After spending nearly a year in Korea I have a pretty solid understanding of their cuisine. I get it, for the most part, and I like it. But I have to admit that it's not the most accessible foreign cuisine. In fact, Korean food generally lags behind Japanese, Chinese, Thai and even Vietnamese style food in popularity.
I've got a theory for this that I'll share. Korea's spicy, simple peasant-food style grub hasn't been package correctly. This is not a matter of quality but of marketing. Chinese and Japanese foods have been neatly packaged and slightly tweaked for the western palate. If you didn't know already, chicken balls with sweet and sour "red" sauce are pretty hard to find in China proper. This bastardization has yet to touch Korean food.
Now, perhaps this is a good thing. After all, I do spend a lot of time hunting down "authentic" Viet food and "real deal" Chinese. But at the same time, the average person has a hard time swallowing "real deal" Korean food. It's like Heroin, and we really, really need a gateway drug.
This is where Swish by Han steps in.
Swish offers a full line up of traditional Korean meals turned on their head. Take kimchi pears for example. The texture is the same. The spice is the same. But there's an absolutely delicious, sweet/tangy pear that shines through unlike anything I was exposed to while abroad. Their "swish" set, sort of a Korea-hot pot, is a great choice for 2 people. It's decent value and tastes fantastic.
The ambiance ranges from quiet and intimate to rambunctious depending on when you arrive. The decor is a huge plus for me. I absolutely love the huge wood tables. If I could fit one in my apartment I would. The music is usually solid too - usually guitar heavy and just a little bit psychedelic.
The service is simple with one or two servers running the entire floor. This is a weak spot for them...I feel as though they could use an extra staff member. More importantly I would encourage them to remember that we're not in Korea; we do expect basic levels of service while dining in Canada. While I'm not saying my service experiences have been negative, they have been highly unpredictable.
Overall I've got to hand to Swish for tweaking traditional Korean food and making it palatable to lame-o Westerners. Whether it was their intention or not, they are making Korean food an accessible, realistic choice for nervous new-comers to the cuisine. Swish and other would-be-korean-restaurateurs need to continue to bridge the gap between old and new, Eastern and Western, to allow their cuisine to truly flourish.