seen it on the menu at some place on that north Yonge stretch (Mandu Hyang? -- dunno if it has an English name), so I need to try that.  Also (about KV), Korean places that also do sushi kind of irk me.

Endy': Totally agree with you on the Omi vs Hiro bit. Hence why I would choose to return to Omi over Hiro

Regarding KV, don't order the sushi then! (I know I don't. :wink: ) Let us know how you like the place up north on Yonge. Either way, they have to be more authentic than their Ninth Gate cousin.

I juuust went to Hiro, enjoyed it, but I do like the vibe at Omi much more. Of the two, I would opt to go back to Omi first.  I did, however, really enjoy Hiro's kitchen foods in the sense that they seemed a little more traditional than fusion. My perception only, I'm sure.

I agree with you too. Now it's time to test out Kaiseki-Sakura and throw that in the mix, right? :laugh:

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I did, however, really enjoy Hiro's kitchen foods in the sense that they seemed a little more traditional than fusion. My perception only, I'm sure.

hmm...I was really underwhelmed by the kitchen side of the omakase when I went to Hiro, so I didn't get it the second time, opted for more sushi instead...

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I agree with you too.  Now it's time to test out Kaiseki-Sakura and throw that in the mix, right?  :laugh:

INDEED!!! Sorry you can't join us, (lmk if you can)! My friends are in basically for the weekend, so their schedule is less flexible.

Will let you know what I think. :)

Also, I have to get that name of that Korean place up at Yonge and Shep. Maybe we'll do a group outing there! I meant to set up something for dim sum, but I haven't gotten to arranging it.

I do like the rise in K-food though - or maybe it's my noticing it more - but it's nice to get the different cuisines besides Japanese and Chinese!

hmm...I was really underwhelmed by the kitchen side of the omakase when I went to Hiro, so I didn't get it the second time, opted for more sushi instead...

Hmm.. I had a good night maybe? The sushi was great, but maybe it wasn't as fun as sitting at the bar ;;_;;

Edited by jenc (log)

foodpr0n.com 11/01/17: A map of macarons in Toronto // For free or for a fee - bring your bottle! corkagetoronto.com

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  • 1 month later...
Also, I have to get that name of that Korean place up at Yonge and Shep.

ahem, you still owe me a name ;)

in that area (closer to Finch, though), I noticed a Korean restaurant named "The Party" (I'll get a picture soon). It's across the street from the new Buk Chang (soft tofu place, same chain as the one in K-town).

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