French-inspired Korean cuisine. Have you tried it before? Not me, at least not until I visited Doma back in December. Doma (Instagram: @domatoronto, Facebook: Doma) is a French-inspired Korean restaurant that meshes French cooking techniques with traditional Korean ingredients and flavours (or vice versa). According to Doma's website, their menu changes every month, which is in line with chef/owner Paul Kim's philosophy of using local ingredients as much as possible. Each month's menu would include Kim's new creations, as well as two to three popular dishes from the previous month.
Located on Clinton and College, the Doma space was previously occupied by Backwoods Smokehouse, and before that Red Sauce, and before that Acadia. The decor is minimalist and simple; clean lines with white walls and light-wood furnishings. I personally find the room a bit bleak. Also, maybe it's the OCD in me but because all the tables and chairs are angled diagonally, I had a really strong urge to move everything so that they would be parallel to the wall.
Anyway, enough about the room, let's talk about the food. I was really eager to try Doma because I always viewed Korean food as a more casual type of cuisine; as in, I've never experienced "Korean fine-dining" or "refined Korean food" before. Which is why I was really excited to try Doma, especially having heard that chef Kim studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa. Combining his knowledge in French techniques with his Korean background, I was pretty sure that Kim would be debuting a refined menu that none of us have ever tried before.
By the way, I love the long and slender cutlery at Doma. They are a more stylish matte black versions of the silver ones you would normally find in traditional Korean restaurants.
NEXT GENERATION ($13)
Soju, Perilla, Maple, Lime, Ginger Beer
OLD BOY ($13)
Cucumber infused Boodles Gin, Rice Vinegar, Soy, Daikon
My friend and I chose the $65 per person tasting menu which consisted of an amuse, six courses and a dessert. You basically get to try the entire menu with this tasting so I highly recommend getting it.
Steam bun filled with mushroom, caramelized onion and sweet doenjang
BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND YAM SOUP
Soy milk foam, soybean powder, sticky rice donut, jujue glaze, mixed nuts
Korean crepe ssam, shiitake mushroom, carrot, zucchini, egg, bell pepper, mandarin
Cabbage, konyak, bell pepper, pear, seaweed, korean mustard dressing, pickled mustard, cucumber granita
DUCK IN TWO WAYS
Duck breast, duck confit dumpling, foie gras duck jus, cauliflower
SPANISH MACKEREL EN PAPILLOTE
Korean chili powder, onion, candied ginger, red chili, green onion, radish, lemon, tomato
Pickled perilla leaf, demi-glace, creamed winter greens with doenjang, fingerling potatoes
Job's tears creme anglaise, dried fruits, mixed nuts
MUGWORT ICE CREAM
Red bean sponge cake, yuzu curd, yuzu meringue
During dinner, chef Kim came out and introduced himself to each and everyday table, which I thought was really nice; the gesture made each guest feel special and valued, and I seriously don't remember the last time I saw a chef did that. When I was chatting with Kim, I could feel his immense passion for Doma and its concept.
I thought my dinner at Doma was good but not great. There were some hits and misses, and I felt that some of the dishes missed the mark when it comes to execution. Highlights of the dinner for me were:
1) Amuse Bouche - The soft and light black steamed bun with wild mushroom puree and caramelized onion filling was probably the best bite of the evening.
2) Grilled Octopus - The meaty octopus was spot on in terms of texture and done-ness. The salad was evenly dressed with a light Korean mustard dressing. This dish really opened up my appetite.
3) Butternut Squash and Yam Soup - Its foamy texture made this the lightest butternut squash soup I've never had, and I'm not complaining. Although I love the flavour, I'm usually not a fan of butternut squash soup because it tends to be too rich and filling, but this version was perfect for me. It was light yet loaded with flavour. The mini sticky rice donuts were great with it, too.
4) Beef Striploin - I appreciate the creativeness in wrapping pickled perilla leaves around the striploin (perilla leaf is an herb from the mint family that is very commonly used in Korean cooking). It was a really nice bite, especially with the fingerling potatoes.
The misses for me were:
1) Seven Jeolpan - There was only one component that I didn't enjoy here but it's an important one. It's a pity though because I enjoyed all the different fillings and crepe, but the black sesame sauce did absolutely nothing for me. It was bland and had hardly any flavour. I was longing for a sauce with way more punch, something that would accentuate and leave a lasting impression of the dish.
2) Duck in Two Ways - The duck confit dumplings were divine but the duck breast was chewy.
3) Spanish Mackerel en Papillote - First of all, this dish was really fishy. It's Mackerel, after all. Other than the fact that the dish was prepared "en papillote" - a French method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked - it is nothing to write home about.
4) Desserts - Both desserts were underwhelming but that's because I enjoy my desserts a lot sweeter. The desserts at Doma were only slightly sweet, very subtle. So, this is definitely a personal preference. Nevertheless, I do applaud the different textures in both desserts.
I commend Kim's creativity and his desire to do something no one has yet to do in Toronto. I'm sure a lot of people would agree with me when I say that Toronto's dining scene could use a lot more inspiration. Doma's ambitious menu features unique dishes that you will only find at the restaurant and nowhere else. This, in itself, is praiseworthy. Even though I did not enjoy every single course at Doma, I still think its revolutionary for the city and its a restaurant worth visiting at least once.