YUMMY BAR-B-Q (597 Yonge, at Gloucester, 416-920-1874) Small, food-court-style alterna noodle noshery specializing in inexpensive chili-tastic Korean combos. Bonus: lots of traditional sides, but skip the macaroni salad. Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and tea. Open daily 11 am to 9 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Let's talk ttok, the doughy Korean rice-flour noodle that's the diameter of a dime and the length of a caterpillar. Spicy Rice Cake ($5.50 with chicken, beef or pork), aka ttok, not to be confused with the Japanese puffed-rice diet cracker, rarely appears on the Seoul food menus along Bloor. But here it is on the lineup at Yummy Bar B-Q, a terrific take-away on Yonge's discount drag. A large plastic takeout container arrives loaded with slippery ttok, its innate blandness erased by nuclear blasts of sweet 'n' spicy kochujang red pepper paste, and a mess of crisply stir-fried zucchini, green pepper, broccoli florets, napa cabbage, carrot threads and a big whack of onion. Listed as a side order, this sizable dish could easily sate a pair of heat fiends; cooling comfort comes from pepper-dusted daikon pickle and meek kimchee.
The same banchan and namul sides show up with Bar B-Q Spicy Chicken ($5.65), tasty, tender chili-marinated, then grilled chicken strips that are quite possibly the Yummiest thing on offer. Bar-B-Q Spicy Beef Short Ribs ($7.50) are very short indeed, thinly cut Korean-style a quarter-inch thick - across the bone for minimal gristle and against the grain for maximum meat.
Unlike most other Korean carnivore joints, Yummy hasn't forgotten vegetarians. Egg-battered zucchini ($3.73) finds a dozen slices of toothsome zuke seared in a frothy omelette-like coating, while dense slabs of fried tofu ($3.27) swim in a briny broth with slivered scallion. Fish eaters should check out Charcoaled Mackerel Pike ($4.35), another so-called side that turns out to be two delicious 8-inch barbecued pseudo-sardines dressed with sweet soy and chopped chive garnish.
Most anywhere else, kimchee fried rice ($5.65) would blow the top of your mouth off. But because Yummy's house-made cabbage pickle has so little firepower, this dish comes across as sodden Kimchee Cacciatore despite its Bi Bim Bap-style runny fried egg topping.
The garishly lit food-court resto's strengths and weaknesses combine in the eponymously dubbed Yummy Special ($9.99). Here are more of those first-rate spicy ribs and barbecued chicken strips, joined with nippy shaved beef and lovely egg-battered zucchini. But two minced pork gyoza-style pot-stickers taste like they came straight from a supermarket freezer case, napa coleslaw has an odd sesame oil dressing, and bland 1950s macaroni salad continues Korea's baffling culinary fascination with all things KFC.
Bonus: instead of providing a view of dump trucks loudly lumbering past on their way to condo construction sites, the uncomfortable café chairs on Yummy's tiny curbside patio will be front-row seats for this weekend's Pride parade.