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Yet another Japanese restaurant from Vancouver has opened in Toronto. When I heard Kingyo Izakaya (@Kingyotoronto) was opening here, I couldn’t wait to give it a try given all the great things I’ve heard about the Vancouver location. Let me assure you, I didn’t leave disappointed!

You’ll be happy to know that Kingyo, located in Cabbagetown, takes reservations. While it’s a pretty big restaurant, take advantage of this as they can get pretty busy on the weekends.

The interior

The space is much more comfortable than Guu – very spacious and you can get a table to yourselves. The four of us were seated at a table meant for 6 which was perfect since we had ordered a lot which filled our large table quickly.

You’ll notice that the food here is pricier than Guu but the portions are generally larger and the presentation of all the dishes here are gorgeous.  They were a pleasure to photograph!

The first dish that arrived was the Ebi Mayo – world famous Kingyo ebi mayo deep fried prawn with chili mayo sauce ($8.80). Ebi mayo is just one of those things I’ve gotta order at an izakaya and the one at Kingyo certainly didn’t disappoint. It came with 6 pieces of plump and perfectly fried shrimp with generous dollops of chili mayo sitting underneath each one. Everyone at the table was a fan!

Ebi Mayo

Up next was the Seaweed Calamari – seaweed flavoured calamari served with shiso salsa & tartar sauce ($7.80). When it arrived, we were all shocked at how large the portion was. A large bowl was piled high with rings of calamari. We were a little divided about this dish – two of us (myself included) found it on the salty side while the other two loved it.  This was probably my least favourite dish of the evening.

Seaweed Calamari

Since we all like uni, we ordered the Famous Chef Sada’s Sea Urchin Shooter – aka “Natural Ocean Viagra” with shiso, sticky yamaimo yam, sea kelp, sushi rice, yuzu orange and sea urchin in one ($7.80 each).

Famous Chef Sada’s Sea Urchin Shooters

They give you a little spoon to mix it all up and scoop it out of the goregous shooter. If you like uni, I’d recommend ordering this.

Famous Chef Sada’s Sea Urchin Shooter

Something I haven’t really seen at izakayas is Renkon Kinpira – spicy panfried lotus root served cold with nama shichimi ($4.80), so I decided to give it a try. It consisted of thin slices of crunchy lotus root which had a bit of a kick – very light and refreshing!

Renkon Kinpira

One of my favourite dishes of the evening was the Aburi Shime Saba Battera – flame seared vinegar cured mackerel battera box sushi with arima sansho ($14). This type of sushi is called box sushi since it’s made in a box and comes rectangular in shape. Like all the dishes here, the presentation was fantastic. Almost too pretty to eat (…almost).

Aburi Shime Saba Battera

When I first tried mackerel, I wasn’t a big fan of it since it has quite a fishy taste to it. But since then I’ve grown to really enjoy it. If you like mackerel, this is definitely a must-order!

Aburi Shime Saba Battera

We also ordered the Hamachi Carpaccio – yellowtail carpaccio served with organic greens, avocado and house dressing ($11.80). The carpaccio came in the form of a salad and all the components worked perfectly together with the fresh hamachi – the avocado gave it a nice richness while the greens provided a bit of crunch. Another fabulous dish!

Hamachi Carpaccio

For another fish dish, we ordered the Garlic Tuna Tataki & Ponzo Jelly – seared albacore tuna tataki served with ponzu jelly ($8.20). It consisted of several thick slices of grilled tuna sitting on top of a bed of greens. The presentation was playful with the sauce served in a mini bottle and I really enjoyed the ponzu jelly.

Garlic Tuna Tataki & Ponzo Jelly

You’ll notice that the menu here is quite cheeky and given that they speak so highly of their chicken dishes, we gave them a shot. The first one I tried was the Famous “O-Sho Restaurant” Karaage with Magic Powder – deep fried chicken karaage from “O-Sho” in Japan served with sansho pepper blend ($8.60). The portion was quite generous, consisting of large, moist chunks of boneless fried chicken with a nice batter. I found the chicken to be quite flavourful on its own and didn’t find the salty pepper blend to be necessary.

Famous “O-Sho Restaurant” Karaage with Magic Powder

The second chicken dish we ordered was the Legendary Chicken Wings by “Kinchan” ($8.20) which had a bit of a kick to them. While the wings were good, they didn’t “wow” us. If you’re with a small group and can only order a few dishes, I’d probably skip this one.

Legendary Chicken Wings by “Kinchan”

At Kingyo, there are two stone grilled dishes. We ordered the Stone Grilled Beef Tongue – served with hot stone on the table ($10.20), which was the more wallet-friendly option. The other option is the Tajima beef for $30.

Stone Grilled Beef Tongue

This is an interactive dish where you cook the meat yourself on a hot stone. One order came with thinly sliced beef tongue which cooked quickly on the stone which starts to sizzle once you put a piece of meat on it. It came with a side of sauces including a red paste which was quite spicy. I preferred to eat the meat on its own. It was a fun dish which I’d gladly order again.

Stone Grilled Beef Tongue

For some carbs, we ordered the Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don – sauteed prawn, squid, scallops & salmon roe on rice with sea urchin and ginger sauce served in a sizzling hot stone bowl ($13.80). This was a big hit at our table.

Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don

The bowl of rice was presented to us before the server proceeded to mix it all up. I was hoping the rice would crisp up a bit from the hot stone bowl but it never happened. Nevertheless, it was an amazing dish. The mixture of the sea urchin, bits of seaweed and salitness from the salmon roe was perfection!

Stone Bowl Seafood Sea Urchin Don

Another carb dish we ordered was the Kimuchi Udon – Kimuchi & spicy “mentaiko” cod roe flavoured udon noodles ($8.20). Yup, kimuchi…aka Japanese kimchi. Looking at the plate of noodles, it didn’t look like it’d pack much of a flavour punch but it was actually really tasty!

Kimuchi Udon

I usually like to end my meal with something sweet and decided on the 2 Colour Almond Tofu – with berry sauce & Jasmine sauce ($5.80). As far as dessert goes, you have two other options here – the egg pudding or sponge cake. The tofu was silky smooth and the flavour was spot on. It was a nice light way to end a fantastic meal.

2 Colour Almond Tofu

Like I said, the food here was amazing and everything was beautifully plated. Sure, you pay a premium here but it’s well worth it!

Frozen grapes which arrived with the bill

At a glance:
• Originated from Vancouver; located in Cabbagetown
• High-end izakaya – prices are on the high side
• The food is delicious and beautifully plated
• Takes reservations

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4.5 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars

Kingyo Izakaya on Urbanspoon

  1. Ken (Reply) on Thursday 17, 2013

    Great photos and descriptions!
    You’ve forced me to add this to my list of to-eats.
    How would you rank it among the other izakayas around town? (Guu, GuuSakabar, Chou, Fin, Hapa)?

    • Jess (Reply) on Thursday 17, 2013

      Thanks Ken! I really enjoyed my experience at Kingyo! I’d say Guu is a close second then Fin. I didn’t love Chou and haven’t been to Hapa in Toronto yet.

  2. Ken (Reply) on Thursday 17, 2013

    Wait, never mind, I just read your tweet — Kingyo is your new favourite now? Oo.
    I’m still interested in how you’d rank the other izakayas though .. 🙂