Either you’re wondering what’s the deal with the big yellow sign on King & Victoria or you got giddy with excitement the second you laid eyes on it. Of course I fall in the latter category. When Marc, my editor at Hamilton Magazine told me about this cute little owl restaurant with a big yellow sign – my eyes lit up – could it be? Has Hamilton finally been graced with their very own Owl of Minerva?! Yes Hamiltonians – we have!
For those new to the Korean food scene, check out some of my reviews here, here, here and here. Owl of Minerva is well known for their pork bone soup and for being open 24 hours. Who hasn’t spent a night out-and-about frolicking through downtown Toronto only to end the night standing in line in a dress too tight and heals too high waiting to squeeze yourself in a table for a hot bowl of pork bone soup? Not me of course, I go during the day like a good girl.
The Hamilton location is currently not open 24 hours – but they have plans to eventually do so. Right now they’re open 11am -11pm. The Sok Sisters and I headed out a few weekends ago to scope out the place. The first thing I noticed, was other Koreans there – this is always a good sign when you walk into an ethnic restaurant. We were all jonesing for Korean food so we didn’t hesitate to start ordering right away. As usual, we all picked a dish and ate family style.
Of course we ordered a bowl of pork bone soup with potato ($7.99) – what we got was a sizzling pot overflowing with pork bones in a rich red broth. For those new to pork bone soup – here’s the 411. Despite the mountain of peppercorns you see there in the picture – the broth is not overly spicy at all. Yes, it does pack a bit of a punch if you’re a mild eater. The meat on the bone is very tender and is probably one of my favourite cuts of pork. It does get really messy to eat and you have to be a bit of a ninja with the chopsticks to pick and pry off the meat but please trust me when I say – it is oh so worth it. At home I would usually attack it with my hands and teeth like a complete cave man, but to spare my friends the embarrassment – I just stick to the chopsticks when we’re in public.
This is the first pork bone soup I’ve found in the city that is full bodied and balanced with a pork flavour and not just a powdered soup base or seasoning. It really does taste like they’ve simmered pork bones for hours to create the broth for this bowl. For $8 you can’t really go wrong because on top of the soup, you get a bowl of white rice and banchan.
My friend Chan really wanted an order of the Kalbi ribs ($14.99) – they were brought out on a sizzling plate and came with scissors and tongs. I quite liked this because cooking the meat whole and in strips helps the meat not overcook and the scissors is just apart of the do-it-yourself korean attitude. I don’t mind because we were able to cut off the fatty bits nobody wanted. Kalbi ribs are pretty pricey anywhere you go and these weren’t an exception – $15 for a few strips was definitely a little on the pricey side, but I love them so much I order them anyways. In most places, the Kalbi ribs are usually the most expensive dish you’ll encounter on a menu. In most cases, Korean food is pretty affordable.
Chan was also dead set on ordering the Jap Chae ($9.99) and thanks to a reader who left a comment on my Alirang post, I knew how to order this sans “bap”, aka rice, which we highly preferred. The dish was made with sweet potato noodles so they’ve got a different texture than the rice or glass noodles you may be use to. I usually enjoy this dish smothered in hot sauce because I always find it a little bland but the girls loved it. Chan took it to work the next day.
I can never turn down a savoury pancake ($10.99) so we had to have one of those. I usually prefer the seafood pancake but this one was just Kimchi I believe. Although it packed a lot of flavour and all the toppings stayed together, I wish it was more crispier on the outside and a little more dense on the inside. How do I describe it… hmmm it was a little too ‘wet’ for me on the inside and the outside, although had great colour just need to be more crisp. Does that make sense?
We also ordered the Dolsot BiBimBap ($9.99) to share. This was exactly the BiBimBap I was craving. Unlike the one at Maru, this one came piping hot and sizzling, in fact even before I could flavour it with the ‘hot sauce’ the outside layer was already starting to form a crust.
That layer of toasted rice pictured above is what gets me giddy about ordering BiBimBap. I just love the texture and flavours of everything mixed together. Each spoonful is smooth and creamy from the raw egg yolk but crispy and crunchy from the toasted rice. For $10 I could eat this all day.
To fully enjoy your meal, I suggest picking a few dishes and eating everything family style. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, the hospitality at Korean restaurants is although, quick and efficient, very friendly and kind. I always find the servers love to talk about the food and are always willing to answer any questions you may have.
For my frequent readers, ya’ll know I have a huge love for banchan. So, lets talk about the banchan at Owl of Minerva. I loved it – Duh, I usually do. The kimchi is a family recipe and is made fresh every morning in house by the chef. You can definitely taste the difference, the raw cabbage really stands out and its got a good amount of spice. All the banchan were incredibly flavourful – and spicy, so be warmed. There was only three varieties but I found the quality to be slightly better than the others I’ve had. I really enjoyed my meal, and I’ll definitely be back. Make sure you head over, and show them Hamilton is ready for a 24 hour Korean eatery!
The Famous Owl of Minerva
309 Main Street East