There’s no shortage of Korean restaurants in North York but what sets Han Ba Tang (@) apart is their modern take on Korean fare. From the minute you step into the restaurant, you’ll realize that this isn’t your typical Korean restaurant.
The decor is described by the owner as “industrial vintage” – think exposed brick walls, worn tiled floors, reclaimed wood elements and salvaged pieces. With the pendant lighting and cozy space, the atmosphere is very warm and welcoming.
The restaurant is located on the west side of Yonge, a block and a half north of Sheppard. Blink and you’ll miss it – there’s no signage on the outside which wasn’t the original intention. When they removed the sign of the previous business, they found Vitrolite glass tiles underneath. Being of great historic value (these tiles haven’t been manufactured since the 40’s), they wanted to preserve it.
Han Ba Tang opened this past summer on Canada Day. The owner wanted to create a casual and affordable spot and has already changed the menu a number of times based on customer feedback and adapting to customer preferences. For example, she initially wanted to serve small sharing plates but soon increased the portion sizes as she realized that there are a lot of “young starving men” out there, as she puts it.
Last weekend I attended a media dinner and had the opportunity to dig into some of their tasty offerings:
Clean Cut - cucumber soju + mint
Live to 1000 - ginseng soju, honey, Hennessy
Sweet Potato Chips - sweet potato fries served with wasabi mayo
Chilli Shrimp - lightly battered shrimp dipped in sweet chilli sauce
Kalbi Taco & Spicy Pork Taco - grilled kalbi and spicy pork on a bed of shredded cabbage with red onions and a light house aioli
Kimchi Fries with Bulgogi - extra crispy fries topped with kimchi, aioli, gravy, sizzling bulgogi & green onions
Lobster - steamed lobster with house sauce
Black Squid Ink Pasta - squid ink pasta, mussels, house-made gochujiang cream sauce topped with a Korean beef cake
Spicy Chicken with Fondue - grilled chicken in a sizzling plate with a mix of rice cakes, onions & carrots with a side of creamy cheese fondue
Spoon Pizza - mashed sweet potato “crust” with vegetables, tomato sauce topped cheese and bacon or kimchi
Spicy Seafood Soup – A spicy seafood soup with shrimp mussels & crab with Korean Ramyun
House-infused Soju - strawberry, apple cinnamon, pineapple, cucumber
Favourites included the sweet potato chips, kimchi fries, spicy pork taco and spicy seafood soup. The thick cut sweet potato fries were extra crispy and served with an incredible wasabi mayo – it’s the perfect snack to have with a round of drinks… or soju!
While I enjoyed both the kalbi and spicy pork tacos, it was the spicy pork that won me over. Saucy, spicy, porky… what more do I need to say?
The kimchi fries were also a big hit. The owner explained that she found a lot of people heading over to the nearby McDonalds after a night of drinking, so she wanted to serve something special that would satisfy their cravings. Her kimchi fries are definitely something special. The fries are super crispy (like Costco fries) and held up really well against all the gravy, aioli and tender slices of bulgogi. Delish!
Another favourite was the spicy seafood soup. It was quite spicy as advertised and had a generous amount of seafood in it. The broth was incredibly flavourful and would make for a wonderful winter meal.
Also noteworthy is their soju which they infuse in house. They offer quite a few of them, which you can try in a flight of four shots. My personal favourites were the apple cinnamon and cucumber. Dangerously delicious!
We had a great experience Han Ba Tang – if this restaurant existed back when I used to live in the area, there’s no doubt I would’ve been a regular.
*This was a complimentary meal. The opinions in the post, as always, are my own.*