12 O' Lunch
12 O' Lunch is a recently re-branded family-owned Korean restaurant near Dundas and University that used to be called Lunch Market. Inside, there are hanging trellises with plastic plants and faux windows and white picket fences. It's very kitschy French-provincial. If not for the colourful photos of the food plus the scents and sounds of a busy kitchen, I would have thought I stumbled into a crêperie.
I soon learn that 12 O' Lunch is so named because their menu is limited to 14 lunch sets which they serve until the evening hour. Give or take a few appetizers like dumplings and noodles, the main attractions are highlighted in a two page menu - and all promise to be filling and quickly prepared meals.
Kalbi (Korean Barbecue - $9.73) is basically barbecued beef ribs and comes with rice, house salad and Japchae (cellophane noodles). The ribs are tender and barbecued just right, sprinkled with sesame seeds to add another dimension to the taste and texture.
Meals come as-is, meaning don't expect the free soup, bean sprouts, kimchi and other appetizers common at most other Korean places.
My friend goes for the pork bone soup ($7.52) and reports that it doesn't compare to his favourites around town. The broth (which is the core component of this type of soup) is bland and boring. At least the meat is tender.
Fried Dumplings ($4.99) are crispy, deep fried vegetarian dumplings that are nice and crusty on the outside but moist and tender on the inside. I can't decipher what vegetables are used, but they're quite good and are an appetizer worthy of sharing.
Bibimbap ($7.96) is apparently 12 O' Lunch's specialty and it comes with a hot miso and nametake mushrooms. The miso is light, comforting and not too salty as is the tendency of many miso-based soups.
The Bibimbap, which is a big bowl of rice topped with a variety of vegetables, ground beef, chilies and a perfectly fried egg is a feast for the eyes. I usually get this dish served dolsut style (in a still-smoking hot bowl that cooks the ingredients as you mix them together with chili paste in a glorious and savoury mess). This option isn't available here.
The bowl is cold as are most of the ingredients except for the rice and the fried egg. Once mixed, however, the Bibimbap is quite good and filling and something I'd definitely go back for.
Other 12 O' Lunch dishes include Bulgogi ($8.41), Spicy Sour Chicken ($7.96) and Fish Katsu ($8.41) which all come with salad, rice and japchae.
Open Monday to Friday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm