BONGA BULDAK (HOME OF HOT TASTE) (710 Yonge, at St. Mary, 416-975-0000) Complete meals for $25 per person, including all taxes, tip and a $3 domestic beer. Average main $15. Open Monday to Friday noon to 2 am, Sunday and holidays 5 pm to 2 am. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, booth seating, washrooms in basement. Rating: N
As NOW’s nabob of nosh, I’ve eaten my share of gruelling grub: curried brainof lamb, sizzling frog on plate, the all-you-can-eat buffet at Queen Friendly Thai. But until the other day when I checked out a new Korean canteen near U of T called Bonga Buldak, I’d never before encountered Tearful Blazing Chicken ($14.99).
“You don’t need to say a word about its burning sensation!” advises the flyer for the informal drinking den that’s also known as Home of Hot Taste.
Consider yourselves warned, then. Picture bite-sized nuggets of chicken that have been sautéed in fiery Korean chili pepper paste, then drenched in Tabasco. One taste starts a nuclear meltdown.
Sure, after several $3 domestic beers chased by as many shots of rot-gut soju and shared with a group, a small helping of Tearful Blazing Chicken could be mistaken for Korean tapas. But a plateful of this stuff could dissolve stomach linings.
Then there’s Blazing Fire Chicken with Cheese ($15.99), which adds melted mozzarella and canned pineapple to the culinary equation.
Or how about a Japanese-Style Pancake ($10.99), a Seoul-food take on okonomi layered with slivered cabbage, mushy broccoli and fishy bonito flakes?
With more than 200 outlets back home, Bonga also offers three types of overcooked KFC-style skin ’n’ bones deep-fried chicken à la Ajuker (796 Bloor West, at Crawford, 416-532-8292): plain, sweet and hot, and something labelled “teriyaki” that tastes more like cinnamon.
And one can only imagine the contents of what the Hot Taste card describes as the Well-Being Salad, since as the friendly chap behind the counter informs me, “We don’t do that,” but I’ll wager that pickled daikon and kimchee are involved. I will leave the likes of Sauna Squid ($14.99) – “A squid took a shower!” – to more adventurous appetites.