Chaban is a quiet Korean restaurant delivering some very big, bold and loud flavours. Literally: many dishes come out sizzling on hot plates, and the crackling of rice in the bottoms of bibimbap bowls are synonymous with one of the signature dishes of Korean cuisine, done excellently here.
The restaurant opened in Etobicoke in 2015, and they tell me the word chaban translates roughly to “well prepared delicious meal.”
It’s spacious, bright and airy to match the friendly atmosphere, with no extra unnecessary frills. Art books and cookbooks hang around the front, presumably for those who are waiting for takeout orders.
Once we place our order little side dishes come flying out of the kitchen almost immediately. A dish of ueong or burdock root is mainly flavoured with soy sauce and seems to just soak up that flavour and not taste of much else, topped with sesame seeds.
There’s also chewy salty fish cake, vinegary sliced potato and deliciously spicy, immaculately cut kimchi.
Bulgogi ($14.99) is a best seller here, one of the items that comes out on a sizzling hot plate. The beef has been cooked to the point of falling apart as it dangles from your chop sticks, bursting with savoury flavour and accompanied by crunchy and firm stir-fried onions, zucchini and carrots.
BBQ beef short ribs ($18.99) also come out on a plate that sizzles with the promise of deliciousness.
Malty, sweet, tender, and very saucy, these ribs are a simple delight whether torn off the bone with your teeth or nabbed with chopsticks and gobbled up, topped with a little green onion and sesame and served on a bed of sliced white onion.
The signature chaban dolsot bibimbap ($11.99) is definitive. “Dolsot” means stone bowl, and this one is hot enough to get the rice on the bottom the most perfectly crispy crunchy texture I may have ever had.
It adds a layer of texture to the eclectic combination of egg, mushroom, carrot, other veggies, and of course that ultra-thin beef. Up the ante with chili paste.
Along with the side dishes, we also get miso soup, purple rice and cups of tea that are perpetually being refilled.
A kitchen clatters away through a window and doorway that can be glimpsed from the open dining area.
Though this place only seats around twenty to thirty people, the friendliness, humility, and convenience of Chaban shines through. I’m sure this is a reliable and beloved choice for residents of the Queensway area.