Carnitas de Maciza with pork shoulder confit, tomatillo salsa, pickled onion, charred habanero | Photo: Nick Lee

Celebrating their first year anniversary at Bloor Street’s Koreatown, John and I were invited to sample the latest menu items and cocktails at Barrio Coreano, a casual yet lively Korean-Mexican eatery. Featuring a menu of shareable plates, soft and crispy tacos and cocktails, Barrio Coreano is part of the Playa Cabana empire headed by Dave Sidhu.

I had the opportunity to join in on the opening festivities last year so the first change I noticed when walking in is that the bar has been moved from the middle of the venue to the front and it looks much more spacious.

Front section of Barrio Coreano | Photo: John Tan

Front section of Barrio Coreano | Photo: John Tan

Of course they still have delicious intensely flavourful tacos such as Baja Fish, which is still a classic that remains on the menu.

Baja Fish Taco with a choice of fried or grilled baja fish topped with guajillo-ponzu tartar sauce and napa cabbage slaw in a soft shell | Photo: Nick Lee

Baja Fish Taco with a choice of fried or grilled baja fish topped with guajillo-ponzu tartar sauce and napa cabbage slaw in a soft shell | Photo: Nick Lee

We were told that the soft shells are now flown in (yes, flown in) from Chicago because their quality is just better. They definitely hold their contents well, although of course they’re not waterproof so you still need to eat it up soon after you squeeze the fresh lime wedge over it.

A new addition to Barrio Coreano is the new smoker, allowing them to smoke their own meats in house. While we didn’t get a chance to try it at this location, they will regularly smoke their own chicken wings as well as whole suckling pig (we tried suckling pig tacos from the smoker at Playa Hacienda’s patio, La Libre)

I like sandwiches but I don’t love sandwiches. Yet I absolutely loved the Torta Coreana with grilled kalbi beef and braised short rib, avocado, house kimchi, pickled pear and escabeche. It packs an explosion of juicy flavours and an array of textures. This is a great example of the Korean-Mexican fusion that you must try.

Torta Coreana with grilled kalbi beef and braised short rib, avocado, house kimchi, pickled pear and escabeche | Photo: Nick Lee

Torta Coreana with grilled kalbi beef and braised short rib, avocado, house kimchi, pickled pear and escabeche | Photo: Nick Lee

We also tried the new “Langosta” with a crispy taco shell and large chunks of lobster sauteed in an arbol mantequilla. Just absolutely delicious.

Langosta crispy taco: lobster sautéed in an arbol mantequilla | Photo: Nick Lee

Langosta crispy taco: lobster sautéed in an arbol mantequilla | Photo: Nick Lee

It’s tempting to add some additional punch with the table-side hot sauce options. but the green and red hot sauces are both extremely spicy so you may not want to go overboard as the heat creeps up on you. This is a Mexican joint, after all.

Also on the menu are Dulces (desserts) including “Churros Poutine” ($9), Sweet Milk Ice Cream ($8) and Tres Luches ($8). We tried their play on poutine for dessert: Churros Poutine with the dough for churros made in-house, drizzled with caramel, a topping of peanuts, marshmallows with a dash of whipped cream and cinnamon. It paired very well with the sweet milk ice cream.

Churros Poutine and Sweet Milk Ice Cream | Photo: John Tan

Churros Poutine and Sweet Milk Ice Cream | Photo: John Tan

With the kitchen being open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, Barrio Coreano is a nice gem of an eatery, perfect for late night eats with good friends or even as a date. Open until 11pm otherwise.

Barrio Coreano is located at 642 Bloor Street West. For more info visit www.playacabana.ca/locations/5/barrio-coreano

Stay tuned for more news about Playa Cabana!

Photos by John Tan and Nick Lee

Also check out our photos from the Barrio Coreano opening party.

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