Coordinating a dinner with 17 people at a restaurant is no easy task. To accomplish such a feat you will need:
1 part organization skills
1 part people skills
1 part on-the-fly problem solving skills
1 generous helping of small talk capabilities to spice things up a bit
3 parts patience (more never hurts)
A pinch of food knowledge
A cell phone with a fully powered battery
With all of these things to juggle, a host or hostess must still operate with grace and poise. Or at least that’s the plan, execution is another issue.
Recently I decided that I wanted to go to Han Ba Tang to try some of their buzzed-about Korean fusion food and I thought it would be interesting to throw out the invite to other people who wanted to come along.
Now what I thought was going to be a 6-person dinner turned out to be 17 and I was never the one who liked saying “sorry, you can’t come”. If a dinner for 17 is what they want, then a dinner for 17 they shall get. Luckily, I plan well in advance and we were able to get a table in this small restaurant without a problem. Props to the peeps at Han Ba Tang for taking my numerous calls to expand the party.
Han Ba Tang is a relatively recent open in the Yonge and Sheppard area without a big storefront logo for you to see. If you know where Nomé Izakaya is, it is just a couple of shops north of that. If you look through their front window, you’ll see their logo inside.
Walking into this restaurant definitely didn’t feel like most Korean restaurants. One of the biggest differences is that they have a very active bar churning out some of their also famous cocktails. I think I’ve read in another blog that they did selective renovations to the place which would explain the eclectic feel of the interior design.
So another responsibility I take on when I organize these dinners is that I choose the menu items that the table eats. Dictatorship much? Probably. But, logistically it’s much more efficient and people know what they are getting into when dining with me – or at least I hope.
So the items that I came up with are:
Spicy Pork Tacos, $12 for 3
Lobster Tacos, $15 for 3
Kalbi Tacos, $12 for 3
Cutlet Combo, $22
Crispy King Prawn, $11
Kimchi Spoon Pizza, $10
Creamy Ddeokbokki (Rice Cake), $10
Calamari with black seaweed sauce, $11
I’ve always been a bit hesitant about trying Asian fusion food as many combinations seem forced and they don’t end up doing either culture any justice. There were definitely some hits and a few misses at Han Ba Tang but the TL:DR version, t’was good.
As far as the tacos go, the spicy pork wins by a long shot. The flavour and the right amount of heat was perfect for this Korean-fusion taco. If your taco knowledge doesn’t spread far from the infamous Taco Bell, let me quickly break down what I look for in a good taco.
The stuffing of any taco cannot be monotonous in flavour and should have a contrast in texture and must have contrast in flavour. Now in the case of the spicy pork taco, we have a bit of red onion happening here which is perfect to give the taco some sharpness but also a crunch which is needed with the softer pork inside. Again, this is my opinion. Take it or leave it.
The kimchi spoon pizza was surprisingly good. Considering it is just a sinful proportion of cheese with some kimchi and tomato sauce baked into a small dish, I quite liked it. Best part? No crust and no carbs. (Note: the lack of carbs in this dish was made up for in the next)
I also really liked their creamy ddeokbokki – hello carbs!. The table on the other hand, had some defectors of this dish. They claimed that they don’t like Alfredo anything so this wasn’t great for them. (I call BS). Anyway, yes, just imagine rice cakes thrown into a creamy bacon Alfredo sauce and you’ve basically got it.
I think my favourite next to the spicy pork tacos would be the hickory smoked kalbijjim. They actually serve the dish with a smidgen of mustard to mix into the sauce then dip the meat into. And wow, the flavour definitely hit the spot. **Warning: If you don’t like strong mustard, don’t add it**
Now the one thing I was a bit disappointed in was the Crispy King Prawn – sounded a lot more amazing than it really was. I was expecting a prawn with its head on, deep fried with some seasoning. Instead, it came a bit heavily battered for my liking and it lacked the wow factor both in looks and in taste. I would save the $13 on this dish and go for something else on their menu.
A rarity among my reviews, I tried something off of the cocktail menu! The drink is called a Soña Colada – a fruity pineapple cocktail that’s quite refreshing. I can see why it’s one of their popular drinks (especially among women the staff have told me) – quite sweet and the alcohol flavour isn’t strong.
Even with the misses here and there, the crowd was happy with their bellies full and new friendships were made. This is, after all, is what good food does, bring people together.
As a side note, we followed up the dinner with a Backstreet Boys and rap-filled karaoke session that lasted until 3am. So I would say that the food definitely helped break the ice here.
Until we dine again,
-The Piquey Eater