By next month, 9 Tail Fox looks to bring a new dimension to Montreal’s Korean food offering with what its chefs are calling the city’s “first ever Korean tapas-style” approach. The menu combines their Korean culture with techniques and cuisines from their tenures at lauded local restaurants.
Both born and raised in Korea, chefs Jongwook Lee and WonGoo Joun originally met as cooks at Plateau restaurant Big in Japan, crossing paths intermittently as their careers developed. While Joun went on to accrue experience in French cuisine from addresses like Pullman, Maison Boulud, and Pastel, Lee spent time as a sous-chef at Cadet.
During the pandemic, they reconnected at Japanese restaurant Bar Otto and that’s where plans for 9 Tail Fox began to take shape, with the launch of pop-up dinners to test the concept.
“Lee and I always wanted to open a restaurant together. We started with the idea to do a place that specialized in tonkatsu, but that started to evolve,” Joun says. “During the pandemic, we had a lot of time to plan together, meeting two to four times a week to share ideas.”
Those meetings resulted in a seasonally shifting, Korean tapas-style menu made up of plates they hope will broaden Montrealers’ horizons when it comes to Korean specialties, flavours, and techniques. “A lot of the Korean food in Montreal is quite typical or traditional with dishes like bibimbap or bulgogi,” Lee explains. “It’s great food, but we don’t believe it gives people enough of an idea of what Korean food can be.”
The chefs’ dishes can be thought of in three categories: One features spins on traditional dishes commonly found in Montreal like galbi-gui (short ribs) or koji-marinated tonkatsu with lemon salt; another seeks to introduce the city to lesser-known Korean dishes such as gyeranjjim (Korean steamed eggs served with a nori-anchovy broth) or traditional salt-cured, charcoal-grilled sea bass; the third includes Korean takes on crowd-pleasing European bistro dishes.
“We know flavours from Korean cuisine. We grew up with them. Now we know techniques and flavours from cuisines like Italian and French and can mix them together [...],” Lee says.
The menu features soy-marinated capellini served with Matane shrimp and perilla, beef tartare with seaweed crostini, and charcuterie plates of house pickles, ssamjang (a Korean dipping sauce) and pig’s head terrine and trotter torchon taking cues from Korean pyeonyuk.
All of this will be able to be washed down with a wine list of mostly organic Quebec reds and whites, as well as soju and sake. On the cocktail side, the chefs have put together a selection to be served on tap and made with fruits and vegetables used elsewhere in the restaurant to minimize the restaurant’s waste.
Taking over the space that once housed SudWest Gyros & Co. in St-Henri, the 40-seat restaurant will sport an additional 30-seat terrasse outside.
9 Tail Fox is slated to open mid-August at 3401 Notre-Dame Street West.