Korean food is kind of new to me. I had never had a totally authentic take on the cuisine until I moved to Chicago a year and a half ago. I’ve had a handful of Korean food experiences since then, and I think eating Korean BBQ is so much fun.
I went to Tozi Korean BBQ in Wicker Park on Saturday night – even so, there weren’t many patrons inside. I know a lot of people take empty interiors as a bad sign, but I’m not deterred by this. I think some of the best meals can be found at well-kept secrets.
We decided to order off of the BBQ menu – we chose between two varieties of dumplings, selected three meats from the extensive list, and waited for our food.
Dumplings came first: I love kimchi, so choosing the kimchi-stuffed dumplings over the beef option was easy. They weren’t quite what I was expecting: Filled with some kind of meat and no obvious kimchi flavor – but I enjoyed them. No complaints about any of the meats (prawns, spicy bulgogi beef and duck.) They were all good, but nothing really blew me away.
Meats came marinated in a tasty, slightly sweet sauce. Our waiter placed them on the tabletop grill and told us to mix the meat up a bit and give it a few seconds to cook. Again, the concept is just really fun.
Maybe it was because I had eaten such a phenomenal meal the night before, (at Kai Zan) but I just wasn’t wowed by Tozi. Was it good? Sure. Would I go back? Probably not, just because there are so, so many other places to try in Chicago.
The best part of the entire experience was definitely the traditional small portions they gave us alongside our appetizers. Tiny bowls held pickled vegetables, kimchi cabbage, even a potato salad. These ranged from tasty to downright delicious, and they really added to the interactive nature if the meal.
As for service – again, no complaints. It was attentive without being annoying. They were patient when we said we’d like to hold off on grilling each meat until we had finished eating the previous.
Mochi made a nice dessert – we ordered strawberry and green tea flavors, and the strawberry was better: sweet, gummy, and reminiscent of candy.
At around $27, this meal was a good value. We got three generous portions of each meat, dumplings and a rice drink for this price. There was no rice served and we added a kimchi fried rice (I told you I really like kimchi) to round out the meal.
I think you should:
Take it or leave it. I don’t think anyone would regret stepping in to Tozi, but it wasn’t the best meal I’ve ever had. Then again, maybe I ordered the wrong things.
Dine with: A big group of friends. I was seated next to a table of about ten guys. They seemed to be having a good time.
Stop in on a: Friday or Saturday night, preferably before heading out to a Wicker Park bar. There’s a full bar at Tozi, so you can get the party started there and take advantage of how spacious the restaurant is.
Order: I’m a carb lover, so naturally I liked the kimchi fried rice best. I need starch with every meal, and I enjoyed mixing the rice, meat and pickled vegetables that were served before the meal together. Really nice flavor/texture combo.
Wear: Plaid. And fake glasses. This is Wicker Park, yaknow?
1265 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622