Restaurant Review: Mhel – A Culinary Love Letter to Korean and Japanese Cuisine

Address276 Havelock Street
Instagram @mhelisanchovy
Dinner for two with drinks:$200

In the heart of Bloorcourt, Mhel offers an innovative fusion of Korean and Japanese cuisine. Behind this venture are the husband-and-wife team Hoon Ji and Min Yi, whose passion for their heritage and culinary excellence is evident in every dish served.

Mhel’s story begins with Ji and Yi’s six-month culinary journey in Korea, where they honed their skills in renowned establishments. Ji’s experience at a seafood-centric izakaya in Seoul and Yi’s tenure at the two-Michelin-starred Joo-Ok have culminated in a dining concept that is both personal and ambitious. Their mission is clear: to create a space that reflects their love for Korean and Japanese food, paired with an extensive selection of sake. The restaurant’s name, Mhel, meaning ‘anchovy’ in the Jeju dialect, is a nod to Yi’s heritage and the shared culinary memories of older Koreans.

Dining at Mhel is to be enveloped in an ambiance of understated elegance, where every detail, from the vibrant green wall to the intricately crafted ceramic dishware, is a silent proclamation of their commitment to aesthetics and experience.

At Mhel, the menu rotates almost daily based on the freshest local produce and high-quality imports. From the Mame’s playful marriage of soybeans and negi to the sagohachi’s artful curation of kanpachi and wasabi, each dish is a discovery and a testament to the skilled team.

The journey begins with the “Mame,” ($11) where humble soybeans are transformed into a delightful appetizer. Sourced from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, these beans are confit in a blend of miso and negi, creating a dish that is both comforting and surprising. Although it looks bland and underwhelming, it sets the stage for the flavourful experience that awaits.

Grilled mushrooms and tofu are the starts of the show in the “Misae” ($15), which is paired with ohitasi scallions and a karashi mustard miso, offering a smoky depth that is both earthy and intriguing. This dish is a testament to the art of grilling and the richness of the earth’s bounty. I almost order seconds.

The Japanese-Korean fusion shines brightly in the “Sagohachi,” ($26) where Sagohachi cured 46s kanpachi is the star. Accompanied by seei ohitashi, mazuma wasabi, and amazake, this offering is a study in balance, with the cured fish providing a delicate yet pronounced flavour that is enhanced by the subtle heat of the wasabi and the sweetness of the amazake.

A highly recommended is the “Dak gaseumsal” ($27) which pays homage to the Korean side of the fusion – a succulent chicken breast punched up with an amazake and ginger sauce, and an endive salad. The chicken, cooked to perfection, retains its juiciness, while the sauce adds a layer of complexity with its sweet and spicy notes.

Comfort comes in the form of “Ochazuke” ($16), a dish that feels like a warm hug on a cold day. It consists of yaki onigiri submerged in ichiban daichi, and becomes a comfort that speaks of home, of warmth, of a culinary embrace. This dish is a celebration of simplicity, with each ingredient playing its part in creating a harmonious blend of flavours and textures.

To round of the meal, the “Purin” ($10) reveals a slight misstep in Mhel’s culinary journey. This caramel pudding made with Sheldon Creek cream and Tamarack’s maple syrup is indulgent, but the sweetness is a tad too overpowering. A touch more balance in the sweetness could elevate this dessert to the high standards set by the rest of the menu.

The drinks, a curated selection of sake, stand as vigilant companions to each dish, enhancing and elevating the flavours to new heights. Mhel’s non-alcoholic options, such as the sparkling teas, offer a refreshing journey for the palate, a testament to the thoughtfulness that permeates the establishment.

Despite the overall excellence of Mhel, there were moments during our visit when we felt a sense of urgency from the staff, as if we were being rushed through our meal. While this may have been due to the restaurant’s popularity and the desire to accommodate all guests, it slightly detracted from the otherwise relaxed and intimate dining experience. This is a minor detail in an otherwise outstanding establishment, but it’s worth noting for those who seek a leisurely and unhurried pace.

At the heart of Mhel is the power of culinary innovation and the deep respect for tradition. Hoon Ji and Min Yi have created a space that is not just a restaurant, but a celebration of their heritage and a love letter to the flavours of Korea and Japan. Mhel’s commitment to quality, authenticity, and innovation makes it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable dining experience. Bravo!


Mme. M.


La rubrique de Madame Marie

1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.