SOBAN (591 Yonge, at Dundonald, 416-?925-?3560) Complete dinners for $25 per person (lunches $15), including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Average main $9/$6. Open daily noon to midnight. Licensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NN
Finding an inexpensive restaurant along the Pride parade route won’t be a problem Sunday, since Toronto’s main drag is home to countless cheap noodle houses and pseudo-sushi joints. Finding one that won’t leave you disappointed (for the best on the strip, see page 57) will be a lot harder.
From the sidewalk, Soban looks a significant notch above the competition. A wall of glass flanked by topiary gives way to a sleek and sophisticated space, all low-slung ultrasuede banquettes and dark mahogany tables. The predominantly Korean card also crosses over into bubble tea and teriyaki territory.
I consider myself an adventurous eater. I’ve put things in my mouth that would scare most people off (Tearful Blazing Chicken at House of Hot Taste just up the street, my mother’s interpretation of chop suey), so there’s no way an appetizer called Corn Cheese ($2.95) can faze me. It should. Imagine canned corn kernels topped with molten processed cheese-food and watered-down Miracle Whip.
Avocado salad ($4.95) sounds harmless enough but proves to be thick slices of ripe, buttery fruit on a bed of iceberg ’n’ purple cabbage dressed with more watery Miracle Whip as well as tinned tuna. Tuna also shows up in something called Omerice ($7.95). Topped with a fried egg and wrapped in a thin omelette, this mushy kimchee fried rice hybrid comes littered with more Chicken of the Sea, canned corn and processed cheese.
Apart from pickles, Korean cuisine isn’t particularly veggie-friendly, so I should know that Tofu Steak ($8.95) isn’t likely to be meat-free. Instead, it literally translates as cubes of tempura-battered bean curd plated over a pile of stringy beef bulgogi.
Luckily, the Taiwanese dessert known as Brick Toast ($3.95) contains no Lego, although it does come spread with peanut butter, chocolate syrup and garlic.