Yakitori Kintori (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 668 Bloor Street West (2nd floor)
Website: http://yakitorikintori.com/

Type of Meal: Dinner


The newest addition to the Guu/Kinton/Ja Bistro empire, Yakatori Kintori has a similar set-up to its sister restaurants. A clean yet warm environment, efficient use of seating space and an open concept kitchen so diners can watch as chefs make skewer after skewer over hot grills.


Unfortunately, also like Guu, no reservations are taken after 5pm so if you want to eat at a normal hour be prepared to wait. Luckily, there are many bars in the surrounding K-Town area that helped us kill the 40 minute wait. Surprisingly, for a place that offers a limited menu, tables turned over slower than expected; our meal lasted for over one and a half hours.

We couldn’t visit without trying their yakatori, which are essentially grilled skewers holding various ingredients. In most instances, the menu offers a choice between teriyaki sauce or salt as the flavouring agent. We relied on the expertise of our waiter to choose the best one.

The meat and vegetable combinations were ones I enjoyed most as there was a bit more contrast in terms of flavors and textures. The enoki bacon ($2.5) is a nice take on the izakaya dish I generally like (except in Yakitori Kintori’s case wrapped with bacon rather than beef) and was a decent combination of well cooked bacon and crunchy mushrooms. The jalapeno nikuzume ($3.50) was a bit bland since the heat of the ribs and seeds of the pepper were removed so it tasted more like bell peppers. But, the smoky pepper with some ground chicken was still respectable… but would have benefited for a thicker sauce or something else mixed into the ground chicken.


If you enjoy meat balls, the cheese tsukune ($2.30) may be a good option, given it’s essentially a giant ground chicken meat ball stuffed with a sizeable piece of gooey cheese. Like the jalapeno, it was a bit bland, so an extra drizzle of glaze on top could improve the dish. The momo ($1.90) is a simple skewer of grilled dark chicken meat – nothing amazing but quite tender and always a safe choice.


Lastly, we shared a skewer of the buta bara ($2) or pork belly. It was well rendered so wasn’t too fatty, yet still have enough of the fat that there was a tender gelatinous bite to the pork.


Another skewer, which isn’t part of the yakatori section was the chicken karaage ($6). The deep fried chicken was quite delicious, juicy and tender. Complete with a dish of mayonnaise and ketchup it at least provided patrons with the option to season it to their tastes.


An interesting sounding dish was the yakionigiri ($3) described simply as a charcoal grilled rice ball, with a choice of plum or konbu kelp in the middle. We opted for the plum version which tinted the middle of the rice a lovely pinky hue. In the end, there’s nothing different from what’s described – it was a ball of rice which is lightly grilled. The crispy toasted exterior was a nice contrast against the soft sticky rice but the yakinigiri needed some sort of sauce on it.


One of my favourite dishes of the night was the takowasabi ($4.50) a cold octopus mixture that’s spiked with plenty of wasabi. Unlike the other dishes which were relatively tame, the takowasabi certainly awakens your senses and clears out the sinus. But, more pieces of nori are required as the amount of mixture far outweighs what could be wrapped. I ended up adding some of it to the grilled rice ball (yakionigiri) which also helped calm the blast of wasabi down a bit.


Our table was quite excited when the dekitate tofu ($7) arrived, a fresh tofu that’s made table side. Unfortunately, ours didn’t work out very well and hadn’t set. Our waiter immediately took it back to prepare a new one for us – this time doing it in the kitchen and checking it to make sure it’s done correctly. We were pleasantly surprised with the finished product – piping hot silken tofu that can be seasoned to your heart’s content with the salt, pepper and ponzu they provide. The soy was finely grounded so it’s not as grainy as other tofus and delicately flavoured. Even if you don’t normally like tofu you may enjoy the dish so it’s worth a try.


Our waiter was customer service savvy enough to give us a complementary portion of the tofu & kaisou salad ($7) to tide us over while waiting for the table side tofu dish. The cubes of ponzu jelly tossed throughout really helps awaken what otherwise could be a boring cube of cold tofu with spring mix. This tofu salad certainly held its ground against the ones I’ve had at Bent and Zen.


To finish, our waiter treated us to the beer sorbet ($5) and sake ice cream ($5).  You could certainly taste the alcoholic content in both. Personally, I found that each of the desserts by itself was forgettable and the beer sorbet too bitter - especially since I had just finished a glass of the sweet Kintori white sangria ($7). But mixed together the sorbet and ice cream became a much better dessert with the ice cream sweetening the sorbet and the sorbet adding a nice crunch against the creamy ice cream.


On a side note the sangria was a bit disappointing – really wine with some pear juice in it. When I had read the menu describing it with lychee, orange and pear I was expecting actual wedges of the fruit. Alas, it arrived with only one lonely slice of orange. In my opinion, the sake was a much better option. Our table shared a 10oz portion of the junmai ginjo ($25) and it was a very easy going with hints of fruity sweetness (without being actually sweet).


Kintori is a welcomed addition to the family - a nice alternative to the loud screaming of Guu and as much as I love JaBistro, Kintori is a more wallet friendly. If only they extended the time they take reservations it would be so much better. 
 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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