Kingyo is one of the many Japanese izakayas that made its move from west coast Vancouver to east coast Toronto. It is highly recommended to make a reservation, as it can be an upwards of a two hour wait for a table, especially on a weekend. I learned the hard way by coming in one day without reservations and then ended up at nearby Zakkushi.
There is a reason why this is a busy izakaya restaurant though; aside from the whimsical yet borderline strange decor like the flashing pachinko machines on the wall with Japanese arcade playing continuously on the tiny screen and goldfish knickknacks (Kingyo is the Japanese term for goldfish), there’s some sort of refinement to Japanese tapas bar food served here.
Plus, the environment is not as deafening.
I have to admit, at first I did not have a good impression of Kingyo, mainly because after being seated, it took forever for our server to even give us a glass of water. It was very busy especially since it was in the middle of dinner hour, but a couple who sat at a table next to ours was given a glass of water after they were seated. The couple came in maybe 10 minutes after us and after the server attended to them, she left to do something else. It was only when she took their food order, she turned around to us and asked us what we wanted to drink. This was after sitting for about 20 minutes twiddling our thumbs. I’m not the type to make a scene, especially since I was there with my brother to celebrate his 28th birthday, but in my “hangry” state, I was literally giving her death stares.
Despite the not so great start, things got better throughout the evening.
The Blooming Flower Jasmine Tea ($2.80) and in the background, the Gold Fish cocktail ($8.00) with rum, shiso leaf, lime, 7up, tonic and goji berries and yuzu. Even though it is a bit hard to see in the picture, the blooming flower tea was like a terrarium that is just too pretty to drink. Featured on the right is Aburi Eihire ($4.80), which is lightly seared stingray fin with chili mayo. It somewhat tastes like Asian dried shredded squid snack but without all the added MSG-ness. The pieces were thin, delicate and had a chewy texture. It has a slight salty taste too, which makes it a good snack with beer.
The Tako Wasabi ($4.20), a dish of diced octopus marinated with wasabi stems and sea kelp. It was served with nori seaweed paper. You can choose to have raw octopus, cooked or half raw and half cooked. We got half and half. There is a do-it-yourself aspect to this dish, where you simply scoop small amount of the octopus onto a piece of seaweed paper, roll it and into your mouth it goes. It was a flavourful appetizer that clears your sinuses literally due to the tiny wasabi stems. It does not have any fishy taste at all, but if you are sensitive to the slimy texture of raw octopus, go with the cooked octopus. You can’t go wrong with this, and it had such a nice presentation with the little ceramic cups and candle.
On the right is Kingyo Original Tomato Kimchi ($4.80), a Korean kimchi-marinated tomatoes with Chinese chives and cilantro oil. A little spicy, but refreshing. On the left is on their special menu, a sashimi salad ($12.95) with organic greens and 3 kinds of sashimi. Our had scallops, salmon and tuna. It had the ginger-y dressing that was a bit too tart. However, it had little ponzu jelly that was quite fun to eat.
The Goma Ramen Salad with Spicy Cod Roe ($7.80) is a ramen dish served cold with BBQ pork, tamago (egg), cucumbers marinated sea kelp, spicy cod roe and their house sesame dressing. Prior to eating, you must mix it. Like the kimchi tomatoes, this is a pretty refreshing dish. The noodle was done al dente so it had a bite to it. The next dish is the Stone Bowl Seafood & Sea Urchin Don ($12.80) with sauteed prawns, squid, scallops, salmon roe, sea urchin, rice and ginger sauce, all served in a hot stone bowl. Now, I’ve never had sea urchin and I’m a little hesitant in even trying sea urchin, but I think this is one of the Kingyo’s best thing on the menu and a great way to get your foot in the door of sea urchin. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the dish before our server mixed it up. A little buttery from the sea urchin, textures from the seafood bits and saltiness from the roe, it was yummy.
Matcha & Black Sesame Gelato ($6.80). Nothing really special with this dessert. I quite prefer Kekou Gelato‘s black sesame gelato. Frozen Matcha Creme Brulee ($6.80), a frozen matcha green tea creme brulee with whipped cream and red bean sauce.
At the end of the meal, they provide complimentary frozen grape presented with flowers in a tiny vase. So cute. The service was a little slow (we were there for three hours!), but it was friendly and gracious. Overall, I really like Kingyo that I even thanked one of the servers in one of the few Japanese phrases I know: arigatou gozaimasu.
Edit: Revisited Kingyo in November 2016. Since the first visit, reservations can now be made online and it’s not as busy as when it first opened. My guess is that now there’s more izakayas in the city.
Hot Stone Bowl Unagi Don ($15.80) – BBq eel rice with house blend unagi sauce.
Edit: Jeff and I revisited Kingyo for lunch as they are now so close to where we live.
Jumbo Pork Loin Cutlet ($19) – pork loin is breaded daily, served with roasted sesame seeds, homemade tonkatsu sauce and sliced cabbage. While expensive for a Japanese breaded pork cutlet and for lunch, you do get a good size cutlet that is pretty delicious.
Kaisen Don Combo – Grilled Salmon flakes, ikura, scallops, tuna and yellowtail on Koshihikari rice, topped with tobiko and shiso. I don’t think this is on the menu anymore.
51B Winchester St.