Nine Restaurant & Tapas Bar
Nine Restaurant and Tapas Bar is a new Korean snack bar at the base of Roncesvalles north of Queen. Owner Alex Kim is actually a contractor who's worked on interiors for restaurants like Swish by Han , and recently, the Village Ink tattoo parlour.
The eclectic 45-seat room is full of personality and intriguing details salvaged from various demolition jobs. Poured concrete walls house fish tanks floating with synthetic jellyfish while elsewhere, Korean texts are used as graphic wallpaper. Long tables and a mishmash of benches and chairs give the place a real beer hall kind of character.
Oversized menus feature selections from land, sea and bar, offering snacky pub foods like KFC ($13), crackling chili glazed Korean fried chicken accompanied by crunchy pickled daikon. It's good chicken, though it's not nearly as spicy as it could be.
The grilled kalbi steak ($14) is presented bo ssam-style with kimchi slaw, chili-miso spread, deep-fried garlic, and a Himalayan salt with fried parsley and fresh pepper to drag each morsel of pink meat through. In addition to your typical lettuce wraps, there's raw kale and shiso leaves to assemble into little wraps.
Grilled octopus ($9) is precious portion of tender tentacles, lightly charred in just the right places. It comes swimming in a tangy ponzu sauce accompanied by grilled zucchini and asparagus, enoki mushrooms, chard and kumquat.
Po' boys two ways ($10) with thin crispy yam fries are more generous value. Both are built on milk buns, but one is loaded with a deep fried panko-crusted oyster and sweet Caesar dressing; the other, with a fried shrimp, chili-spiked Caesar dressing and arugula. The fries are under-seasoned but the sandwiches pack a lot of flavour.
The only miss for me: The squash kimchi fries ($8). I like all the components; chunky squash and sweet potatoes with asparagus and spicy house-made kimchi, sour cream, and aioli. I'm not a fan of the presentation - the way the sauces look don't appeal to me, and it doesn't get any better when I'm instructed to mix it through.
The bar offers Sapporo on tap ($7/14oz) and classic cocktails done with a Korean twist, think sangria and mojitos made with soju.
Perhaps most intriguing of all is the selection of frosty rice wine cocktails ($8) that utilize the same machine that spins beer into slushies . They come in flavours like yuzu, pear, peach, and pineapple. The frozen cocktails are really good, the yuzu one especially - it's tart and not too sweet.
The kitchen is open week-round until at least midnight if not later on weekends. Come summer the dark room and boozy slushies are positioned perfectly to take advantage of the sunburned beach crowd. They better have AC.
Photos by Jesse Milns