Restaurant: Barrio Coreano
Location: 642 Bloor Street W, Toronto, ON M6G 1K9
Price Range: $$
Barrio Coreano is one of those restaurants that I have passed by a lot while strolling on Bloor Street West, and I was always curious of what was in there with the flashy lights and loud music. Because of this, although the sign to this place is essentially non-existent, the restaurant itself quite stand out from the surrounding old-looking family Korean restaurants.
Upon further researching, I found out Barrio Coreano is part of the Playa Cabana’s chain of restaurants. While Playa Cabana’s focus is on Mexican cuisine, Barrio Coreano’s menu has been tweaked with Korean flavors/ingredients as the restaurant is located in Korean Town.
I have been to Barrio Coreano twice for the past 2 weeks, so those visits will be complied into this one post.
They had an extensive drink menu and I heard they serve a lot of Mexican drinks/beers. Which makes me wonder if they serve Mexican hot chocolate? I know it isn’t an alcohol drink but hey…. I never tried it ;(.
It seems the owner was aiming for a rustic, old Mexican restaurant with a hip and quirky vibe, and he or she definitely accomplished that! The atmosphere can get quite loud and busy at night, hence I strongly recommend you to make a reservation beforehand.
My friend and I each ordered tacos and a Torta Coreana to share. For $10, the Torta Coreana sandwiches were huge and it will definitely filled you up! The sandwiches were a bit messy to eat with the meat juices dripping, but really, most of our dishes required us to use hands anyways, and I didn’t mind as long as the food is good ;).
Although the braised beef was tender and melted in your mouth, I found it to be lacking in salt and it was very rich due to the avocado. Since I couldn’t find any pickled pear, I wish there was more kimchi to cut down the heaviness of the sandwiches :(. However, my friend loved this dish though!
Quick fun fact: I don’t like crispy taco because it’s so hard to fold LOL. The shells can break and it will create a big mess on your table/lap, that’s not fun at all!!
Anyways, the braised meat was flavorful and juicy, topped with fresh onions and cabbage. The marinate was sweet and there was a subtle hint of spiciness. To be honest I think there was too much cabbage, and is it just me or I think adding fresh cabbage as topping to any dish is unnecessary? Sure, it provide some crunchy texture, but it add nothing to the dish in terms of flavor, unless you cook it down or toss it in some sauce.
This was by far my favorite dish of the 2 visits, albeit it is pricier compared to other taco dishes on the menu, but it was worth it. The taco shell was a bit oily and messy to eat, but the shrimp was amazing!! Cooked perfectly, mixed in this an amazing red sesame spicy sauce and I believe there was some guacamole! Super delicious and I’m drooling all over my keyboard just thinking about it…
Kampungki is a popular Korean chicken dish that is battered with a sweet & spicy sauce then deep fried. The crispy chicken pieces were not as spicy as I expected, and while the aoili added a lovely creamy texture, it didn’t have that “spicy” wasabi taste to it. Overall, I didn’t think there was anything special with this dish, it was just like any regular chicken kampungki for me.
Love the name of this dessert! The churros were “fries”, the melted marshmallow resembled cheese curds and the caramel sauce was “gravy”! I can definitely tell the churros were made fresh as these came out piping hot, however I was disappointed as these churros were a bit hard. Anyhow, while the poutine concept was fun and quirky, this dessert was expensive and it didn’t worth the $9 price tag for me.
Below is my review for the second visit during lunch, hence better lightning and pictures :p
It was kinda strange how I didn’t have any condiments when I dined in for the first visit. It’s not a big deal though since I was able to try on the second visit. I can’t recall the name of these condiments… I do remember liking all of them, except for the chilli oil as there was no taste to it.
Ok $14 was a bit expensive when you can just go down the street for a cheaper and bigger portion of Kalbi ribs. The ribs were cooked through with the marinade caramelized, deliciously tender and had that traditional Kalbi marinade – sweet and salty. Surprisingly the kimchi wasn’t spicy, and it added a fresh and cool touch that helped ease the heat from the salsa for every bite.
Who doesn’t love octopus and chipotle!? This was another favorite dish of mine and I was surprised to see a huge piece of octopus, so for $6 it was worth it! The octopus was grilled lightly, not rubbery nor tough, instead it was tender and citrusy. The chipotle added creaminess and worked perfectly with the octopus, just pure deliciousness.
My other friend decided to get the Braised Short-Rib taco and he loved it as well! 🙂
In general the service was friendly and attentive, and most of the tacos were really good with a few favourites. If you want to avoid the crowd and noises, I advise you to visit the restaurant during lunch as the restaurant is usually packed at night. I’m still not sure whether I would be coming back to Barrio Coreano since I have been here several time. If I end up coming back here though, I would definitely get the smoked items as I heard these were to die for! Moreover, I do want to visit other locations of Playa Cabana (check on their site here for address!) as each restaurant have some different offerings on the menu.