Everyone I know loves (or at least likes) Korean BBQ. Everyone I know does NOT love the effect the cuisine has on your person. When every table has its own table-top grill, it’s understandable that the resulting effect is a layer of smoke almost as dense as the one caused by an Indonesian forest fire and a smoky smell that will cling on to your hair and clothing more strongly than your college ex-girlfriend.
This is why when I heard about a modern and sleek Korean BBQ place downtown called Arisu that promises no smoke and no smell for my dining experience, I couldn’t believe it. Oh, and apparently PSY ate here too. I was there faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on speed, being careful not to forget to (gently) drag my wife along the way.
Upon entering, I gotta say, the place looked swankier from the outside. The inside looked a bit more modest, but that’s by no means a bad thing. It was pretty spacious, and interestingly, the whole space looked like a collection of three separate but slightly disjointed rooms.
We started with some appetizers. The most notable was the ssam bap, an interesting dish that can be best described as small ball-shaped purple multigrain rice, which you mix with tender grilled pork, and wrap inside lettuce leaves. With a dab of soybean paste on the side, it was extremely good and something that we’ve never tried before.
We then (obviously) ordered a whole bunch of meats to try out. The unexpected star of the show was the unseasoned beef. Yep, you read that right. UNseasoned beef. See, most people (myself included) assume that Korean BBQ is always sweet. This isn’t always the case and is actually only a small subsection of the overall Korean BBQ dining experience. Dipped into some sesame oil mixed with salt and pepper (provided by the restaurant), the beef was tender and delicious, unsullied by additional seasonings and sauces. I actually said “Oh my God, that was excellent” OUT LOUD, it was that good. We also sampled the pork and ribs, both delicious without being too fatty. And of course, the classic LA ribs, which in this case WAS marinated to perfection. The food was all delicious, without being overwhelming.
We later found out that this restaurant was the only one that participated in the Summerlicious and Winterlicious events, a pretty good testament to the quality of their food since as you know they don’t just let ANYone in for these dining events (lest a Taco Bell show up on the list). And guess what? Everything they told you about being smokeless is pretty much true! While we can still smell the deliciousness of the meat sizzling in front of us as it was being cooked, virtually none stuck to our clothes. You can ostensibly walk right from a dinner here and go to the opera, and be perfectly OK.
Arisu apparently was another restaurant in the past with the same name which didn’t do too well. As a result, many people who pass by it may not even want to venture in because they don’t know that the whole restaurant has changed hands. And it’d be a shame, because this was one of the better Korean BBQs I’ve had the pleasure to try. I’d wholeheartedly recommend people to give this place a shot. It’s also one of the more underrated places I’ve been, and a bit of a hidden gem (if you can call being on freakin’ BLOOR STREET hidden).
Oh, and that bit about Psy? It’s true. He did eat here with his entourage during his stop in Toronto.
–Final verdict: Mari Makan!
584 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M6G 1K4