Korean Village Han Kuk Kwan Restaurant
By YP Contributor

Learning From the Best

When Jason Lee graduated from college and showed up for his first day of work as the general manager of his parents’ eatery, Korean Village Restaurant, he was expecting to get shown to an office. “But my mother gives me a mop and says ‘go clean the washroom,’” he remembers. “That was my first task working here. I was humbled.”

The dedicated work ethic of his mother and father, both co-founders of Korean Village Restaurant, is what has kept the eatery going strong since it first opened in 1978. When the restaurant is busy, Jason’s mother still helps out with clearing and setting tables. “If someone from the kitchen calls in sick, she’ll be the first one to put on an apron, whether it’s to wash dishes, prep or cook,” Jason explains. “The one thing I learned from my mom is leading by example. So if my mother has to do those things, I’ll do those things. No questions asked.”

Susur Lee comes here frequently with his sons and they order Korean barbecue. That’s one of the biggest compliments that we could ever get. - Jason Lee, general manager

Authentic Korean Food

Korean Village Restaurant was one of the first restaurants to establish Toronto’s Koreatown community in the late 1970s. Since then, the restaurant has stuck true to its ethos: serving up traditional Korean food to the masses. “Everything is made from scratch,” Jason boasts.  One of the restaurant’s signature offerings is its kimchi, which is made in-house. “We’re also known for our Korean barbecue,” he says. “We marinate our meats for 35 hours.” Korean Village Restaurant’s Korean barbecue has even earned a fan in one of Toronto’s most revered chefs. “Susur Lee comes here frequently with his sons and they order Korean barbecue,” Jason says. “That’s one of the biggest compliments that we could ever get.”

Korean Village Restaurant features an inviting interior.

A Human Touch

The walls by the front entrance are covered in photos of the celebrities who have dined at Korean Village Restaurant, including Jackie Chan, Moses Znaimer and figure skater Yuna Kim, to name a few. But next to the famous faces are dedicated regular customers. “Some people have been coming for over 10, 20 or 30 years so my mother likes to celebrate that,” Jason explains. “These people are a part of this restaurant.”

An Honest, Traditional Approach

Jason says one of the many challenges of running a restaurant is keeping up with competition, not only between fellow Koreatown establishments but with eateries across the city. One of the ways that the Korean Village Restaurant stands out is by staying true to a traditional Korean dining experience. “It’s the fact that we’re introducing people to authentic Korean cuisine for the first time, second time or multiple times,” Jason says. “It’s an honour."

Korean Village Restaurant is located on Bloor Street West in Toronto.
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