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Good Food, indeed

The Good Food Emporium's new Korean dinner menu provides the cure. Melissa Buote doesn't hesitate.



I was almost ready to believe The Cure's Robert Smith had somehow looked into a crystal ball and forecast this rainy week in 2009 when he wrote "Monday you can fall apart," because the events of Tuesday broke my heart. Tuesday was the sad day that two of my pals and I decided to head down to the Good Food Emporium to give its Asian-influenced dinner menu a try; Tuesday was the day I discovered that dinner at the Good Food is only served Wednesday through Friday.

Instead of cueing the muted trumpets, raising a white flag and heading to the nearest food court, we set our watches for a Jack Bauer-like rendezvous in exactly 24 hours. By 6:30 Wednesday, we were knee deep in kimchi.

The Good Food Emporium is by no means a velvet and gold orgy for the senses, but what it lacks in fancy it makes up for in feast. The space has a modest, arts-and-craftsy hash-house feel, with a worn and comfortable, cared-for appeal. Our server is gracious and informative in an honest and conversational way.

The new menu leans heavily toward Korean offerings. So we concentrate on these, starting with the pa jeon ($7) and the lao rice ball salad ($7). A scallion and kimchi pancake, the pa jeon has delectably crispy edges and a lush centre. The flavour focuses on creamy, mellow egg gently bumping heads with keen, bright scallions. It's served with a compellingly salty soya sauce that has been given a spicy little spanking by some garlic, chili and sesame oil.

The lao rice ball salad plays off the pancake very nicely. It's a balance of crispy lettuce, cucumber and bean sprouts, sweet carrots and lively sprigs of mint and cilantro topped with crunchy chopped peanuts, addictively crumbly fried rice balls and a tasty lemongrass and curry dressing that is perfectly sweet, salty, spicy and sour.

We order the kimchi jjigae ($12), daeji bulgogi ($12) and jajangmyun ($12) for our entrees. All of the dishes are served with a salad of lettuce, peppers, broccoli and cucumber touched with a subtle, nutty dressing. We are also given a side of kimchi.

A fragrant pile of fried pork and zucchini sprinkled with sesame seeds, the daeji bulgogi is marinaded in a lip-tingling red chili sauce that has an expressive murmur of sweetness and nuttiness that gives it a dynamic snap. The titillating prickle of spice and sourness is tartly refreshing against the spice of the bulgogi.

The pungent zing of the kimchi also works well with the thick, robust jajangmyun, which lacks some acidity. A dark, sultry bowl so full of carbs, the mere idea of jajangmyun would give Robert Atkins the vapours. Potatoes, zucchini, tofu and onions are heaped over broad wheat noodles, covered in a sea of gooey black bean paste. It's almost overbearingly hearty, but the salad and kimchi are nice pops of freshness.

The kimchi jjiage, a piping-hot stew of pork, tofu and kimchi, suffers from a bit of sameness, with not enough textural differences, but the broth is a revelation. Warm and zesty, it's at once razor-sharp and smoothly encouraging.

The stews are made in advance without the meat or tofu, which are cooked to order and added, leaving me to wonder how the flavour profiles might change if the meat was left to simmer. But the food is so good, and it's so nice to have a restaurant that can easily make vegan options, that I don't spend much time what-iffing. As it turns out, Robert Smith was partly right. It turns out that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I'm in love.

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