Kalbi beef tacos. Chipotle kampungi chicken. Grilled octopus with wasabi salsa. These are some of the dishes you can expect to see on Barrio Coreano’s menu, the latest by Dave Sidhu, mastermind behind the ever-expanding Playa Cabana empire. The inspiration for his Mexican and Korean incarnation comes from a kalbi taco that Dave had one day from a LA food truck and are we ever happy that he’s made his dream a reality. Officially opening its doors at 642 Bloor Street West today onThursday, November 28th, I had the fortunate opportunity to try out a few of the tasty dishes and the delicious, Korean-inspired cocktail menu at a private tasting earlier last week.
Nestled in the streets of Koreatown, the prices have been adjusted to match the needs of the bustling student community where drinks are priced starting at $8, which is good news for all of us. Their cocktail list is unreal, with drinks like the Cho-jito, Soju Sangria, Kequila Marma, Kimchi Sour and Dave’s Margarita. Kequila Marma would have to be my favourite of all featuring El Jimador tequila, Yujacha (traditional Korean tea made from citron), fresh orange juice and lime.
Then came the food. We started our tasting with their delicious take on guacamole and chips which has been perfected to a tee. The fresh-fried tortilla chips were served warm and the saltiness is a nice balance from the guacamole that has a certain spicy kick to it.
We also got a chance to try a number of their tacos ranging from the Korean beef, grilled octopus with wasabi salsa, yuzu tuna and chipotle kampungi chicken. I was most excited for the chipotle kampungi chicken but was sadly disappointed with the soggy texture of the chicken that felt undercooked with almost no chipotle or sweet and sour sauce. I gave it again another try near the end of the night and could tell that they were still working on perfecting the dish. It definitely tasted a lot better with more flavour but still had a far way to go to achieve the crunchy texture of the traditional kampungi dish. The korean beef taco was ultimately my favourite with layers of kalbi beef that were both juicy and flavourful.
Finally, the overall decor and ambiance transported us to a dark alleyway that made you feel you were dining in a different city altogether with its exposed brick walls, iron gates and an open-concept kitchen. Neon lights and a mixture of kpop and salsa music drew us into the space making for a fun and lively ambiance that’d be appropriate for a date or a night out with a group of friends.
Overall, I had a fabulous time and am definitely planning on going back! While the final menu is still being tweaked and has yet to be released, rumour has it that they will have Mexican corn on the cob with a Korean twist. Need I say more? Let us know what you think once you’ve had a chance to give it a try!