When Guu Izakaya, a popular Vancouver-based Japanese restaurant came to Toronto, it practically started the izakaya scene in Toronto. Think tapas, plenty of drinks and a rambunctious staff shouting Japanese greetings left, right and centre.
I remembered when Guu opened their first location in 2009, there would be an upwards of two hours wait to get a table and they wouldn’t take reservations. I have fond memories and moments I’d like to forget from Guu, all from back in the university days.
That was then, this is now.
Guu is now Kinka Izakaya due to a partnership split of two companies. However, they claim that the food, service, ambiance and staff has not changed. Kinka Izakaya also takes reservations.
I decided to have a small birthday dinner with three of my best and closest childhood friends at Kinka Izakaya Bloor (formerly Guu SakaBar). We are also celebrating our 19/20th anniversaries. I’m not huge on celebrating my birthday; I’ve gone past the age where planning a birthday celebration is a hassle and I’ve settled for just spending it with family, or now, by myself. However, this year is different and only a few people know why.
I made reservation for 6:30pm, which it still highly recommended as the place is still popular for after work drinks, group gathers and birthday shots. It’s also still loud as heck, but that’s part of the experience.
Since it was a Thursday night (or as my Jennt would call it, Friday Eve) and we have work the next day, we decided that we would skip the alcohol drinks. After all, we are sensible grandmas now. 😉
We ordered virgin cocktails: Milky Sunrise (calpico – Japanese soft drink, soda and grenadine), Ramune Moijto (Ramune — Japanese soft drink that comes in a glass bottle and sealed with a marble. It comes with a plastic plug to push the marble inside the neck of the bottle and as you take a swig, the marble would rattle, lime and mint), and Shirley Temple (ginger ale, grenadine and orange). Sadly, the Milky Sunrise didn’t really taste like anything.
Maguro Tataki ($8.30) – seared British Columbia tuna sashimi with ponzu and garlic chips. The tuna melts in your mouth and the sear gives it a nice smoky flavour.
Karaage ($7.80) – deep fried soy sauce marinated chicken with garlic mayo. The chicken at least is not on the fatty side.
Karubi ($7.80) – grilled miso marinated beef short ribs. Slightly on the sweet side due to the miso marinade. Did not have as much smoky flavour from the grill though.
Gindara ($12.80) – grilled miso marinated black cod with yuzu miso sauce. This is one of Kinka’s most popular dish and definitely warrants it. It is flaky, melts in your mouth and there is something about that yuzu miso sauce…
Unagi Bibimbap ($11.30) – rice, eel, egg yolk, burdock, scallion with garlic soy sauce and served in a sizzling stone bowl. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much after the server mixed it for us. Simply a fried rice with eel, nothing really stands out with this dish other than a filler if you’re still hungry.
Almond Tofu ($4.30) – Kinka Izakaya describes it as the world’s smoothest almond tofu. With that kind of claim, we had high expectation. Our Jennt said that it better slide down our throats lol. It is smooth, like a semi-firm tofu. Not as sweet but it does have the taste of almond extract. If you’ve ever used almond extract, you know that it best used in moderation.
Kinka Izakaya appears to still be the same as when it was Guu. Still a good place for a fun night. Expect to shout to your dining companions because it’s loud. Best to go as a group so you all can share, but don’t come hungry or you’ll end up spending a lot.
Kinka Izakaya Bloor
559 Bloor St. W.
Toronto, ON M
Not part of Kinka, but my lovelies surprised me with a pistachio St. Honoré tart from Butter Avenue.
It’s not my birthday, but Born to Eat Dessert Day. 😉