Monday, April 15, 2013

Nomé Izakaya

Nomé Izakaya
4848 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M2N 5N2

Date Visited:  April 16, 2013

Another week and another Izakaya place!

A wall of Saporro greets you at the window front of the restaurant.  Once inside, the restaurant is decorated with Japanase artwork, wooden tables, and is dimly lit to set the mood.

Friendly servers are knowledgeable with the menu.  They were great at up-selling the Monday special which was a Japa-Burger and a pitcher of Saporro for $20.00 (or a pint for $11.00).  Good deal!  Everyone also at the table received a complimentary Malpeque oyster to promote their $1 oysters on Tuesday and Wednesday.

When our order for the oysters arrived, we received Malpeques rather than the Kumamotos; but, there were no hassles sending it back to the kitchen.  Our servers were gracious to pour us ice water all around the first round; however, subsequent attempts consisted of leaving a pitcher of water on the table with no ice and allowing us to pour ourselves.  It wasn't busy either.

We were celebrating a fellow foodie's birthday and so we ordered cheesecake.  We were disappointed when the cake came out without a candle initially.  But, they redeemed themselves by bringing back the cake with a  massive flaming candle!  Perhaps they read our minds? The thought was there.


Japa-Burger ($8.80)
Japa-Burger ($8.80) - Nomé’s original homemade sliders made with sliced rib eye meat and topped with tomato, spring mix, onion, smokey bbq sauce and garlic seasoning.

The rib eye meat was tender and marinated well - good flavour.  The barbecue sauce brought everything together.  A good overall slider - especially when a plate comes with a pitcher of beer.  We got 3 specials to satiate our hungry and thirsty party.

Kumamoto Oysters
Kumamoto Oysters
$3.50 each $21 - 1/2 Doz. $40 - Doz.  Mildly fruity and sweet, with a rich buttery texture.

The delicious Kumamoto oysters came with a variety of sauces - hot, seafood, horseradish, ponzu, basil pesto, and garlic.  Great selection!  It's hard to mess up oysters at a restaurant; after all, all they have to do is  shuck them fresh but I just wish that our oysters were chilled a little more.

Kumamoto Oyster Sauces!

Deep Fried Pork Belly ($6.50)

Deep Fried Pork Belly ($6.50)
Deep fried marinated pork belly with sea weed paste.

We all know that I am a pork belly fan and so I was super excited to try it fried.  Unfortunately, the pork belly pieces tasted "heavy."  There was too much oil on the batter.  The onion and sauce on top were its saving grace - it would have been a complete disaster otherwise.  I wouldn't order this one again.

Sashimi Salad ($8.80)

Sashimi Salad ($8.80)
Fresh vegetables and assorted sashimi with a house sesame dressing.

Great light salad - simple and the sesame dressing brings everything together.

Marinated Short Rib ($9.30) 
Marinated Short Rib ($9.30)
Arguably Toronto’s BEST marinated beef short ribs immersed in our secret blend of spices.

These ribs were succulent.  They were marinated well.  I wouldn't say they are the BEST marinated beef short ribs in Toronto as per their menu description but they are definitely solid ribs.  The ribs seem like they are slathered in the Korean chili sauce that is ubiquitous in Korean markets.

Unagi Risotto ($8.80)

Unagi Risotto ($8.80)
Creamy risotto, topped with bbq eel.

This risotto is terrible!  The rice needs to be more "al dente."  This slop tasted like porridge and the eel was fishy!  I would not recommend... and NEVER order it again.

Buttered Scallop & Shrimp ($8.80)

Buttered Scallop & Shrimp ($8.80)
Baked scallop and shrimp, simmered in garlic butter.

How can you go wrong with shrimp and scallops sitting in a garlic butter sauce?  Great taste and it was a good idea to add those crunchy bits on top for some texture.  The scallops could have been baked longer to allow for a crispy edge.

Takoyaki ($5.50)

Takoyaki ($5.50)
Deep fried octopus ball served with tonkatsu sauce, mayo.

This was a pretty standard offering of takoyaki.  Nothing remarkable to report.

Black Sesame Edamame ($5.00)

Black Sesame Edamame ($5.00)
Steamed edamame mixed with black sesame sauce.

Good idea but the black sesame sauce was too sweet for the peas in my opinion.

Chicken Wings ($8.00/lb)

Chicken Wings ($8.00/lb)
Deep fried chicken wings served with Nomé’s original hot sauce or garlic teriyaki sauce or sweet chili sauce.

Rainbow Natto ($5.00)
Rainbow Natto ($5.00)
Japanese sticky beans with diced salmon sashimi, 2 kinds of Japanese pickles, wonton skins, green onions & fresh egg yolk.

There are some hits and more misses with this restaurant.  Nothing to get too excited about.  If I go back, I'd go just for the specials!

Nomé Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Stout Irish Pub

Stout Irish Pub
221 Carlton Street
Toronto, ON M5A 2L2
Neighbourhood: Cabbagetown

Date Visited: April 5, 2013

While waiting for a table at Kingyo, my fellow foodies and I went for a couple drinks at Stout Irish Pub.  We stumbled upon a little gem.  This place serves a vast selection of beers for the beer enthusiast.  Every Friday is Beer Tasting night from 7-9pm.  We had a sample of Amsterdam brewery on the house.

Free Beer Tasting on Fridays 7-9pm until May 17th

To my surprise, this pub also had a selection of board games.  You'd expect Friends Against Humanity at Snakes and Lattes or Go, but at a pub???  Interesting...

We held our hunger over with a few rounds of Monopoly deal , a bucket of fries ($4.99) and gravy ($1.99).  Good times!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


51B Winchester Street
TorontoON M4X 1R7
Neighbourhood: Cabbagetown

Date Visited: April 5, 2013

Kingyo is an Izakaya, which literally translates to "stay sake shop."  What I have gathered is that these shops are social places to snack on food and drink alcohol... similar in effect to tapas or small plates.  Kingo, like many other Izakayas in Toronto, is an outpost that originated from Vancouver.

On-line reservations are only taken two days in advance.  Upon calling Kingyo for a same day Friday reservation for four, we realized why - they were fully booked.  We were prompted by staff that we could call again at 8pm to be placed on the waiting list.  However, we thought we'd make the attempt in person.

Upon arrival, the host seemed flustered and in a state of disarray.  Many patrons were attempting to flag her down and she seemed overwhelmed.  We were able to get her attention as she was whizzing by and she took down our party name verbally - which we later discovered that she forgot to record.  That was a bit frustrating, but we decided to wait anyways with a time of an hour.

We gave Kingyo our number and decided to go to a pub.  We stumbled upon Stout Irish Pub on nearby Carlton.  More on this on another post!

We returned to Kingyo in about an hour's time after we called and they told us that they were in midst of setting up our table.  The same host sat us and she apologized for the wait.  She also commented that we were so nice that we waited patiently - apparently there were others that were very angry.  I thought this was kind of her to say and we let bygones be bygones.

In general, the wait staff, comprised of female Japanese workers, were very pleasant wearing smiles throughout the night.  They were attentive to our questions about the menu and they were fast in accommodating our requests.  They described the dishes with enthusiasm as they fed off our excitement!

It was quite the interesting atmosphere.  Pachinko machines graced the walls, Doraemon cartoons were being played at the bar on a giant projection screen, and there were areas of exposed brick.  I loved how the  kitchen had blue tiles on the back wall - it reminded me of the tiles you'd see at a fish monger's market.  I thought of fresh fish!  Kingyo means goldfish in Japanese and this was represented in the goldfish decor gracing the tables and walls.  All in all, this place at an environment conducive of eating!


Pork Tantan Ramen ($10.80) 
Pork Tantan Ramen ($10.80) - Kingyo's original spicy pork ramen recipe.  Very addictive.

This ramen had a great broth:  full of body, great seaweed taste, and spicy!  It was served piping hot with firm noodles.  But, it could have used more pork.  Despite that fact,  its taste can rival other Toronto ramen outposts such as Kinton.  I'd rather eat this over Momofuku's over-hyped and disappointing ramen in Toronto.

Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don ($13.80)
 Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don ($13.80) - Sauteed prawn, squid, scallop & salmon roe on rice with sea urchin & ginger sauce.  Served in sizzling hot stone bowl.

This stone bowl was to brought to the table before it was mixed so we could see all the fantastic ingredients in it.  The waitress then mixed it and told us to wait a few minutes so that the rice on the bottom could be become crispy - the best feature of the bowl!

  Let me tell you... this stone bowl was amazing!  It was an explosion of flavour in my mouth... and everyone in the sea was invited.  The sea urchin and prawns gave the dish sweetness and creaminess.  The squid and scallops were sauteed well and gave a brininess that complimented the other flavours. The roe happily burst in my mouth.  And then there was the rice which acted as a blank canvas that brought all the tastes together in a ginger sauce - every single grain was drenched in deliciousness! I'm drooling all over it again just thinking about it.

Tako Wasabi ($4.20)
Tako Wasabi ($4.20) - Baby octopus marinated with wasabi stems and sea kelp, served with seaweed paper. - Baby octopus marinated with wasabi stems and sea kelp, served with seaweed paper.

This was artfully plated.  The octopus was not fishy and was a delight to eat.  The seaweed was a good compliment.

The Legendary Chicken Wings by "Kinchan" ($8.20) 
The Legendary Chicken Wings by "Kinchan" ($8.20) - Kinchan's famous chicken wings.  OK, maybe little exaggerated it's that good.  No word of a lie.

These wings were crispy and were seasoned in familiar Asian flavours.  While prepared well, nothing too spectacular.

Excellent presentation!

Aburi Toro & Avocado 2tone Battera ($16.80)
Aburi Toro & Avocado 2tone Battera ($16.80) - Flame seared tuna med-toro & avocado battera box sushi.

It was amusing to watch the sushi chefs make these pieces in box molds.  Even better was eating them.  The star of this dish is the rice.  This rice was cooked with sake and the technique the chefs used preserved its natural sweetness!  The rice was so delicate that if you weren't careful with your chopsticks, it would crumble before your eyes.  The already moist rice absorbed the complex flavours of the sauce and went well with the two types of fish on the plate.  The crunchy lotus gave the sushi that extra "oomph."

Cream Buta Kakuni ($10.80)
 Cream Buta Kakuni ($10.80) - Pork belly slowly stewed in cream potato sauce.

I've had much pork belly in my time and this is the first time I've had it with mustard seeds.  Great idea - gave the belly a new dimension of taste.
The pork belly meat was a bit on the salty side and could have been more moist.  The actual fat portion didn't disappoint - it was melt in your mouth.  Eat a portion of pork belly with creamy potato sauce and you're in heaven.

5 Kind Assortment of Sashimi ($30.00 + $3.00)
5 Kind Assortment of Sashimi ($30.00 + $3.00) -  We ordered red tuna, West coast sockeye salmon, sea urchin, sweet shrimp, and yellow tail sashimi.  Since we requested all 5 selections, and not have the sashimi chef select for us, they charged us an extra $3 - especially for the additional cost of the sea urchin.

The red tuna could have been fresher.  Perhaps, it's a Toronto issue?  Fish must be flown into Toronto, unlike when you're in a coast city like Vancouver.  However, the soy sauce made up for it.  I confirmed my suspicions that the soy sauce was in-house made - it was sweeter than a standard Kikoman and it was full of flavour.  I would like to say the wasabi was freshly ground as well.  I observed chunks of wasabi  and this seemed like a different consistency from the pre-made tube stuff.and  The sockeye salmon had a firmness to it different from the ubiquitous one you see everywhere in Toronto - it was a pleasant change.   The shrimp and yellow tail were pretty standard in taste.  The sea urchin was disappointing in taste, not as creamy and rich as I'd expect it to be.

Frozen Grapes!
Complimentary dessert arrived with our bill - frozen grapes are always a good ending to a fantastic meal!


Most of us were stuffed before we ordered the sashimi platter but we couldn't resist.  After tax and tip, the four of us shelled over $40 each.  I found that the prices and serving sizes were reasonable.  I have found that tapas style dining has given some restaurants the excuse to charge as much as they want for smaller plates of potentially sub-par food in the name of variety.  This is not the case with Kenyo.

Comparisons to Guu
The comparison is inevitable as Guu was one of the Izakaya pioneers in Toronto.  My take?  The difference is in the food.  Kenyo has superior quality and variety in their food offerings.  Hands down!

I have been yearning for an excellent overall dining experience and Kenyo delivers just that.  Kenyo has a great casual ambiance with quirky design aspects.  The wait staff are friendly and accommodating.  The kitchen staff enthusiastically greet you upon arrival like any Izakaya should.  The food is spectacular!  My taste buds were rejoicing with every bite!  The bottom line:  I will be back :)

Kingyo Izakaya on Urbanspoon