The Owl of Minerva (Koreatown)
The Owl of Minerva is the perfect place to go for those who seek cheap and delicious Korean comfort food. Rated by this site as one of the best 24 hour restaurants in Toronto, The Owl of Minerva also has a reputation for some of the best pork bone soup in the city. And luck for us it has multiple locations throughout the city, including this one in the heart of Koreatown.
The atmosphere here is very casual and comfortable, and the service is quick and friendly. My friends and I decide to order a bowl of their famous pork bone soup also known as gamjatan ($6.20) along with a plate of spicy rice cakes, known as ddeokbokki ($7) to share.
The pork bone soup consists of large pieces of pork so soft and tender that the meat is literally falling off the bone while being submerged in a piping hot, savoury and spicy pork bone broth infused with garlic and chilli. This soup is garnished with thinly sliced green onions, white peppercorns and toasted sesame seeds.
Each bowl of soup is accompanied with a bowl of white rice and multiple small side dishes for the table to share known as banchan. Served room temperature, these side dishes perfectly complement the spiciness of the pork bone broth.
Today the banchan consists of traditional kimchi (fermented cabbage with a spicy sour kick), Korean potato salad (small chunks of potato, apple and carrots tossed in a kiepie mayo - a type of mayo that is sweeter and less vinegary than the North American version), Kongnamul (cold boiled bean sprouts sprinkled with sesame oil) and my favourite side dish of the night, Gamja jormin (diced potatoes that have been stir-fried in corn syrup, sugar and soya sauce).
The plate of rice cakes consists of small roles of soft and chewy glutinous rice logs stir-fried with slices of cabbage and drenched in a thick, tangy spicy sauce. The rice cakes have the perfect chewy yet soft consistency one expects from rice cakes with a spiciness that complements the side dishes.
The only complaint I have about the Owl is the cold draft from the front door which closes each time someone enters. Those of us seated closest to the entrance had to wear earing our winter jackets for the majority of the meal.
Writing by Tania Grafstein-Ho. Photos by Alan Wu.