Address: 5 Glen Cameron Road, Thornhill, ON
When I attended: May 2016, 4 people, dinner
Rating: $$, 4
I’ve been to the Gonoe location at Don Mills several times, and the Thornhill location is way busier. I couldn’t get a reservation and decided to drop by at 5:30 pm on a Saturday and luckily landed a table. Line ups started to form by the door around 7:00pm.
The restaurant is located by the Red Lobster and Legend Chinese restaurant plaza just north of Yonge St. and Steeles Ave. Inside, there were mainly private booths with a small open area for large tables. By the bar, there were several aquariums with the live octopus, as well as buckets with sea cucumber and other seafood I did not recognize.
The menu has a combination of Japanese and Korean fare but what makes this location stand out is the specialty items they offer. They had a separate menu offering the chef special sashimi platter, and a specialty live seafood menu offering flounder, abalone, sea squirt, sea cucumber, gaebul (aka fat innkeeper worm) and live octopus. From the live seafood menu, our group ordered the live octopus ($28) and will return to try the other items…well maybe, I need to be in a brave enough mood first.
After seeing many YouTube videos of customers eating live octopus in Korea, my husband and I really wanted to try it. In Korea, restaurants give the whole octopus for customers to eat with the head on and tentacles moving. Customers would wrap the moving tentacles around their chopsticks, dip it into a spicy sauce and chew it alive. At Gonoe, they cut off the octopus head and serve only the tentacles. The complex reflex of the tentacles keep them moving!
Watch the video to see what it is like to eat a live octopus!
At first I was a little freaked out and grossed out, since the chopped up tentacles were moving frantically and even off the table. It was hard to pick up with the chopsticks and easier to pick up with our fingers. Many of the suction cups on the tentacles were stuck to the plate, and it took a bit of yanking to get them off. I could hear a “pop” noise once they were pulled off, similar to pulling a suction cup from a mirror. The octopus was bland by itself and had a chewy texture. The octopus was more enjoyable dipped in the sauce of sesame oil and salt, with an option to eat with the Korean hot sauce. We got over the initial fear factor and ended up eating the entire plate.
I was paranoid that if I didn’t chew the octopus thoroughly, it would move inside my throat or I would choke, so I chewed every part of it several times. The live octopus would not be something I would crave but definitely a fun experience.
Aside from the octopus, we ordered a sashimi boat with 60 pieces, and a spider roll to share. I could have eaten it all myself!
As for service, I had to flag the servers down a few times. Our server was new, so there was a lot of confusion on how to split the bill, but hopefully that was a one time occurrence.
A busy restaurant with menu items not seen at Gonoe’s other locations and many other Japanese/Korean restaurants. Definitely try out the live octopus!