Home of Hot Taste
Home of Hot Taste is one of the few restaurants in the GTA where you can score Korean style fried chicken. With a lighter batter, whole chickens and your choice of plain or sauced options, Korean Fried Chicken is a great twist on a beloved and traditional comfort food. It was also a bit of a foodie trend not too long ago.
Located in a strip mall on Yonge Street just a shade north of Steeles, Home of Hot Taste actually sits right across from the uptown location of Ajuker Fried Chicken. These two franchises combine for a virtual monopoly on K(orean)FC in Toronto, and each of these storefronts have a downtown doppelgänger.
Unlike Ajuker's takeout focused approach, Home of Hot Taste is a full-on restaurant and popular watering hole. Walking into the mid-sized space, there are no frills worthy of mention. The decor is chintzy, the lighting is dim and the booze is both cheap and ubiquitous. Unsurprisingly, the joint is full of young people imbibing in $3 domestic bottles of beer, so you may not want to bring your mom here for her birthday. That is, unless she's craving Korean fried chicken.
Ostensibly, the signature dish at Home of Hot Taste is their "blazing chicken", which is a skillet of braised boneless chicken slathered in a kimchi based hot-sauce. The menu also offers typical traditional Korean fare like dak galbi (stir fried rice cakes), pork bone soup and kimchi fried rice. On this night however I am focused and single minded; I'm here for fried chicken and cheap beer. Nothing more, nothing less.
The complimentary banchan consists of a simple iceberg lettuce salad and some pickled daikon radish. Nothing to write home about, but we aren't here for vegetables (in fact, the menu barely has any) so the stingy appetizers can be overlooked.
Our order of a whole plain fried chicken ($16) arrives cut into roughly equal sized morsels and accompanied by a dipping powder that tastes mostly of salt, white pepper and monosodium glutamate. The battered chicken has a thin, crispy skin that is surprisingly light. Unlike the heavy exterior of most traditional southern style fried chicken, this Korean variant is delightfully flakey.
The batter itself is very lightly seasoned, allowing you to actually taste the chicken. The poultry is cooked perfectly, moist and tender regardless of white or dark meat. Moreover, our serving does in fact seem like a full-butchered chicken; there are no repeat pieces, leading me to believe the birds may actually be prepared in house. All that matters really though is that every single piece is delectable. A sprinkle of the powdered salt accoutrement takes the indulgence of each bite up an entire notch.
Additionally, we order half a spicy crispy chicken ($10). Basically this is the same dish as the plain option, but tossed in a sweet and spicy glaze right before serving and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The chicken retains the best qualities of the plain flavour, most importantly a crunchy skin despite being covered in a sauce that resembles sweet Thai chili buffalo wings. The crunchiness of the batter inevitably softens up as the meal drags on, but if you eat it fast enough this is some of the best sauced fried chicken you'll get in the city.
If you want great Korean food, there are plenty of superior options. If you want fried chicken however, Home of Hot Taste will satisfy every craving. Plus, it doesn't give you that sick feeling afterwards in the pit of your stomach that feels like grease mingled with bad decisions.
Also, did I mention $3 beer?