James Cheese Back Ribs
James Cheese Back Ribs is Toronto’s go-to destination for Korean pork ribs wrapped in gooey, stretchy mozzarella cheese studded with corn and served with a cornucopia of sides.
It might sound strange, but the combination of the ribs which come in a range of mild, spicy and super spicy heat levels with the heavy, fatty cheese is an indulgent combo beloved by many internationally.
The interior space is friendly, mostly bedecked in a sort of calm mustard-type colour. Multiple booths are perfect for the large groups you’re going to need to bring to finish off the overwhelming platters of ribs and mountains of fried snacks on the menu.
Short ribs ($9.50) are part of a list of izakaya-like starters, cut thin, marinated and grilled, then slathered with a house sauce.
Mini Korean “McRibs” ($9.20) see pork patties on soft steamed buns with BBQ sauce, pickles and mayo. Not quite an imitation, but a fun bar snack nonetheless.
A half pound of wings ($7.90) comes covered in spicy, zesty sauce or without, the juicy chicken inside fried Korean-style.
Signature fried corn squid ($9.20) provides an impressive little mountain of crispy seafood for munching dressed with sweet corn and chili mayo sauce.
Orders of cheese ribs are $34.50 including 5 sides, enough to feed a couple friends out for drinks or two hungry people. Racks of ribs marinated for 24 hours and brushed with their house Korean BBQ sauce are served whole, though a server will help cut them up with scissors.
From that point, they’ll continue to show you how to scissor your own ribs and use those scissors to properly drape them with the stretchy mozzarella, holding the ribs with tongs so you never touch the piping hot plate which has a burner underneath.
Our sides were corn, sweet potato, veggies, mashed potato, and a half ring of scrambled egg, which kind of made the spicy, cheesy meal feel a bit like a Korean Thanksgiving feast.
As for other entrees, there are udon and rice bowls, like a braised beef udon ($10) a nicely filling bowl of vinegary dashi broth with thick, slipper noodles, robust braised beef, pickled mushrooms, a creamy soft egg, scallions, and bean sprouts.
A yuzu collins ($8) puts uses yuzu and sake to put a twist on a cocktail typically made with gin and lemon.
A red wine sangria ($8) is nice and fruity and full-bodied, with Gekkeikan sake, tequila, pinot noir, orange and cranberry juice, and cucumber, blackberry, blueberry and strawberry.
Of course, many opt for beer at this Korean spot where as the night goes on the sound of burners clicking and cheese sizzling fills this little Chinatown restaurant.