Restaurant review: Mezu

Mezu brings playful Korean small plates and relaxed vibes to Dundas West.

What's the vibe:

Mezu is a low-key Korean tapas spot located at the corner of Dundas West and Beaconsfield Ave. in the space previously occupied by Italian grocery store, Solita. Reclaimed wood, paper lanterns and eclectic Asian artwork give the restaurant’s interior a breezy, stripped-down vibe.

The rear of the space is home to a modest open kitchen along with a bar stacked with artfully-arranged bottles of sake and soju, while the opposite wall features large windows overlooking the Dundas West strip. Mezu looks like it will have serious coziness potential when the temperatures drop but for now the most in-demand seats are out on the small side patio. The small plates menu and casual ambiance lends itself well to evening drinks and snacks, or you can easily order enough to make a full dinner’s worth of eats.

View on Instagram

What to drink:

Mezu offers a good selection of sake and soju along with makgeolli, a traditional Korean rice wine. Beer options mix Asian-influenced brews like yuzu-flavoured Kagua Blanc, with familiar local names like Woodhouse and Brickworks. The restaurant heads west for its wine menu, with a handful of whites, reds and rosés from California, Spain and France.

Cocktail options are also a blend of classic concoctions and tipples that draw inspiration from the Far East. We loved the Gaza Mezu, a bubbly mix of cava, plum extract and yuzu. The plum garnishes hopping around in the fizzy glass beg to be Boomeranged.

What to eat:

Executive Chef Donguk Sul previously worked in the kitchens of Mamakas, Mercatto and Momofuku, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Mezu’s menu brings a variety of international influences to its Korean foundations. We started with the Arancini – the Italian classic was given a punchy makeover with the addition of a fig jam sauce, but still delivered on our gooey-warm-cheese expectations.

Steak tartare is given an Asian spin with a soy dressing and airy seaweed chips, which are made in-house. Octopus can be a risky order at an untested restaurant (lest you end up with rubbery tentacles), but Mezu’s version is beautifully grilled and served with red pearl onions, which bring a slight sweetness to the smoky flavour of the octopus. The highlight, however, was the ssam, grilled pork belly marinated for 48 hours before being cooked sous vide and finally grilled for a savoury, umami-packed result. It comes with fresh gem lettuce leaves for wrapping and a touch of Latin American influence in the form of a zesty chimichurri.

Dinner and drinks for two: about $85

1375 Dundas St W., 647-346-8858,