Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is Atti Gangnam Style?

As a matter of fact, yes. Just not in the literal sense.

In the wise words of the great and noble Psy, Gangnam Style is all about dressing classy and dancing cheesy. The decor at Atti is certainly classy, what with its modern yet zen feel, and the food is certainly cheesy. What, you say. How can Korean food be cheesy, you say. No, I don't mean that there is an abundance of dairy to be found in the cooking. Atti is cheesy, just like General Tao chicken is cheesy. As in it's typical Korean fare altered to suit Western palates. But heyyyyy (sexy lady!), is that such a bad thing?

Soooo... Taking a break from blogging about my Japan trip to bring you a resto review! Also, I didn't bring my camera for this, so blurry pictures ahead.

Accessibility - Grade: A
Atti is situated on University street, just north of the exit of McGill metro. Literally a 2-minute walk. It's situated at basement level, so it's easy to miss. 

Service - Grade: B
The waiters and waitresses look very Gangnam Style themselves, might I say, what in their classy dress uniforms. The service can be standard to good, depending on who you get. For the most part, the waiters are friendly and polite, and pretty attentive. One interesting characteristic of the restaurant is the little service bells that they have on each table. If you need anything, you just have to press the bell to alert the waitstaff, and someone will come see you.

Most Korean restaurants I've been to are more homey and have very simple decor, but Atti's decor is definitely more suited to Westerners. The restaurant feels classy and modern, with a lot of glass, stone walls, and bamboo decorations. It's definitely a nice place to take a date.

Food - Grade: C+ (or B+. Really depends on your tastes.)

If you've been following my blog, you know I have issues with Americanised Asian food. Athough I haven't had first-hand experience at real Korean food from Korea, I've been to enough Korean restaurants to know what doesn't constitute Korean food. And I'm pretty sure mayonaise potato salads aren't Korean. 

My Caucasian friends - who really, really like this place, by the way - and I were talking about the authenticity of Asian cuisine, and whether Western people would prefer authentic or Americanised Asian food. While it's true that some of the more adventurous might seek authenticity in their cuisine, there are simply too many people who don't like to step outside of their comfort zone. To those people, Atti is probably the safest introduction to Korean food you can find in Montreal. So I'll give you both sides of the coin, because I am nothing, if not fair. Or so I'd like to think.

Like all Korean restaurants, Atti gives you some banchan to start off with. But instead of having a one tray for everyone to share, in the spirit of Western dining, each person gets their own tray. They've also served some pretty strange banchan, such as Western style potato salad. In this case, we got sweet soy eggplants, kimchi and a seaweed salad.

Oddly enough, I really like the banchan here, even the strange potato salad. The kimchi is given to us in a roll, and I think it was made in-store. Now, here is where we had our first difference in opinion of the evening. I thought that kimchi here was quite good. Not a single bit of it was unripe, and it was just the right amount of sour and spicy. My two friends, who - might I add - have never had kimchi before, didn't like it at all. Yes, the single most authentic dish we had, and my friends didn't like it.

The eggplant was quite good too. The sweet soy flavour had completely penetrated the eggplant, but the eggplant was still crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The seaweed salad wasn't too fishy, but was pretty ordinary-tasting otherwise.

Beef bibimbap
My Caucasian friends always order the bibimbap when they come here. Not because they're unwilling to try other stuff, but because they really like this particular bibimbap. Unlike most other Korean restaurants, Atti doesn't offer the dolsot bibimbap (the version of this dish served in the sizzling stone pot), but rather serves their bibimbap with completely cooked ingredients. You can choose between a spicy sauce and a sweet soy sauce.

Taste-wise, this dish isn't too bad. It's probably one of their best dishes. The flavours from the different ingredients all come together with the sauce and the natural sweetness from the rice, and this dish has little to no oil or grease. Personally, I prefer the dolsot bibimbap. I like having the egg cook in the rice, the sizzling and popping of the ingredients as they're being seared, and the crunchy crust of rice left sticking to the bowl. I also prefer having the more traditional spicy sauce mixed in the bibimbap, but my friends enjoyed the sweet soy sauce.

Haemul Tteokbokki
Um. Do you see that weird squiggly thing that's sitting on top of the dish? Yes, it's what you think it is: a piece of dehydrated instant noodles. Tteokbokki is a common Korean dish, traditionally spicy but with a hint of sweetness, and contains rolls of Korean rice cake. I ordered the seafood version, so it contains some shrimp, squid and crab sticks.

I couldn't finish this dish. While tteokbokki is normally a bit sweet, I found this dish to be overly sugary. I swear I could taste clumps of sugar in the sauce. It also tasted strongly of MSG, but that might have been from the mini ocean of seasoning sitting on the dehydrated noodles. The sweetness, spiciness and saltiness couldn't seem to find a balance, and instead created a whammy of clashing flavours.On the other hand, both my friends tried a bit of this dish and seemed to enjoy it. I think they actually enjoyed the fact that the dish was sweet.

Purple rice

My dish came with a side of purple rice, which is also the rice they use in the bibimbap. To my knowledge, Atti is the only Korean restaurant that serves purple rice. I quite like the purple rice. I'm not sure if I'm just enthralled with the colour, or if the rice genuinely tastes better, but I prefer this rice to regular white rice.

Greem tea patbingsoo
Also to my knowledge, Atti is the only Korean restaurant in Montreal that serves patbingsoo. Patbingsoo is a Korean dessert that consists of shaved ice with whatever kinds of topping you want, be it fruit, sweet red bean, or ice-cream. If I were completely honest, the patbingsoo is probably the only reason why I come back to Atti, and is the only reason why I gave this place a C+ instead of a C. But even the patbingsoo is a bit strange.

Red Bean Patbingsoo

The Patbingsoo at Atti comes with pre-arranged toppings, and generally include stuff like red bean, various canned fruit, banana slices, ice-cream, pocky, Turkish-delight-like cubes of candy, and Frosted Flakes. The last couple of items, I imagine, are a bit unorthodox. The shaved ice also comes a bit melted, and instead of being fine and powdery, it's really just small chunks of ice. Still, the odd combination is surprisingly good, and this dessert is pretty refreshing on a hot summer's day. The patbingsoo is quite sweet, though, so unless you're a sweets aficionado, I don't recommend trying to polish one off by yourself.

Also, my Korean-drama-obsessed friend loves patbingsoo, and calls them 'oppatbingsoo'. As in 'oppa + patbingsoo = oppatbingsoo'. So.... Oppatbingsoo Gangnam Style!

Price - $$
The prices are pretty fair, especially for an establishment of this type of ambiance. Menu items are around $15. I had the Haemul Tteokbokki and we split a patbingsoo 3-way, and my bill came up to around $21 after tax and tip.

Final Grade: C+ (Or B+)
To conclude, if you're looking for an authentic Korean culinary experience, Atti is not the place for you. However, if you're someone who doesn't usually step out of their comfort zone food-wise, and wish to try Korean food, Atti might be a good place to start. Also, if you had no idea what I was referring to during this whole review, then you might want to check out this video: Gangnam Style? Whassat?

Aaaand you know I had to...


(514) 842-2884
2077 University St., Montreal
Atti on Urbanspoon


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