Kingyo (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 51B Winchester Street
Type of Meal: Lunch

Success! I’ve finally made it out to Kingyo! It’s been on my list of restaurants to visit for two years and at last a perfect opportunity for a meal presented itself. Situated on a quiet street off Parliament, the restaurant is unexpectedly large on the inside. Unlike most izakayas, the dining room is open concept and the tables, thankfully, aren’t packed too closely together.

Their lunch menu looked delicious with many options to choose from. Wanting to try a bit of everything, their assorted deluxe bento ($17) seemed like a good choice. At first, I was nervous there’d be none left (they only make ten sets per day), but we were early enough to score one.

It arrives as a tray filled with various small dishes, pickled vegetables, a generous bowl of rice and miso soup. This is certainly a satisfying meal that would be great for sharing with a couple more dishes from their a la carte menu.

The seared ahi-tuna was beautifully presented and the dish that drew my attention. Thinly sliced it was topped with a chili oil that wasn’t too spicy, which didn’t cover the fish. Personally, I would have liked the addition of something vinegary and/or salty mixed into everything, but all in all a decent dish.

I’m undecided on the deep fried taro croquettes. Not knowing what they were, I bit into them expecting takoyaki (Japanese octopus balls). When I was greeted with a salty smooth paste it seemed off. The taro flavour was so subtle that there was little taste but salt. These need a contrasting texture – the crust wasn’t crispy enough and there was nothing added into the filling. In the end, it all just seemed a tad mushy for my taste.

What redeemed the bento was the chicken karaage - my favorite of all the dishes. Juicy, hot and crispy; it was nuggets of perfectly fried chicken. Kingyo’s karaage is influenced by a version served at O-Sho, a restaurant in Japan. What makes it different from most is the pepper mixed into the batter which adds a slightly elevated flavour.  

The pork belly must have been braised for hours as it simply melts in your mouth and is filled with a juicy sweet essence. Served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes it’s a delicious rich dish that should be enjoyed in smaller portions. 

A rolled up egg omelette with a dollop of grated turnip added a lovely colour to the platter but was forgettable. It was cold and lacked any flavour. 

A refreshing addition to the bento was the tofu salad. Two slices of silky tofu was simply dressed in a soy ponzu sauce and topped with garlic chips for an added hit of flavour and crunch. 

The tempura shrimp were disappointing as they were lukewarm, over battered and lacked the fluffy crust normally expected. But, the accompanying tartar sauce was tasty. 

At first, the minced pork meatball showed promise with its tender meat and sweet sauce. The flavour reminded me of the Shanghainese “lion head” meatballs, except with a finer texture. However, in the middle of my meatball there was a big hunk of raw meat which was off putting. 

The pickled napa cabbage with carrots went well to counterbalance the fried food. While the blanched chives required more salt as it was far too bland (I ended up dipping it in the pork belly potato mixture). 

As customary for Japanese set meals there was a bowl of warm miso soup to wash down everything. At Kingyo, theirs contained slivers of root vegetables which was quite nice.

In general, I found the bento had way too many fried items and lacked the fish I was expecting. On Kingyo’s website, their bento is pictured with sashimi and grilled fish – both would have likely been much tastier than the poorly executed tempura shrimp and meatball. Sadly, my bento was a combination of dishes that didn’t highlight what Kingyo could do well in. 

My friend’s dishes that were ordered off their a la carte menu looked much more impressive. Aside, from looking beautiful, she noted they were also delicious. The aburi toro and avocado battera ($14.80) was a pressed sushi topped with tuna.

Additionally, the seared tuna with avocado ($11.80) looked like it’d be a cacophony of flavours and textures – a dish that would definitely be up my alley.

Based on the experience, the bento was marginal but the other a la carte dishes looked much more impressive. Additionally, I have heard good things about their ramen, which seems to only be served during dinner. Who knows, perhaps I would have greater success with an evening meal. Alas, it may be another two years before I have an excuse to return. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!