Allston, prepare yourself for some truly inventive cuisine. A Korean fusion restaurant called OliToki is getting ready to open at 76 Brighton Ave. in the former First Bite Pizza & Grill space, and it will bring a mix of Mexican-style dishes and Korean flavors to the neighborhood.
John Kim, along with his wife Olivia and brother-in-law Elias, are the brains behind this project. Kim had "been living the corporate life for a while," he told Eater, and about five years ago, after traveling to Los Angeles and New York and seeing some interesting food concepts, he started thinking about creating a restaurant of his own, featuring Korean fusion.
"Boston's a major city, and I just expected this type of food to hit here earlier," he said, noting that things tend to hit here a bit late compared to other big cities. "So in the beginning it was just talk and dreaming, but I kept getting more passionate about it," Kim said.
While his background was in corporate marketing, his wife's family was in restaurants, and with plenty of talking and planning, they began to further develop the Korean fusion idea.
"I was far removed from that type of thing, but the more we talked about it, the more we felt like we could figure things out," he said. When Olivia's brother Elias, who lived in Georgia, decided to move up to Boston, he brought along his knowledge of restaurant operations, construction, and build-outs of spaces, and the plans came together.
"So he's kind of a perfect third link there to make us believe that we could really do everything," Kim said. Kim and his wife, whom he calls his inspiration for this project, have been practicing menus for the last few months.
OliToki will feature Korean-Mexican fusion: think tacos, burritos, and rice bowls with chicken, spicy pork, beef, and crispy tofu in a Korean-inspired style. Kim said the seasoning will be tasty, salty, and a little sweet, and the vegetables will be familiar faces from Korean dishes — cabbage, cilantro, scallions, and, of course, kimchi.
"We definitely want to bring some swagger and up the game for fast-casual food," Kim said. Part of that includes serving fried chicken, and OliToki has developed its own sauce to enhance particular flavors, according to Kim. The menu will also tackle some Hawaiian fusion dishes, he said.
Other future menu items include kimchi fries and fried rice balls, spicy rice cakes, bulgogi (beef) egg rolls, and spam musubi, to name just a few. Kim said OliToki was keeping some items under wraps as surprises.
OliToki will have about 10 seats, televisions, and both delivery and takeout options for the Allston neighborhood to get some quick snack food. Kim said they also have some creative things planned for the restaurant.
"We're creating a spot on the menu called the 'YOLO Corner,'" Kim said, noting that Boston's restaurant industry can always do with some added creativity in fast-casual dining. This board will consist of "really weird concoctions" like dumplings filled with macaroni and bacon, Kim said, along with other serious munchies-oriented foods that he said they were excited to make.
The name for OliToki comes from a combination of Kim's wife's name, Olivia, and the Korean word for bunny, "toki."
"It sounds good, it rolls off the tongue, and there's some meaning behind it in terms of my inspiration and the Korean connection within the name," he said.
OliToki has set up an intial social media presence, with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts primed for updates on an exact opening day. The restaurant still has to go undergo health inspection, but Kim said they were shooting for an opening date within the next week or two.