Hanamaru Market and Bento
Hanamaru Market and Bento is open for takeout. A maximum of six people are allowed in the store at a time. Masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer is at the counter.
Hanamaru Market and Bento is a Korean and Japanese store offering bento boxes, sushi rolls and maki platters while stocking shelves with Kewpie mayo, instant ramen and containers of gochujang.
The market in Pape Village features shelves lining the walls as well as about a dozen in the centre of the space, each packed full of your favourite sweet and savoury Asian snacks, meals and frozen foods.
Korean-born husband and wife, Kangyong Park and Eunyoung Lee opened the spot in an area with few other Asian markets. Pape Villagers seem pleased to welcome them to the neighbourhood, with the bell on the door ringing every 10 minutes or so as a new visitor walks in.
The corner adjacent to the checkout counter displays bags of chips and other salty favourites including Honey Butter Chip, Cho Chung U-Gua Rice Snack and Shrimp Flavored Crackers.
While snacks of the sweeter selection like Pocky, the chocolate-biscuit Kinoko No Yama and almost all the flavours of Hi-Chew can be found on the middle shelves. With frozen dumplings, a decent selection of instant ramen, gochujang, Kewpie mayo as well as other Asian sauces and marinades, the actual grocery section here isn't half bad either.
They even have mozzarella cheese and potato hotdogs, a frozen version of the gamsung you can get at Chung Chun, a spot that's gained quite a following in Toronto for the Korean street food, rice dogs. Onigiri ($4) that's made fresh each morning is also available in seven different flavours alongside pre-made packages of sushi ($7).
Park and Lee say they started making just eight onigiri each morning and now make 30 due to the high demand. Just make sure you stop in before 3 p.m. as they're usually sold out by then.
Besides the selection of goods found in the market, fresh appetizers, maki platters, sushi rolls and bento boxes are cooked in the back kitchen for takeout.
Lee uses her experience earned while cooking for a number of different Japanese restaurants in the city, making up everything from scratch down to the smallest of details with the unagi sauce.
Each of the four different bento boxes comes with a selection of unique sides that aren't typically found in other bentos. At the time of our visit, Lee is adding seasoned spinach, spicy soybean sprout and honey beets along with a dumpling and Japanese croquette.
Each box is stuffed full with the sides, and the salmon bento coming with a thick piece of miso-glazed salmon ($15).
The bulgogi bento ($16) features stir-fried beef as the protein that's been marinated for nearly two days in a soy-based sauce with pineapple and sweet pear. The long soak means tons of flavour and extra tenderness.
The Aburi Salmon Dragon ($15) is flame-seared. When the flame is applied to the sushi, the heat changes the flavour and texture resulting in a sweeter salmon.
The slightly charred top and fresh salmon makes for a sushi roll that even non-sushi eaters can appreciate.
A notable appetizer on the menu would be the spicy chicken karaage ($9). Nine pieces of crispy chicken come soaked in a sticky, spicy Korean sauce and topped with sesame seeds.
To wash it down, you have a full selection of refreshing caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages in the fridge ranging from fresh-squeezed juices to cold teas and matcha-based drinks.
Whether you're stopping by for some grocery basics and unique finds or are more interested in the carefully made bento boxes made fresh in the back, Hanamaru Market and Bento is worth a visit.