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SuLee Dosirak is a new Korean takeout restaurant specializing in braised meat and banchan packed meals that officially opened on Boxing Day at Market 707. Executed by siblings Su Jin and Mike Won, the duo only just launched their first food-focused venture together -- a fresh kimchi delivery service, 'SuLee,' less than a year ago. Naming their business after their mother, Hyun Su Lee, who passed away in 2018, the siblings work to keep her memory alive by incorporating elements of her recipes on the menu and maintaining her signature as their logo.
"My mom used to sell banchan too and the side dishes, so I learned all this from her many years ago and I'm trying to bring that back so that everybody can try this different banchan that's outside of regular restaurants," says Su Jin. "More comfort and more traditional, how we used to grow up with."
Taught by her mother, who was not only a professional cook but owned her own restaurant in the Yonge and Finch area, Su Jin herself has a culinary background that includes her own sushi restaurant in Newfoundland that often had customers in a line wrapped around the shop.
"Our goal was actually to open a storefront to showcase Korean braised meat dishes with a plethora of side dishes, outside of what's normally offered in Korean restaurants today," says Mike. "We really wanted to enhance the Korean cuisine experience, as similar side dishes are usually offered in Korean restaurants and there are several different side dishes that could be introduced."
Previously noting that their initial plan was to open a restaurant in honour of their mother, due to challenges that arose due to the pandemic, the duo decided to leave their dreams of opening a restaurant behind for the time being and instead, focus on doing something that would be more fitted to the current lockdown climate at the time.
"We pivoted onto social media and launched SuLee Kimchi, offering fresh, authentic Korean kimchi, delivered right to your door with no delivery fee," says Mike. "Our kimchi became a huge hit because as more lockdowns came, everyone was essentially virtual and ordering takeout, so this worked out perfectly for us because kimchi is very versatile and, best of all, super healthy."
Mike left a six-figure job in the financial sector to launch SuLee Kimchi with Su Jin in April 2021 and through that venture, they provide fresh and easily accessible kimchi across the GTA. Offering Mat Kimchi and a vegan-friendly version, both made with napa cabbage, providing the kimchi fresh enables consumers to have more flexibility over how fermented they prefer their kimchi once it's in their kitchens at home.
With their business and, more importantly, the story behind it all beginning to take off, Mike says it only made sense to take the next step and expand; however, even they were caught off guard by how fast they could get their shop up and running.
"We did not expect to open a storefront so soon," says Mike. "But we also didn't expect to blow up this quickly either."
Ringing in the New Year with the celebration of finally being able to open their doors, they've taken over in the shipping container that once belonged to Ethio & Eri Cafe, who relocated to a different spot along the retail market. SuLee Dosirak is slightly hidden as it's located just around the corner from the street-facing Market 707 vendors, but you can follow their sign and find them right beside Little Sister Baking.
The menu at SuLee Dosirak, as identified in their name and storefront, focuses on Dosirak (도시락) -- packed meals that centre around rice with an assortment of banchan. Here, they're serving it with quinoa rice and braised meat referred to as Jjim in Korean.
With space for five sides around the rice, Su Jin manages to fit nine varieties of banchan: egg with seaweed, carrots and green onion, seasoned lotus root, salted radish, lily flowers, spinach, beansprouts, eggplant, cucumber and of course some SuLee Kimchi. Each ingredient combined with the rice and jjim pairs for the perfect medley of flavours and textures that differ with every bite depending on what you're picking up -- sweet, tangy and crunchy, the plethora of banchan, all made from scratch, makes this a great option for those who go to restaurants wanting to try just a little bit of everything.
Choose from three braised meat options to complement your order. Su Jin says the idea here is to provide comfort food that's comfortable to eat as well. Their signature offering is the Pork Bone Jjim Dosirak, which includes a thick, chewy potato noodle. Marinated in a secret soy sauce base created in house, this dish is a play on Gamjatang, a Korean pork bone soup Su Jin has been cooking for over 10 years. Available in some Korean restaurants in the city, but in more significant portions, gamjatang is more of a stew, whereas the focus on the pork bone jjim is to provide more braised meat and less soup.
Another option is the SuLee Kimchi Jjim Dosirak, where they utilize their fermented kimchi to braise with pork riblets. Their last offering is Dakdoritang Dosirak that consists of chicken wings braised for hours with potatoes. Su Jin notes that traditionally Dakdoritang is made with the whole chicken, but she's making this dish in her mother's style, who used to prefer using just the wings.
Other than dosirak, find items like gimbap on the menu. Reminiscent of what moms would typically pack you for lunch, says Su Jin, the more traditional SuLee Gimbap is made with sausage, spinach, egg, yellow radish, carrots, burdock, crab meat and fish cake. Meanwhile, the most popular option on opening day was the KBBQ Gimbap made with pork belly, lettuce, pickled radish, peppers, garlic stems and ssamjang sauce that's made in-house.
According to Mike, another hit on opening day was the Bindaetteok, a crispy pancake made from mung bean, kimchi and beansprouts. Though the big focus remains on the braised meat offerings, SuLee Dosirak still has vegan-friendly options, which includes this Bindaetteok. Other items include the Tofu and Portobello Dosirak and the Vegan Bibimbap made with marinated tofu, accompanied by a side of napa soybean soup.
Speaking of bibimbap, theirs is made with thinly sliced marinated bulgogi and a mass of vegetables including cucumber, carrots, zucchini, beansprouts, shiitake mushrooms, eggplant and spinach, topped with the picture-perfect sunny-side-up egg.
Opening the shop early at 10 a.m. allows the opportunity to offer breakfast. They've got a savoury Korean Street Food Toast sandwich option paired with a cup of Korean instant coffee. Plus, if you're hopping off the ice rink around the corner or looking to warm up, they've got Cup Ramen handy, which they say tastes best when you're eating it outside in the cold and paired with their SuLee Kimchi.
The drink menu includes Chilsung Cider -- a Korean Sprite, banana flavoured milk and Korean barley and roasted corn tea to pair with your order or even drink while you're waiting to stay warm.
Starting SuLee Dosirak's journey does not mean SuLee Kimchi will alter too much. They're still looking to expand their distribution more this year. At the moment, you can currently find them at Toronto Market Co. and McEwan Foods. Plus, SuLee Dosirak is closed Monday and Tuesday, keeping those days dedicated to free kimchi delivery across the GTA, which you can pre-order via the link in their bio. You can also use the same form to pre-order kimchi for pick-up at their storefront during operating hours.
"As we learn and observe customer feedback, we will take the time to perfect our dishes and processes," says Mike. "Right now, our focus is to ensure customer satisfaction and who knows, maybe if we get popular, we will open more SuLee Dosirak's across the city!"
SuLee Dosirak is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but be sure to stay tuned to their Instagram for any changes. They're also currently working on getting on delivery platforms for your ease of ordering, but as always, keep in mind the percentage these apps take from each restaurant's orders and opt to pick-up instead if possible.