Friday, January 18, 2013

Korea Next Door? Atti Restaurant

There's something to be said for being very close to a restaurant, no matter what it is. You just have to try it. When I was a kid, we lived in New York, on the outskirts of NYC, and we'd never even set foot on Long Island. That's kind of a tragedy, and you really can't take such risks with food.

Atti is a Korean place pretty much right next to Mcgill University. It's about 30 seconds from the Mcgill metro station (University exit, go figure). In the same corner as Broadway Cheesecake and my most frequented Tim Hortons, this restaurant has got some serious expectations to live up to! After a year and a half of procrastinating, I finally gave the place a try.

It's really really pretty inside. The picture doesn't do it justice at all. Every single aspect of the d├ęcor blew me away. Scrolls and art pieces adorned the wooden walls, and the ceiling had a modern design with wide arcs and curves that gave off a grandiose feel. The tables were tastefully decorated, and there were even colourful cushions on the polished wooden benches. Niiice.

The menu was also sweet. There were tidbits of trivia about general aspects of Korean food and culture, and each menu item was explained adequately. Western-friendly to the max.

Banchan are side dishes to a Korean meal, and usually come for free. On the left, there is lightly battered and fried zucchini in sweet sauce. I've never seen such a thing at an Asian place before. It was actually tasty and appetizing. This is saying a lot, since I typically despise zucchini. Off to a good start. In the middle, there is the obligatory kimchi, bunched up into a roll. I would say their kimchi was okay. It was nicely tart, but lacking in spiciness. A good try, though. The last one... Uh, it's a cucumber and lettuce salad. Really, that's it. A tiny garden salad drooping in its dressing. The Western-friendliness just went from sweet to awkward.

This is the Doenjang Jjigae (comes with rice), for 13$. Doenjang is a type of soybean paste, similar to miso. Jjigae means stew, usually made with tofu and vegetables, as well as meat or seafood. It's always served in a hot metal bowl, while the broth is still visibly boiling. A great Korean comfort food of mine... Yum. Here at Atti, the broth was deceptively spicy, perfect for a winter evening. They used ingredients like tofu, potato, winter melon, green onions, potato, wakame, diced shrimp, clam, bits of fish and octopus, and potato. Oh, did I mention they used potato? By the end of my meal, I was straining to finish the last few chunks... Ugh. This is an unforgivable sin of cheapness. There was barely any tofu, and I felt like I ate three whole potatoes. Seriously... the menu didn't even say potato. Lies.

The Bulgogi Deopbap (15$) was a surprise, to say the least. I've never had Korean barbeque this way before... It was essentially a lukewarm pile of shredded marinated beef over a bed of rice. The marinade was disappointing, lacking the robust goodness of garlic and pepper tones. The meat was also a disaster. It was not tender nor juicy, and I actually suspected that they were using the supermarket "Chinese fondue beef" slices -- I found one slice of unshredded meat that was about the same consistency. Ew. Also, do you see that garnish? Yeah, those are uncooked soba noodles. That's like ordering an Italian dish, and finding a garnish of uncooked macaroni. Why...

Well, that's Atti... Pretty place, friendly staff, questionable food. I really wanted to like this restaurant, and I would have returned so I could review a third dish, but after the bulgogi mishap, I just lost all desire to come back. Ever. There are much better Korean places to choose from, perhaps not as accessible, but making up for it with good food and authenticity. 

2077 University Street
Montreal, QC, H3A 2M3
(514) 842-2884

Atti on Urbanspoon

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