Jung Soo Nae
Jung Soo Nae is a small Korean restaurant that specializes in a hard-to-find dish: seasoned raw crab. It also serves a smorgasbord of seafood dishes along with a smattering of more well-known classics like kimchi fried rice and bulgogi.
The Yonge and Finch area restaurant is sparsely decorated and utilitarian in appearance. Located at the ground floor of a nondescript white-coloured apartment building, it's easy to miss.
In contrast to the hip and happening MeNami nearby, this is a humble family restaurant serving traditional Korean dishes, frequented by many regulars who clearly know each other well.
One of the restaurant's specialty dishes is the tongue-twisting CheolPan JjooGgooMi BokEum ($29.99), where baby octopi, vegetables, and rice cake are all tossed in a spicy sauce and cooked on a personal grill at your table. It's a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. You can even order some purple rice ($2) and get them to mix it on the grill for you as well.
I have mixed feelings about the Kimchi BokEumBap ($9.99). I really enjoy the creaminess of the egg and the use of purple rice for the dish, but feel that the whole thing is lacking a bit in taste and that the kimchi flavours do not sufficiently shine through.
The signature dish here is the Ganjang Gejang , which is essentially raw crab marinated in one of two ways: with soy sauce or hot chilli sauce ($15.99 each). The cuisine is very popular in the Yeosu area of South Korea but isn't commonly found in most Korean restaurants around the GTA.
It's definitely an acquired taste, as the crab is quite strong. For lovers of raw seafood, however, this is sheer bliss. I personally prefer the spicy one, but am told that purists mostly go for the soy sauce variety. Don't avoid ordering this house specialty!
My favourite dish is YangNyeom JoGi GuEe ($17.99). Two pieces of beautifully fried croaker are coated in a delicious sauce that contains elements of gochujang, sugar, and green onions. It's finger-licking good, though you have to be careful with the many fine bones in the fish. Eating this is labour intensive, but definitely worth it.
Finally, a crowd favourite is the HaeMul PaJeon ($15.99), which is a deep-fried Korean seafood pancake. Served with a sweet soy sauce, it features large pieces of succulent whole shrimp inside the batter. It's also a highlight.
As I walk away, I could hear friendly exchanges of "Annyeonghaseyo!" not only between the restaurant staff and guests, but among the patrons themselves. It's a bit like a Korean "Cheers" where everyone knows your name.