The legend of the nine-tailed fox traveled from China to Japan and then to Korea. Through manga (Naruto in the lead!) she is also known here. And it is precisely from this broth of cultures that 9 Tail Fox was born. This one defines itself as a “Korean bistro”. Do not go there hoping to eat a huge bibimbap or a bulgogi. Here, we rather wanted to combine Quebec ingredients, Montreal know-how and Korean touches. The chefs have a lot of admiration for the highly rated Atoboy restaurant, which uses New York as a backdrop to practice innovative Korean cuisine. Chicago also has many such tables, such as the excellent Parachute. It was first in the form of one-night events in restaurants in the South West, such as Stem Bar, Satay Brothers and Bar Otto, that the concept was tested. Then in the fall of 2022, the pretty glassed-in room, furnished in blond wood and greened by plants, opened its doors at the corner of rue Notre-Dame and avenue Greene.

Jongwook Lee and WonGoo Joun have lived in Montreal for 10 and 15 years respectively. The first went to cooking school in Korea, while the second is self-taught. They met at the Big in Japan restaurant. Their professional paths then diverged when Jongwook Lee went to work at Bouillon Bilk and Cadet, while WonGoo Joun perfected his knowledge in the kitchens of Pastel, Maison Boulud and Park. The friends had always said that they would have a project together one of these four. It was the forced downtime of recent years that allowed the two men to dream and then bring their nine-tailed fox into the world.

At 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night, the dining room was brightly lit and two-thirds full of a rather young clientele. 9 Tail Fox is the very definition of a casual restaurant. We order a few dishes, a bottle or two of soju to get into the mood, and we continue the evening in one of the many bars in the area, such as the Atwater Cocktail Club or the Baby, a little further.

Unless you order all the fried dishes on the menu (chicken, oyster mushrooms, pork loin), you don’t come out of there in a digestive coma. There is a balance in the proposals and we reproduce it in our order, alternating freshness and richness.

The two plump boletus and parmesan dumplings, bathed in a yuja (yuzu) soy sauce, are little umami bombs. The homemade sausage tastes like universal childhood, with its sweet and salty tomato sauce (read ketchup!) and smooth mashed potatoes. It’s a recreation of a classic Korean family kitchen, it seems, that the two chefs ate small.

When it comes to comfort food, fried rice with kimchi and bacon is nowhere to be found. And how sensual it is to stir the creamy egg into the hot rice! More ‘mature’, the crudo is ambitious, with three differently seasoned aquatic ‘proteins’. Scallops, Arctic char and sea bass coexist well, with their sauces that end up merging elegantly on the plate.

There are several other land or sea options on the menu, including beef tartare, octopus with gochujang romesco sauce and homemade fettuccine with mussels “kalguksu”. We didn’t make it to the dessert, but there are and those, like the matcha opera, sound quite appetizing, on paper at least.

We can say, finally, that the chefs skilfully and subtly integrate the ingredients of their native cuisine with those they have become accustomed to cooking here. The result is very, very Montreal, perhaps less surprising than we would have liked, but nevertheless very honest.

Here, we really stand out. The liquid offering was developed by Simon Schmidt, now serving the all-new Yama. It is vast and a bit confusing, but original. There is obviously soju, alcohol distilled from rice or other cereals and rectified to around 17-20% alcohol. If the SAQ sells the small 360-375 ml bottle for less than $10, you will pay $25 before taxes and tip at 9 Tail Fox. The restaurant has a good selection of Jinro and Chum Churum brands, whether you like your soju plain or flavored with strawberry, mango, grape, etc. As for cocktails, we go kitsch with house mixes prepared in advance in bright colors. They are inspired by classics like the cosmo, the margarita, the mojito, the mule. All that remains is to choose its format (glass or pitcher) and its spirits (gin, vodka, tequila, etc.) that we add afterwards. There is also a variety of Korean soft drinks such as Milkis, which can be drunk with or without alcohol. Not being at all the clientele targeted by this festival of added aromas, I turned to the wine list, far from being boring. But to drink outside SAQ references and “exciting”, it takes at least $80. These are prices a little high for the fauna of the area, perhaps. What’s more, there is no sommelier or sommelier on site. This resulted in a bit of a mess when we had to return a faulty bottle. Otherwise, the service was smiling and attentive.

The most expensive items on the menu are octopus ($28) and steak ($29). Otherwise, prices are more like $17-20 for a medium-sized plate. Smaller sizes, including skewers (ggochi), are $5-11.

9 Tail Fox is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m.