Kinka Izakaya at Church Street
If you’re looking for the best authentic Japanese food in town, then Kinka Izakaya is the place. Not only is the food amazing but the service is excellent, proving their motto “serving people happiness” true! I was invited to a grand opening event there, not that the restaurant was new, it has been at 398 Church St. for a while, but the name was changed from ‘Guu Toronto’ to ‘Kinka Izakaya’ due to the ending of a franchise agreement between Kinka Family Inc. and Kitanoya Marketing Corp. The name ‘kinka’ means golden flower and symbolizes happiness in the Japanese culture.
Our first dish was an appetizer called ‘Gomaae’. The blanched spinach was served steaming with black sesame sauce drizzled on top. The tartness of the spinach was cut by the sweetness of the sesame sauce to create a juicy combination. The deep green also contrasted nicely against the black oil dressing.
Our next dish was hokkaido scallop sashimi called ‘hotate carpaccio’. It was served cold and had a wasabi dressing which added a refreshing kick. It was garnished very nicely with grated beet and lemon.
After that we had ‘Gyu shabu salad’. This salad consisted of iceberg lettuce, red, yellow and green peppers, and purple cabbage, the colours of the rainbow! Shabu-shabu beef was set on top with black sesame dressing. The beef was thinly sliced so each bite had a good ratio of meat to salad.
Moving on to the heavier dishes we had ‘karaage’, which is deep fried chicken. It was so tender and flavourful because it was marinated in soy sauce. The pieces of chicken were bite size so you could pop them in your mouth like popcorn if you like. Yes they were that good! But don’t forget to dip them in the garlic mayo dipping sauce before!
Next we had ‘kakimayo’ which is baked oyster with spinach and mushrooms. The oysters were dressed with a garlic mayo and topped with melted cheese. Literally mouthwatering!
Our next meaty dish was grilled beef short ribs known as ‘karubi’. They were seasoned with salt and pepper to bring out the real grilled flavour of the beef. The scallions dipping sauce added some extra flavour. The meat just fell off the bone!
‘Gindara’ was my personal favorite if I had to choose. This grilled black cod was marinated in miso as cod does not have a very strong flavor on its own. This gave the cod a buttery texture that was ‘oh so tender’. A yuzu miso sauce was also drizzled on top to really make this dish delicious.
Our last main dish was called ‘buta kimchi bibimbap’ (pictured at top of article). It was served beautifully in a scorching stone bowl filled with rice (which created a delicious crust on the bottom), ground pork, kimchi, assorted vegetables and egg. The way it came sizzling to us added to the experience of this dish. The egg was soft inside so once broken it became like a creamy spicy sauce when combined with the kimchi.
Finally dessert! We were pretty full and satisfied by this point but there’s always room for dessert. This was a smooth almond tofu that left the palate feeling cool and fresh.
To wash it all down we had to try their beer mojitos which were served in big Sapporo mugs. A bubbly beverage with a hint of mint and lime made this drink dangerous!
All in all, Kinka Izakaya is as authentic as it gets! With a loud and busy atmosphere you’d swear you had just stepped across the Pacific and into one of the best Japanese restaurants around. The kitchen is open so you can watch with amazement as the chefs cook up these delightful dishes and share them with you. Also you may pick up some Japanese during your visit there as you’re welcomed with a warm “Kon’nichiwa!” and parted with “sayonara!” Can’t wait to go back again or try their other locations including one in Montreal.
Kinka Izakaya Original 398 Church St. (416) 977-0999 www.kinkaizakaya.com