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Opened just this summer, DNDN Asian Eatery is the latest gem on Yonge-Eglinton for modern Korean bites and other Asian dishes.
Meaning “fulfill” (든든) in Korean, DNDN is a two-man operation founded and run by Sungwook Kim (Nome Izakaya) and Dogeol Youn (Noma, Manfred’s). The two first met as fellow culinary students at George Brown College. After graduating, they parted ways and Youn travelled to Europe to follow his passion for Western cuisines, working in Sweden’s Mandred’s and staging at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant, Noma. Kim, on the other hand, continued pursuing his love for Japanese cooking and ended up in izakayas, sushi bars, and other Japanese restaurants, including Toronto’s own Nome Izakaya.
Throughout their adventures, Kim and Youn always stayed in touch and, over a catch-up drink in Toronto, found they were both ready to start their own restaurants. With the duo’s Korean background and culinary training, they ended up with a casual concept that focused on making beautiful, nostalgic flavours without the fine-dining price tags.
“We both started cooking when we were young because we loved to see people getting full and happy with our food,” says Youn. “These days, it’s not easy to find a place with reasonable prices and quality food. Here, we make everything from scratch so we can serve delicious and filling food that’s also affordable.”
Bringing together Kim’s technical Japanese knowledge and Youn’s focus on turning ingredients into delicacies, DNDN offers a small but mighty menu of loaded Asian-inspired sandwiches, Japanese onigiri, and a rotating menu of weekly banchan.
Marinated in their own house-made soy tare sauce, the Beef Bulgogi sandwich is one of the stars on the menu along with the Kimchi Tuna. You can also get your sandwich filled with Chicken Mayo with scallion and garlic aioli or the Egg & Cheese with yuzu cream cheese.
While not traditionally Korean, DNDN also makes Japanese onigiri rice balls stuffed with the same fillings as their sandwiches, plus Soy Mushroom and tangy Wasabi Crab.
For something that’s more vegetable-heavy, DNDN has a menu of Salad Rolls filled with lettuce, pickled cabbage, daikon, and carrot, plus a protein topping of your choice.
What keeps customers coming, however, is DNDN’s weekly changing menu of Korean side dishes, or banchan.
“We make our banchan daily and rotate the selection weekly. It’s a lot of fun to make!” says Youn.
This week, they’re offering a Steamed Egg with Tofu and Carrot, Stir Fry Pork with Soy Tare, Japchae, Daikon Kimchi, and Soy-Marinated Jammy Egg. A few standout favourites from their past banchan menus include Wasabi Potato mash, Chicken Pasta with Garlic Mayo, and Yuzu Chicken Pasta salad.
On top of creating delicious, innovative food that won’t hurt your wallet, DNDN also makes their own specialty drinks like the Squash Rice Punch or their picturesque Strawberry Milk, plus occasional seasonal specials like Raspberry Milk.
For the size of their shop, DNDN manages to pack in a ton of creativity, dedication, and deep flavours.
“It’s been hard to get new customers, especially because we’re selling things that not everyone is familiar with,” says Youn. “DNDN just wants to fulfill customers with simple delicacies. It’ll be delicious, fresh, and cheap. I wouldn’t sell anything that I don’t find tasty myself. Don’t be scared. Come check us out!”
Find out what Youn and Kim are cooking up this week at DNDN Asian Eatery on 2109 1/2 Yonge St. They’re open every day but Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For a sneak peek of their weekly banchan menu, just give them a follow on Instagram.