Kingyo, Toronto – Big taste on small plates

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It’s Saturday night at Kingyo, its full, it’s noisy, the atmosphere is frenzied and it’s one of the best Japanese restaurants I’ve been to in a long time.  We arrive about 8:00 with no reservations (the website says you have to reserve at two days in advance) . We’re told the wait is about 15 to 20 minutes, but we don’t mind, the giant screen TV is currently showing an episode of one of my childhood favourites, Ultraman – you couldn’t get more retro Japanese than that.

Kingyo is an  izakaya (居酒屋) which is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to go with the drinks.  The food consists of small sharing plates, think Tapas, same idea.

While we wait the hostess brings us the drink menu.  Many choices of course, including Sho-Chu which is Japanese vodka, plum vine, various mojitos and beers.  Finally, a table is IMG_7180ready for us.  As the hostess shows us to our table the entire wait and bar staff loudly welcome with a rousing Japanese greeting.  The staff do the same when guests leave – so there is a constant roar from the staff relaying from the front of the house  to the kitchen staff and the guests leaving.

I see a few of my favourites and some very interesting items that I’ve not had before.  A wonderfully helpful and efficient wait staff  eagerly describe the items on the menu in their best English.

I order the Goma Ramen Salad with Spicy Cod Roe, a cold salad with salty sea kelp with cod roe sesame dressing. The most refreshing dish on earth right for me, cold ramen done right.  The black cod‘s buttery texture comes through and is not hidden by the sauce.  My only slight disappointment is the chicken karaage with magic pepper blend.  The “pepper” blend is mostly salt and the chicken, well, it’s just fried chicken pieces – not very exciting when there were so many other choices.

Definitely worth trying the drinks on the menu, the Japanese vodka – Sho-Chu is smooth.   Desserts if you have room, they are unusual and tasty.  There were mostly custard items the night we were there,  but I’m told the black sesame ice-cream is outstanding.  Small plates can make for a big evening – so happy eating, everyone!

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