Jessica and I ventured to Kingyo, an Izakaya, located in the Cabbagetown district of Toronto. An Izayaka is commonly known as a Japanese drinking establishment where bar type food is served. Traditionally, Japanese businessmen would go to these small joints after work and casually eat glutinously on delicious grilled skewers, consume copious amounts of alcohol and have fun conversations with the chef. Kingyo’s adoption of the traditional Izakaya, was just a little different.
Surrounded by flashing lights of Pachinko machines pinned up against the walls in a dimly lit room, Kingyo is a large and well-decorated restaurant that embodies the Japanese culture. As soon as we set foot into the door, we were greeted with cheers and applause by the hosts, servers, and chefs. In the background, Doraemon episodes (famous Japanese cartoon) streamed in the back. We were particularly drawn to the quirky menu where items like “The Legendary Chicken Wings by Kinchan: Kinchan’s famous chicken wings. OK maybe little EXAGGERATED but it’s that good. No word of a lie.” read.
The first dish we tried was the Red Tuna & Black Tiger Prawn Avocado Tartar ($10.80), served with garlic toast. The tartar had the perfect balance of fat from the tuna and avocadoes, followed by the sweet tomato, salty fish roe, spicy wasabi, and crunchy garlic chip, which makes for a very well rounded dish.
The Renkon Kinpira ($4.80) came next. It was a spicy pan fried sliced lotus root, served cold with Nama Shichimi (seven flavor chili powder). This was a savoury and crunchy dish, with a mild sweet aftertaste.
We ordered the Tako Wasabi (half raw and half cooked octopus) ($4.20), served with seaweed paper on the side. The tako was diced and marinated with wasabi stems and sea kelp. The raw octopus had a bit of a slimy but soft and chewy texture, but the wasabi enhanced the natural octopus flavor. The cooked octopus was slightly more on the sweeter side, and tasted more chewy. I really liked the strong wasabi taste to the octopus, which acted as a palette cleanser throughout the entire meal.
We decided to try something from their daily special menu ($10). We selected the grilled black cod sushi with a special sauce, flying fish roe and greens. I particularly enjoyed the buttery and flaky cod that completely melts in your mouth.
The Beef Tongue ($10.20) was a “cook-it-yourself” dish, to be grilled on a heated stone. It was complemented by a parsley sauce, hot sauce and lemon wedges to enhance the flavour. This novelty dish was not only fun to cook, but was delicious.
The final dish was the Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don ($13.80) recommended by our waitress. The Don (rice bowl dish) was made with sauteed prawn, squid, scallop and salmon roe, topped with a heaping portion of Uni (sea urchin), in a sizziling hot stone bowl. Our waitress mixed the dish in front of us. The buttery and sweet uni (sea urchin) melds perfectly with the seafood and rice. The hot stone bowl would make part of the rice extra crispy, adding a nice crunch to every biteful. It was the perfect dish to the end of the night.
Kingyo Izakaya Toronto
51 Winchester Street, Toronto, ON M4X 1R7