Showing posts with label combo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label combo. Show all posts

Aka-Oni Izakaya (Toronto)

While I do love expertly crafted sushi, made piece-by-piece and eaten at the optimal temperature, these meals are reserved for special occasions. Generally, I’ll limit my sushi and sashimi intake to “fancier” establishments - perhaps I’m being overly cautious, but low prices and raw seafood seem like a bad combination. Yet, I can still get my fill of cooked items at reasonable prices. The newest find is Aka-Oni Izakaya, a restaurant that offers an array of affordable lunch bento boxes amongst other dishes.

Standard items arrive with each bento meal:
  • Scalding miso soup that contains so much miso paste that it stays emulsified. A lone clam can be found at the bottom, surprisingly not overdone.
  • Simple green salad dressed with a tasty soy, lemon, and ginger dressing.
  • A daily appetizer, which in our case were two deep-fried gyozas. They’re of average quality but at least hot and freshly made.
  • A bowl of rice, even adorned with a bit of seaweed salt for extra flavour.
  • And for dessert, pieces of cut-up fruit (with the bento) and a scoop of black sesame or green tea ice cream (served afterwards).

Rarely are you able to find surf-and-turf for under $20. Aka-Oni’s take bento ($18) meets the challenge with a wee tempura lobster tail and small steak. While the lobster is frozen, you can still taste some of the lobster’s sweetness … it helps when the chef shows restraint with the batter. It’d be even better if it were cooked less.

Surprisingly, the Angus steak arrived pink-in-the-middle medium despite being cut so thinly. Simply grilled, it tasted like beef and was tender.

A generous portion of the saba shioyaki arrives in the matsu bento ($16), but does require a generous squeeze of lemon and grated radish to mask the light fishy essence (not abnormal with mackerel). Moreover, I thoroughly enjoyed the enoki stuffed beef rolls. Some may find it a tad salty, but the flavours were perfect at complimenting all the neutral crunchy mushrooms.

There aren’t bento boxes during dinner, but there is a set meal for those who like crab and sashimi. Not feeling too hungry, we stuck with some sharable dishes that spanned their entire menu. With two pages of kushiyaki skewers, we opted for the Negima chicken thigh ($2.25) and Matsusaka pork jowl ($6.99); both cooked well remaining tender, incorporated enough of the sweet and savoury glaze, and had the requisite charbroil flavour. Just don’t expect very large skewers, each containing four to five small bites at most.

For something more substantial, the grilled squid with unagi sauce ($9.99) is a better option, especially since it also uses the same glaze and has a smoky grilled flavour. With plenty of pieces to go around, the squid is of course chewier than meat but great for munching on with drinks.

I liked the freshly fried tempura prawn that’s used in the dynamite roll ($7.50), nice and crispy and still warm. Aka-Oni does a good version of the popular maki, wrapped in thin layer of rice and seaweed with the customary avocado, tobiko, cucumber, and spicy mayo.

We finished with a bowl of Hakata black garlic ramen ($11.99) selecting the thicker noodles to hold up against the stronger soup. While I would have liked the noodles to be cooked a touch less, the broth was thick and filled with flavours without relying solely on salt. While not overly large, the restaurant didn’t skimp on the toppings, including a thick slice of pork belly chashu, half an onsen egg, corn, bamboo shoot, thinly sliced black fungus, fish cake, and seaweed. It could rival a bowl served at traditional ramen restaurants downtown.

While you’ll never dream of Aka-Oni’s dishes (a nod to Jiro), they’re well prepared and decent quality for the low price. Besides, it’s one of the few places where the dishes arrived looking like the menu’s picture, if not better. Thanks to Aka-Oni, I can eat well while saving up for meticulously made sushi.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 633 Silver Star Blvd

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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!

Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Aka-Oni Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kinton Ramen 4 (North York)

Location: North York, Canada
Address: 5165 Yonge Street
Type of Meal: Dinner

If line-ups aren’t your thing, head to Kinton Ramen’s North York location after 10pm. At the later hour, plenty of tables available but there's still enough people mingling that it doesn’t feel empty.

Kinton’s fourth location offers a combo menu made up of a ramen, side dish and drink. Being a financially savvy person, I had to analyze the pricing to see whether it's actually a deal. My verdict is that although you save money, the savings of a $1 is negligible thus fairly worthless. Strangely, the lack of savings is due to Kinton charging more for the side dish as part of the combo than off their regular menu. Thus, this works to negate savings from adding a drink. In the brackets below, I list the combo and a la carte menu prices as a means of comparison.

I stuck with the pork original ramen ($10.90 for both combo and a la carte menu) as a means of comparing the uptown recipe to their Baldwin outpost (you can read about experience with the later here). Made with a shio (salt) base, I went with ‘regular’ strength as I found the ‘light’ one too watery. It was nice, not too salty or oily and had a light pork flavour coming through. So, it’s worth trying the regular first before you opt for the lighter choice.

The thick noodles were just a springy and the pork shoulder having a smoky quality as I enjoyed in my last visit. There’s also bean sprouts, green onions, a piece of nori and my favourite – the egg. Kinton still gives a full egg and at the North York location it’s even more soft-boiled, just look at the gooey brilliant yellow colour!

During another visit, I tried the spicy garlic ramen ($10.90) which really packs some heat in the broth. Following my friend's advice, I removed the ball of garlic on top and gradually added it into the broth to control how garlicky the broth became. In the end, about a third was enough for my taste.

Accompanying the combo, was a pint of Sapporo ($3.80 for combo vs. $5.80 on the a la carte menu). And this, my friends, is where any of the savings actually occurs.

The gyozas ($4.80 for combo vs. $3.80 on the a la carte menu) were deep fried arriving piping hot. Interestingly, they were topped with a zippy Miracle Whip sauce rather than being accompanied by soy sauce. It’s a nice change, but Kinton should consider listing the sauce on their menu as some people may be put off by the creamy sauce if they were expecting naked dumplings.

I wanted to know more about said sauce, but our waiter was no help: simply noting he didn’t know what was in it. Frankly, for a place where there’s such a limited menu, it’s sad for someone who works there to actually tell a customer they know nothing about the dishes. At the very least, they should offer to check with the chef or someone else who would know what’s being served.

Which brings me to the biggest difference between Kinton’s Baldwin and North York location – the service. Sure, everyone still shouts as you enter/leave, dishes arrive quickly and generally everyone is cheerful and friendly. But, it’s the small things that are not quite as polished.

The first, as already mentioned, is the lack of knowledge of their menu (at least the person who served us that night). Another example, was when soup was spilled as the table was cleared. Our waiter warned us about the spill (that he caused) but then chose to ignore it rather than cleaning it up. Normally, it wouldn’t matter. However, in this case, the soup was dangerously close to the edge of the table and could drip onto my fellow diner. Moreover, since all our napkins were taken away, we couldn’t even clean it up ourselves.

All in all, the slight service slip aside, I was satisfied with the food. Indeed, compared to other options available in the Yonge and Empress area, the ramen is better. Thankfully, the taste and quality is in line with Kinton’s downtown location; the serving size may even be slightly larger. If only their employees were better trained and their combo pricing strategy reevaluated than I’d be even happier.

Overall mark - 7* out of 10

* You may notice that I’ve given Kinton’s Baldwin location a “6” and the North York location a “7”.  The uptown location is by no means better than its downtown location. But, due to the uptown branch being so conveniently located and wait times being less than Downtown, I know I will likely return (thus, rendering the 6 as untrue).

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -

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!