Taste of Seoul
154 Victoria Street South
Kitchener, ON N2G 2B5
Open Monday to Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Located in what might be called the “ArtHaus150” building on the west side of Victoria Street South between Park and Theresa streets, Taste of Seoul is primarily a commercial kitchen but one which serves up, among other meals, a very good bibimbap. It’s been a favourite dish of mine for a long time.
The small venue, with informal seating for about 10, is located at 154 Victoria Street South and starting serving sit-in and take-away meals from the spot a year or so ago. They also pop up at Vincenzo’s in Waterloo, Kitchener Market and St. Jacobs Market and have built quite a loyal following.
At the Victoria Street location, you’ll find udon noodles, japchae (glass noodles), rice bowls and sides of miso soup and kimchi. The bibimbap is a classic Korean dish of rice, vegetables, a protein, a couple of sauces and usually a sunny side-up fried egg. It’s bowl of goodness that is balanced in its flavours and textures and sparkles with its presentation.
The word bibimbap translates as something akin to “mixed rice” – and the best way to eat the dish is to mix it all together and gobble it down. For that, there’s both chopsticks and, traditionally, a long-handled spoon.
Owner Jin Hwa Chye says the dish is often prepared with cooked vegetables, but the Taste of Seoul version has a good healthy dose of fresh lettuces and ribbons of cucumber.
“We kind of do it like a salad,” she says. “There are six kinds of vegetables that we put in it and add our home-made teriyaki sauce and a sauce of fermented red pepper paste.”
The protein choices you can select are beef, pork, chicken or salmon and of course a vegetarian version. It’s a very large bowl, which, I dare say, could just about feed two people. The process of eating it is simple: take the bibimbap ingredients as they are presented to you in the bowl and observe how beautiful they look – like an artist’s paint palette. Then, with your chopsticks, take the meat, the veg, the egg and the rice and mix them all up together so you get a bit of each of the morsels in a bite.
If there is anything missing here, it’s what might be known as the nurungji — the beautiful grains of rice that have turned brown and toasted and crispy-caramelized on the bottom of the bowl. A serving vessel that is often used for bibimbap is a stone dolsot bowl that is heated to blistering hot. When the rice is tucked into the bottom of the dolsot, it develops a crispy, candied coating that’s unbeatably delicious.
Likely for logistical reasons and getting take-away lunches out quickly, Taste of Seoul does not use a dolsot, but, regardless, the combination of ingredients still makes this dish one of the great bowls of food found in world — and not one to be skipped.