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

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