Address: 610 Bronson Avenue, Ottawa
Hours: 12:00pm – 9:00pm (Tue-Fri); 12:00pm – 4:00pm (Sat); closed Sunday – Monday
Website: No website, Facebook only
Wanting to go out for dinner, but being motivationally restricted by a flash freeze and freezing rain, I remembered that Table 85 was just a block away from our apartment. I’d read good things about this hole in the wall joint, and have walked past there countless times, so now seemed like a good time to sample their wares.
Located in the basement of a small office building on Bronson that’s primarily a real estate business, Table 85 doesn’t exactly have a lot of street appeal, so seeing several people here on a Friday evening seemed like a good sign.
The interior is about as bland as you can get – with the painted concrete walls completely unadorned other than a surprisingly large flat screen TV displaying a Korean cooking/game show. It was like a smaller version of my high school cafeteria, just with more Asians and a better smell.
Their Korean fried chicken took the prime real estate at the top of the chalkboard by the front counter, followed by handful of rice and noodle dishes, with seafood as the most prominent protein. If you’re looking for hearty vegetable dishes, you’re probably SOL.
There’s a few options for the fried chicken: sweet and spicy, soy, original, or half and half for an additional $2.00. At $30 for a whole chicken, I wasn’t exactly pleased with the surcharge for the half and half, especially since they likely don’t have the most expensive rent for the place. However, I’ve spent more for even more frivolous things than this, so we ordered the half and half with sweet and spicy, and original, and tacked on an order of stir fried noodles.
We were warned that the chicken could take 30-45 minutes, but we were fine with that. If you’re on a tighter schedule, it would be best to order ahead. It seemed to take much less time than that though, and we had our food in 20 minutes, tops. The chicken came in two separate bowls with utilitarian kitchen tongs for serving, as did our noodle dish.
Korean sweet and spicy sauces, in my admittedly limited experience, tend to be much better than what you encounter with their Chinese-Canadian counterparts, which long ago became commoditized and pared back in flavour to better suit the less adventurous palates of mid-20th century North America. Luckily for our contemporary taste buds, newer culinary entrepreneurs are holding back much less, if at all in many cases.
Using the common Korean condiment gochujang as a base for the sauce, it had a mild hit of spice that came at the end, but wasn’t overpowering. The roughly chopped chicken was small enough to eat with chopsticks, and was deftly cooked, as even the chunks of breast meat were tender and moist.
The batter…wasn’t quite what I had expected; Korean fried chicken is a “thing” because it’s known for being ultra-crispy, and like your friends from university, very flaky. Table 85’s batter was more along the lines of a beer batter or funnel cake batter, with a doughy consistency rather than flaky. It worked fine – it had a crispy exterior and didn’t have a soggy meat-batter interface – but was it as good as it could have been? No.
While still carb-heavy, the noodles did provide some greens to assuage a tiny fraction of my gluttonous guilt. Baby bok choy, julienned carrots, and onion joined with tender hunks of chicken (notably not from-frozen, pre-cut cubes) with enjoyably chewy udon noodles. Lightly dressed with soy sauce, it made for straightforward and pleasant dish.
Service from our waiter/cook was friendly, and we got a tea top-up as well.
When it comes to international food, it is often the hole the wall, mom-and-pop shops that are the standouts. While it isn’t mom and pop, more like “young dude and young dude”, Table 85 is putting out some decent Korean food, and with a little tweaking to their batter technique, could really become a stand-out location in Ottawa.