I personally never heard the sound — the onomatopoeically-named “swish swish” sound that the thinly sliced pieces of fresh, red ribeye steak are supposed to make when they’re stirred in their fragrant broth. The broth I’d just made. At the table. In my brass hot pot on the portable gas-burning stove. Awesome.1
My first time eating Korean food was an event in and of itself. It was a UYE, which, for those of you out there who are not in the know2, UYE is Yelp code for “Unofficial Yelp Event”. What this means is that a bunch of cool Toronto foodie-types (usually the Elites such as yours truly) get together at non-Yelp sanctioned events and basically eat and imbibe until our little hearts (and stomachs) are content. When I saw that the event was Korean, I nearly blew out my keyboard RSVP’ing so furiously.
Swish by Han is a tapas-style Korean fusion restaurant that recently opened in the turning-swanky lower Toronto financial district. JamesJT over at Compendium Daily did a most excellent roundup of the resto. I’m sure you’re thinking “oh, hell naw, she did not just link us through to another site”, but fret not — his photos of Swish by Han are fierce, not to mention he has a scan of le menu which allows you to see Korean fusion in action for yourself. It’ll just happen this once — promise!
The interior of Swish by Han was pleasantly pleasing. Large, rustic wooden tables line one side of the space with tables just opposite;
contemporary art from friends and family members hanging throughout; an almost out-of-place chandelier at the rear; and my personal favourite, tons3 of candles burning. Most importantly, the washroom was hip, large, and clean, and since y’all know how much I appreciate a good washroom, I’ll add simply that it may not be the cushiest washroom, but it has plenty o’space to do whatever you need to do. 😉
Let’s get to the good stuff — the food. Food I consumed included:
- Jellyfish — no longer being a jellyfish virgin, I can say that it’s actually quite tasty. It was vinegary and tart, and delicious!
- Pork dumplings — not overly greasy, but with an excellent flavour
- Purple yam fries — wrapped in Korean newspaper, presented in a glass vase, and served with a spicy house-made mayo. Killer.
- Kimchee — I finally had kimchi!! It wasn’t what I expected, but it was good. I expected more of a warm cabbage instead of a cold pickled cabbage in a red sauce. I’ll definitely try it again, though.
- Shabu Shabu, Swish Swish — the reason to go. We shared three different swishes: beef, seafood, and vegetarian. A brass pot is brought out to you with a portable gas-burning stove. You are then brought a plate of perfectly-sliced beef and another plate of various vegetables. The pot is turned on to boil, you add the herbs and vegetables to flavour the water, and once it’s boiling, you add your beef and “swish” it around for just a few minutes until it’s cooked! It was served with a sweet and sour sauce that was good, although my dinner partners informed me that you are usually given a sesame soy-type sauce with Korean food as well. Of course, what did I know. Once you are finished with your dish, you are allowed to choose from either rice or noodles; your leftover broth is used to cook either starch and you finish off the Shabu Shabu this way.
- Soju — a very strong drink made in South Korea. Traditional soju was distilled from fermented grains, a method that was prohibited during the rice shortages that began in 1965 and lasting more than three decades. Instead, they began using ethanol (yes, the same ethanol that we use to fuel our cars) to dilute the soju. Although the ban has been lifted, cheap soju is apparently still made this way. Its alcohol content is between 20-45%. Swish by Han’s soju was served in flavours including ginger, which is what we had. It’s traditionally shared by the table and served in shot glasses. I had a very tiny sip and practically grew a patch of hair on my chest. Pretty!
The service was excellent! Granted, we were there early on a Tuesday night, so they weren’t packed, but our server was patient and attentive with our large group.
My first time eating (sort-of) Korean was seriously good. And of course, I’ll become a shabu shabu prophet to all those whom I feel need a little spice in their life. Not to mention, it’s just fun to say to shabu shabu, swish swish. It’s some serious rhymoflavin’, nón?
1 I think I use this word far, far too much. I will try to use it less. Try, being the operative word, naturally.
2 By which I mean totally uncool.
3 Or “tonnes” if you’re Canadian.