When I hear about a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations and always has a lineup, my curiosity gets piqued. I will go pretty far for good food, but I don’t like waiting, especially not in the winter. Kookminhakgyo is a somewhat new Korean BBQ spot in North York that’s quickly gained popularity and with it, long wait times for a table. The restaurant is also small and only holds 15-20 people at a time. Friends have told me stories about waiting on Friday nights and giving up from hunger. To maximize our chance of being seated quickly, The Hubby and I stopped by with a friend on a Thursday at 6pm (90 minutes after their doors opened). We still ended up waiting about 30 minutes, but the pork belly was worth it.

Atmosphere: Dining at Kookminhakgyo was unique. Tables were round and steel with a grill built in the centre. Barrel like stools surrounded each table, which were hollow with a removable cushion top, providing guests with a place to store their belongings. The space was tight with guests close to each other and servers weaving in between tables. Guests ranged from middle-aged office workers to girlfriends Instagramming their meal. The air was filled with BBQ, smoke, music and chatter, making me feel like I was at a busy Asian night market

Service: Stopping by at 6pm, Kookminhakgyo was already full. Near the entrance, a piece of paper was hung on the wall. This was the waitlist where guests wrote down their name and number to queue for a table. We added our name to the list and went back to the warmth of the car to wait for our call back. Only a few parking spots were available in front of the restaurant and they filled quickly. With the limited number of tables, and each party being sat at a grill regardless of their party size (2 or 6 people), the list moved slowly. Once we were called back and seated, service was actually great. It was a bit hard to communicate with our server over the music (a great 90’s playlist). Service was efficient and thoughtful. Our server asked about refilling side-dishes and changing grills without us doing any prompting.

Food: While fun decor and great service were a plus, the most important part of dinner was still the BBQ and Kookminhakgyo delivered. For the three of us, we ordered Pork Belly, Pork Belly with Skin and Pork Jowl. The beautiful, fatty meat arrived on two metal platters along with a host of side dishes. The side dishes were strong and spicy. I loved the pickled jalapeno slices. In addition to various kimchis, we were also served a bowl of spicy soy bean soup and a bowl of fluffy, steamed egg. The egg was seasoned, airy and so good. Being served in a stone pot, the bottom of the egg fried up and was delicious.

The fatty pork jowl was cut in thin strips, but thick enough to maintain a great chewiness when cooked. Dipped in the salt and oil with a few sprigs of green onion made the perfect bite. Of course, my favourite meat was the pork belly. We tried both the cut with and without skin. With skin meant more layers of fatty goodness and some added texture, which I really enjoyed. Wrapping up each chunk of pork belly in lettuce with a bit of red sauce and grilled garlic was heaven. I liked how the pork belly was cross hatched meaning they cooked flat and even on the grill. The quality and thickness of the pork belly was excellent. For both cuts, the flavour was fresh, meaty, and the fat rendered wonderfully on the grill.

Overall dinner was really good. I may have found a new favourite Korean BBQ spot, along with plenty of others.

Kookminhakgyo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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