Kayagum, 24 Hour restaurant.
5460 Yonge St.
I don’t know about you, but I get cravings for cold food when the temperature climbs, and the warm sunny weather of late has been making me hungry again. Most people grab an ice cream cone or a cool drink, but for me, it’s naengmyeon – a Korean noodle dish with long, thin noodles, served in a cold broth or with a spicy sauce.
I visit Kayagum, a Korean food restaurant that’s open 24 hours (and serves naengmyeon year-round to my memory). My friend and I visit early on a weeknight before the crowds start rolling in, so it’s still pretty quiet.
The first thing I notice even before walking in are the neat photos and the cool cross-hatch wooden work designs.
The decorations inside combine bits of both Korean and Japanese cultures. I can tell they’ve actually put some thought into the interior design with little fountains, hanging lights and branches hung from walls. The seats, with their plush backs, are very comfy and the booths are great for privacy.
The menu adheres to the same theme.
I decide to order the naengmyeon and kalbi combo, since naengmyeon alone usually doesn’t fill me up. My tablemate orders the naengmyeon and bossam combo.
After we place our orders with the prompt and friendly server, the table is set with a trio of side dishes, free of charge, as is usual for Korean restaurants. We’re on a tight schedule so we don’t touch these much, but they are usually refill-able if you finish them. They’re to be eaten with the main meal, but we usually pick at these to tame our hungry stomachs before the food arrives.
It’s a potato salad, a type of pickled cucumber, and kimchi – the Korean traditional dish made of fermented spicy cabbages.
This is my Naengmyeon and Kalbi combo. Kalbi is a marinated beef rib dish that’s salty and sweet. In Korean restaurants, naengmyeon can be eaten alone or after eating heavier meat dishes.
Naengmeyon can be served in various ways. The two most common ways are in broth, as both my friend and I ordered, or in a spicy sauce without broth. Both are tasty but I’d recommend the broth if you can’t handle spicy food.
When served, the naengmeyeon comes like this, with a bottle of vinegar and mustard. You can season it to your liking. The broth has pieces of cooked and chilled beef and is garnished with half a boiled egg and Korean sweet pears. Yum!
They also give you a pair of scissors. You may not be sure what to do with this if you’re not familiar with the dish, but they’re fore cutting up the noodles so they’re easier to eat. The noodles aren’t tough by any means, but due to the extremely thin diameter, they can bunch and be difficult to separate if they’re too long — I believe this is just the nature of the dish itself and not a particular downside for this particular restaurant.
The noodles are perfectly cooked and chewy, and since they’re so thin, you can taste the broth between bites. I like to use my spoon to get some of the broth with each chopstick-ful.
Let’s talk about the kalbi. I really love this marinated beef rib dish. The sauce is salty, sweet — I’m guessing soy sauce and sugar among other things. It’s served on a stone (?) plate to keep warm. The sauce is sweeter than I’m used to, but still soft and so good!
Minor downside here — the portions are pretty small. For $16.95 before tax, it’s not a very filling combo.
But! I do realize that beef rib is an expensive dish that usually has a higher price, and the food does taste great. Plus, I’m by no means hungry after eating, so all in all, a satisfying meal.
My friend’s combo came with bossam, or steamed, sliced pork. If you’re more health conscious I believe this would be the comparably better choice. Plus, the portions are quite large! It comes with about 10 pieces of pork, cabbage leaves and a spicy radish side. You’re supposed to make a ‘ssam’ by putting the pork and radishes in the cabbage and rolling it into a dumpling-like shape before eating.
You can also add ssam-jang (a spicy and salty fermented sauce made from soy beans, chili, etc), or salted mini shrimps that you see on the right.
As I said, the portion was quite large, and my table-mate actually couldn’t quite finish her meats or noodles — so if you’re portion-conscious, I would suggest this one over the kalbi combo. If you have a bit of a sweetooth with your main meals, definitely give the kalbi combo a go.
*Traveler’s Tip: Get off at the Finch TTC station and it’s about a 5 minute walk down Yonge st. to get to this place! Parking at the TTC parking lot is about $2 in the evening on weekdays, so it’s the perfect opportunity to grab dinner here!