Momofuku Kōjin (Toronto)


The best tables at Kōjin, in my opinion, are the ones by the window. Overlooking University Avenue, there’s a unique beauty as you see the cars and people whizzing by amongst the serene Kōjin environment. It’s the epitome of taking a break from the hustle and bustle, without leaving the city.

To ease us into dinner, two complimentary eats are presented: a bowl of lightly pickled peaches, Asian pear, corn, and tomatillos that were a refreshing nibble during our hot summer visit; and a bowl of chicken consommé, which really didn’t smell or taste like much and was a rather strange pairing with the pickles.  


A lot has been written about their corn flatbread, a concoction that combines Chef Paula Navarrete’s Colombian roots with inspiration from Chef Chang’s bing flatbread. Even plain it’s good – I inhaled the toasted corn aroma before biting into the bread that’s lightly salted and has a bit of oiliness with crispy edges. Frankly, I'd like the option of just ordering them without anything else (the most minimal order is with butter and honey); your closest option would be the flatbread with ham and to eat them separately.


Since we were already having meat as our main, we paired the flatbread with spinach dip ($13) instead. The hot, creamy, and cheesy mixture is fluid from Steamwhistle beer being added to the dip, which gives it a light bitter aftertaste. While the concoction is tasty, I found it too rich, masking all the delicious K2 mills cornmeal and hominy flavours of the flatbread.

Even though the restaurant serves Colombian dishes with a Momofuku twist, they still strive to use Canadian ingredients. Our waiter explains that aside from the seafood, other ingredients are sourced 100km from the city - the meat, their biggest draw, is sourced from Magee Farms just outside Toronto. The oysters ($24) were two P.E.I. varieties. Both small, delicate, and light. Arriving with a green pepper hot sauce (more for the pepper’s flavour than heat) and pressed cucumber, both condiments are so neutral that I really missed the acidity of vinegar or lemon that pairs so well with the shellfish.


Being a steakhouse, Kōjin’s menu is very different from their predecessors (although there are choices for those who don't eat red meat). Oh, how heads turn when the wooden platter of steak is presented at a table. Our 14oz boneless ribeye ($78) arrives with a fire roasted tomato sauce (nice and zesty but would be better with fish), steak sauce (oddly tastes exactly like Diana barbeque sauce), and brown butter marrow with porcini dust (the best of the three with steak). Then on the side is what looks like a large shishto pepper but is much spicier … good luck finishing that thing.


In reality, the steak was great on its own. Perfectly seasoned with a restrained amount of salt and pepper, the beef was richly flavoured thanks to the 32 days of dry aging and fattiness (bordering on prime rib amounts). While the butcher block looks great, the wood absorbs a lot of heat, so the steak arrives cool. Moreover, if chefs are used to pulling off the steak earlier (as it continues to cook on the plate), the butcher block seems to stop the cooking process as our medium rare steak arrived rare.

Regardless of what you order, a side of Tita’s mash ($15) would be a delicious addition. Based on Paula’s grandma’s recipe, this is one for dairy lovers as the dish incorporates cheese curds and more melted cheese on top. Every spoonful is like eating cheese with potatoes, the hot skillet keeping everything gooey until the last sinful bite.


Meanwhile, the BBQ zucchini ($15) with anchovy and chives is an odd combination that must be described on the menu … had I known there’d be fish added to the vegetable, I would have gotten something else. While the anchovy gives the side an interesting depth of flavour, it also adds a fishiness that we found off-putting with the zucchini.


On the other hand, the dulce de leche ($15) dessert is exactly as described: a sweet bread with dulce de leche and ice cream. The egg bread is fluffy and resembles a baked doughnut, it’s then topped with a light ice cream and thinned dulce de leche, both adding sweetness without giving a sugar high. What a satisfying ending of having that bite (or in this case numerous bites) of something sweet but isn’t too heavy.


Kōjin means fire with the restaurant named after the element since food is cooked or finished off on the wood-fired grill. For me, Kōjin’s appeal is less about fire and more about the menu’s variety (tons of Colombian dishes with Momofuku standards thrown in for good measure) and use of Canadian ingredients that brings out the patriot in me. It’s also the feeling of rising above the busyness of life. For a moment, for one meal, it’s all kept at bay.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 190 University Avenue (3rd floor)

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: