To start off this review, let me just say it has been years since either my mom or I have had proper non-bbq Korean cuisine, so I didn’t have much frame of reference to go off of. Buk Chang Dong Soon, according to the very helpful google translate, means “Buk Chang Dong Soon” in English. Either this is a person’s name, or its g-translate’s second strike for me. The restaurant is located in Toronto’s Korea Town, roughly around Christie subway station.
I think a running theme of our experience, aside from delicious food, was having no idea what we were doing. The waiters, while very kind, don’t really explain the various ways to properly do things, presumably because it would be extremely tedious to so for every, other, customer. That said, I’m pretty sure the rhythm can be figured out down pat for anyone’s second go-around, and many mistakes don’t really hinder the experience.
After looking around at other patrons to see how our meal played out, I confirmed with the waiter that the various bowls that came before the entrée were side dishes. My mother and I ordered dishes #4 and #7 respectively, the former a signature Korean rice bowl and the latter a dumpling and beef soup dish. My dinner was prefaced with a steaming stone pot of black and sticky rice grains–as the menu said–along with the various side dished I’d mentioned. These were kimchi, pickled veggies, chewy beans marinated in a hoisin-like sauce, very distinctively flavourful bean sprouts and, with zero explanation, a raw egg.
You’re not supposed to slurp the egg from its shell, like Rocky Balboa or a stupid person, it is meant to be cracked into your bowl to cook. I’ll explain later, first: the appetizers. Even though it was mild, I really liked the rice, it was creamy and had a hint of graininess to it that typical white or brown rice lack. It also goes well with the beans and bean sprouts mixed into it. The pickled veggies had a shape and texture roughly similar to noodles, with a spice quality similar to kimchi with added sweetness.
Kimchi is fascinating and very much its own thing. I could accurately describe it as cabbage mixed with an East Asian spice rub, but that would be like a climatologist saying, “The way our planet’s environment is trending, we’re all going to die in fifty years.”, without elaborating on the details. Kimchi is quite moist and chewy in parts of it, much like normal cabbage, but it’s the seasoning that makes it stand out. The spice really is a hybrid between a rub and a sauce, and tastes fairly spicy without being hot. It uses a combination of mild acidity and chili’s natural flavours without tapping in to the heat center of the palate, giving it a strong and distinctive “spice” without having one reach for a glass of water.
The main rice entrée could best be described as “nutty” although that doesn’t quite do it justice and makes seem too similar to a plate of cashews. Some grains on the bottom are cooked to the point of being crunchy and dry, adding bits of texture to the otherwise soft and toothy bowl. The various meets and veggies bring strangely unique, Unami flavours that grow on you as the meal ensues. It’s delightful at first, then kind of addicting.
My soup was the bowl that the raw egg was intended to be cracked into, as the steaming hot broth would’ve cooked it to add some flavour. Because we hadn’t learned this until watching another patron do this later, my mom had already used up the egg in her bibimbap.
Regardless, the soup was amazing. The broth tasted like the best chicken or beef soup I’d ever had, the bits of meat giving so much richness and body to the spiced hot water. It was also the first meal I’ve had to sell me on tofu, which I’d previously seen as the kind of boring, void nutrient-pack that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a Orwellian dystopia as a cheap foodstuff. Now, while it was still bland, the tofu absorbed some of the broth’s flavour, and brought me great comfort with its creaminess and the fact it stayed hot through the entire meal. As an ex-tofu hater, I’d say it really helped make the dish. Combine this with some juicy strips of beef, two Japanese bistro-quality dumplings and a surprisingly filling amount of weight, you’ll find yourself with something just like Korean style comfort food.
To wrap things up, I’d whole-heartedly recommend Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, it’s oddly tiny menu offers a variety of perfectly constructed bowls designed to bring flavours unlike anything from other East Asian cuisines. While it can be mildly confusing to figure out how the meal works (at least to newbies like me), that’s part of the charm and everything makes sense in the end, kind of like the ending to Lost does after reading 20 hours on fan theory sites. If you want a non-bbq Korean meal, give this place a try, you sure won’t regret it.