If you’ve ever eaten the Korean fusion cuisine of Roy Choi, famed for LA’s Kogi food truck, you’ll recognize the inspiration for Olitoki. The tiny Allston eatery, which opened in May, is the first restaurant for John Kim and his wife, Olivia. She represents the “Oli” half of the restaurant’s name. “Toki” is Korean for bunny. “Santoki is a famous children’s song, so I played off those words,” John says.
Olivia and her family come from a restaurant background. John left the tech industry to open the spot because he was tired of being disappointed on his lunch breaks.
Olitoki, however, isn’t open for lunch, and it’s probably just as well, as many of the dishes — like the quesa-kimchi-dilla ($7) or the stuffed burrito-rean ($8) — can put you into a food coma.
But eating here is worth it. There is a lot of starch, a lot of crispy-fried. But everything — from that pressed cheesy quesadilla concoction, which is lightened with the zing of kimchi, to the crisp and savory bulgogi beef and cheese eggrolls ($5) — is well executed, and well seasoned. They may be riffing on stoner food, but there are some focused people in that little kitchen.
There is a clear appeal to students here. The few tables are full of Asian-American 20-somethings feasting on cheekily named dishes like the packed bowl ($8). A takeout plastic bowl is indeed brimming with white rice, crunchy purple cabbage and carrots, corn, cucumber pickles, kimchi (this is the dish where all the veggies on the menu are hiding), and a protein of your choice. We pick crispy little tofu cubes. It’s all tossed with sesame oil and served with a “spicy toki sauce,” which seems to be a version of gochujang, a fermented chile condiment. Add some sour cream, cheese, and spicy aioli; wrap it up in a flour tortilla; and you’ve got that burrito-rean, which is what happens when Mexican and Korean fast foods love each other very, very much. Get the spicy pork for this one.
Moving on to the “5 dolla munchies” section of the menu, you’ll find one of our top picks, the vegetarian mandu — deep-fried, kimchi-filled dumplings with a soy dipping sauce. We didn’t have room for the bacon kimchi fried rice balls or the Hawaiian Spam sliders (also on the $5 menu), but man, to be a carefree college kid with these options.
We did nosh on golden ramen-seasoned fries ($2.50), which taste exactly how you’d expect, as well as sweet and spicy chicken wings ($6). We went bone-in (they have tenders, too), with the house flavor, but there’s a list of options, from “the UN” (nuclear hot) to “the zinger” (honey lemon pepper).
The Kims also have an inventive take on tater tots (which, sadly, we were still too stuffed to sample). Totchos ($7) are just your everyday nachos — if you sub fried potatoes for chips and add aioli, kimchi, and that toki sauce. But like all good nachos, the menu promises, they are “drowning in cheese.”
Totchos, like all food at Olitoki, know no borders. And that’s what makes the place so irresistible.
76 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-202-5038, www.olitoki.com. All major credit cards. Not wheelchair accessible.
Prices Appetizers $2.50-$5. Entrees $7-$8.
Hours Tue-Thu 5-10 p.m., Fri-Sun. 5-11 p.m.
What to order Quesa-kimchi-dilla, bulgogi beef and cheese eggrolls, vegetarian kimchi mandu dumplings, packed bowlCatherine Smart can be reached at email@example.com.