Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Swish by Han - OUT OF BUSINESS

Looking for somewhere to dine in between seeing Private Lives at the Royal Alex, and attending Nuit Blanche later that night (both to be written about in my Toronto events blog), we picked the modern Korean fusion restaurant "Swish" by Han, which we learned about in the free weekly "Grid" newspaper.   The Grid has been a great source of information for restaurants and interesting events in Toronto.

Swish offers dinner sized "set" meals of hotpot where you cook ingredients in steaming broth, table top barbeque where you grill your own food, and Ssam set which was described to us pre-cooked meats wrapped in lettuce leaf.  However what interested us more were their wide variety of innovative "dishes" which you order like Spanish tapas.  There were so many great sounding choices that we were glad there were four of us so we could try a large assortment.

We started off with the Silken Tofu which was the featured dish recommended by The Grid.  It consisted of a large piece of tofu covered and deep fried in tempura batter, sliced and topped with homemade spicy sauteed kimchi (fermented cabbage), nori, green onions, red chili flakes and drizzled with a sauce containing ginger, sugar, lemon rinds, chili flakes, sesame oil cooking wine and soy sauce.  The combination of sweet, spicy, salty tastes and both crunchy and soft textures of the tempura and tofu was a delight to savour.  It was so good we were tempted to order another dish, but there were so many other options to try that we held off until next time.

We ordered the sweet chili and garlic prawns but what I think we got instead were the tempura prawns with tobiko, chive and kelp salad.  Regardless of which one we ended up with, what we got was delicious.  The large shrimp were again coated with a crunchy  batter and covered with a chipotle mayo-like sauce and the kelp salad provided just the right mix of healthy vegetables to make us feel less guilty about all the fried food so far.

We continued on the salad trend by having the wild mushroom salad that included shitake, enoki, oyster and cremini mushrooms mixed in a bed of greens and served a beautiful wooden tray that I admired immensely as I fought for my share of mushrooms.

The fried capelin (little smelt-like fishes) with a ponzo sauce (citrus based vinegar and soy mixture) was a special of the day and was a bit bland after the explosions of tastes we had encountered so far.

Our final two choices were two different types of pork buns - the spicy pork belly on a grilled onion bun, which was part of the regular menu, and a steamed pork bun that was a special of the day.  Both contained tender pieces of pork in a flavourful sauce mixed with celery, carrrots, etc.  While both pork fillings were good, we liked the grilled bun much more than the steamed bun.

When it came to dessert, Swish made the mistake of trying to be too true to the Asian culture and offered "Korean hand-shaven ice topped with sweet red beans and ice cream".  They lost me at red bean which is not my idea of a dessert.  So instead, we picked a dessert-like dish off the appetizer menu - "Kimchi-eed asian pears with stilton cheese".  This seemed like the epitome of fusion and the one of the most interesting dishes on the menu.  Still not my idea of "dessert" but it was an adventure to try.

There were many other choices that we didn't get to so I'm looking forward to returning to try those, and get another dose of the silken tofu.  By the way, make reservations - maybe it was due to it being Nuit Blanche night but we showed up at 5:30pm and every table was already reserved and they kept turning people away.

Swish by Han
38 Wellington St

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