You’ll need to follow your nose to this underground, mostly unmarked eatery. Once through the doors of 610 Bronson – the RE/MAX Hallmark Group building – you’ll smell the sesame and the burbling oil wafting up from below. Down a flight of stairs, you’ll be greeted by the two fine people who run Table 85 Café & Catering, a windowless canteen with the beige walls and dim lighting — dim, at least, for those of us seated at one of the pine tables. Luckily, the lights are on in the kitchen.
There, Sean runs the fryer, the wok, and the basket steamers, his wife Songhwa takes orders and delivers food. I noticed panini sandwiches in the cooler and a green salad that looked fresh and bouncy. But really, truly, you want the Korean fried chicken. Or the spicy Jajang noodles, its sauce of sautéed pork with black bean paste, onion, carrot and cabbage served with a hard boiled egg and slender slices of cucumber. Preferably you order this to go: that way you won’t need to eat in the gloom.
I have never been to Korea, so I know nothing about whether the fried chicken is ‘authentic’ — though I can tell you, based on the bit of reading that I’ve done, the custom of half-half (equal portions of two styles of fried chicken) is as popular here as it is there.
The chicken beneath its (twice-fried) puffy coat is perfectly cooked, moist, and juicy, while the batter is crazy-crunchy, painted with a sweet-soy dressing, sprinkled with sesame seeds and buried by thin slices of scallion. The onion matters. So do the cubes of the crunchiest, house-pickled daikon I’ve ever tried. These cut the rich hits of fat and garlic. I also tried the ‘sweet and spicy’ chicken that came in a scary-red sticky sauce, scattered with roasted peanuts. I find I like the dish’s vinegar hit and chilli heat, but less so its sugariness.
After this bright lunch in a dark place on Bronson, I head over to Bank Street for a quick fix of Moo Shu ice cream, just to really, truly, cut the fat. Trust me, it works.
Table 85 Café & Catering, 610 Bronson Avenue, 613-788-2112