Showing posts with label izakaya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label izakaya. Show all posts

KOKO! ShareBar (Toronto)


Images of cheery smiling cartoon characters flash through my mind when I heard the name KOKO Share Bar. Bubble-eyed creatures that blink with earnest and flash big smiles as they proclaim the importance of love and sharing, almost like a trippy Care Bear. In reality, KOKO is set up like many traditional izakayas with sparse wooden tables and black chairs, each table divided by a tall pane of plastic in the new COVID era. Not one anime character anywhere… I couldn’t decide if I should be relieved or disappointed.


And in a very unlike me manner, we also didn’t share at the Share Bar. It didn’t stop me from ordering the salmon aburi sushi ($20) to start, the rice adorned with thick cuts of salmon topped with lime aioli. At KOKO, there was just enough of the mayo to take on a hint of smokiness and to add a splash of creaminess without making the sushi greasy. I would have liked some stronger finishing ingredients to create more interest – like the customary jalapeno slice, a dab of chopped olives, or even a sprinkling of green onions. The aburi was good but lacked pizazz.



Based on my friend’s recommendation (and plenty of other reviewers), I had to try KOKO’s roasted miso black cod ($36). It’s a solid dish but with a few changes could be even better: including some of the miso sauce on the side for those who want a more flavourful fish or to pour over the steamed rice, removing some of the cod’s bones to make it easier to cut into (even the large shards were left behind), and roasting the skin longer so that it becomes crispier.



Still, I appreciated the decent sized piece of black cod, which was fresh and flaky and there was a nice variety of vegetables included to create a balanced and healthy meal. If only there was more seasoning on the vegetables that seemed to be merely steamed.


For an izakaya, KOKO sure plays it safe with their flavours. What a shame, no Japanese anime characters, and no bold ingredients.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 81 Yorkville Avenue


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!

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The Sushi Bar (Toronto)


The Sushi Bar’s name isn’t distinctive; in fact, it’s not even accurate, since their menu extends way beyond sushi. They’re actually an izakaya … but I guess The Izakaya Bar would be confusing to those not versed in Japanese cuisine and redundant. So, we’ll go with The Sushi Bar.


While the sushi is decent, it’s not their strongest dish. We tried the special of the day, an aji ($8), and it’s not something I’ll re-order. Having had my fair share of horse mackerel, the fish was cut too large making it impossible to eat in one mouthful, which meant you had to bite through the chewy meat. Moreover, it wasn’t meticulously cleaned so the strong fishy essence remains. There weren’t even enough condiments to cover it up: the dot of green onion was insufficient and the fish could benefit from a swipe of a sweet soy reduction (the regular soy sauce is simply too salty).


Their maki rolls are better, the Red Dragon ($15) was beautifully presented with vibrant salmon slices topped with tempura bits, fish roe, and green onion – although the roll would be more appropriately named as Orange Dragon. Sadly, it looked better than it tasted. It was a bit chewy and seemed like the rice, nori, and shrimp tempura portion was prepared ahead of time and the roll assembled later; or maybe the rice simply lacked rice vinegar and the tempura batter's consistency too thick.


Of all the sushi, the spicy salmon ($6) was a hit: I loved the big chunks of salmon and the spicy mayo seems to be mixed with a tiny bit of cream cheese to give it a thick silky finish.


The tuna tataki ($11) starts off strong with beautifully sliced seared tuna sashimi with grated ginger garnishes on top. The bed of radish and carrot salad was also shredded to a delicate texture. Yet, it was so bland for tataki, merely a bit of citrus and drops of soy. The tuna rub could be more pronounced or at least add more ponzu to everything. The only saving grace was the freshness of the tuna.


Thankfully, the chicken yaki udon ($13.50) was tastier, the thick chewy noodles glistening with sauce and when mixed with the nori simply delicious. The chicken and vegetables could be cut thinner so it combines better with the noodles and eaten together – a small fault I can overlook.   


By far the best dish of the evening was the black cod ($10). It arrives without an ounce of sauce, but the fish is so well marinated that it floods the mouth with a lovely salty sweet essence – sauce be damned! Flaky, moist, and beautifully prepared, on return visits I’m having an order of black cod with a bowl of noodles in soup.


Although they’re no Uncle Tetsu, The Sushi Bar’s Japanese cheese cake ($4.50) was a satisfying finish – not as buttery, but incorporates a stronger cheese taste since it’s denser. Of course, cheese cake is also a dessert that’s often found in izakayas than sushi bars, but we’ve already established – it’s an izakaya.



Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3365 Yonge Street

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:

The Sushi Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shinobu Revisited (Toronto)

Finding a Japanese restaurant that serves reasonably priced sushi but is also feels authentic makes me happy. The fact that Shinobu is relatively close to my house makes things even better! I love introducing people to the place, so when two friends had a hankering for sushi, the small cozy restaurant came to mind.

Having had a great experience previously with their maki rolls, they had to be ordered again: you can read all about the double shrimp cannon ($9.80) and volcano rainbow roll ($10.90) in my first dinner post about Shinobu.

Another favourite that’ll have me coming back is the hotate dream roll ($10.50), a spicy salmon roll covered with thinly sliced scallop sushi and salmon roe. If sushi rolls could be a pillowy cloud the hotate is close, the scallop soft and creamy then topped with popping salmon roe and micro greens for interest.

Hotate dream roll

Plenty of avocado was layered over the green dragon ($9.90), the roll filled with BBQ eel and cucumber for an umami filled crunch. Their spicy tuna ($6.90) is the type I enjoy, where the fish isn’t pulverized instead left in small cubes and tossed with spicy mayonnaise.

Green dragon rollSpicy tuna roll

Yet, you should branch out and try their izakaya eats, which were also impressive. The takoyaki ($6.90) is five soft glutinous mashed potato like balls of dough, fried so there’s a crispy coating and each containing a piece of grilled octopus. It’s one of the better versions in the city.

Takoyaki

The nasu dengaku ($6.90) was surprisingly delicious despite being a relatively simple dish. A Japanese eggplant is lightly fried, slit open and filled with a rich sweet dengaku miso sauce; since the longer Asian eggplant is not as seedy, it combines to become a creamy texture.

Nasu dengaku

Strangely, the green tea cheesecake ($5.50) is more ice cream than cake - the first thing you see is the large sphere of black sesame ice cream, on the side is the thinnest slice of cake I’ve seen, really just a garnish. The cake itself is pretty good, velvety with a deep matcha flavour, too bad it becomes lost in the ice cream.

Black sesame ice cream with green tea cheesecake

Oh well, it’s a small miss compared to all the hits at the restaurant. There’s no doubt I’ll be returning and welcome you to try this great find in the neighbourhood. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3403 Yonge Street

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:



Shinobu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

MeNami Udon House & Sake Bar (Toronto)

MeNami

Most good noodles should have a springy quality to it, at least in my books. I prefer my pasta al dante, wonton noodles still with give and udon chewy despite its thick doughy properties. The large green door and Vegas style name tag may not traditional characteristics of a noodle joint, but MeNami Udon and Sake Bar certainly offers an impressive bowl of sanuki udon, despite the buzzy atmosphere.   
Forget the vacuum packed versions you find in the frozen or dry good areas of Asian supermarkets, MeNami makes their fresh in-house with a special machine imported from Japan and Chef Kevin Shin spending a good deal of time in Kagawa, Japan learning the recipe and technique to reproduce it in Toronto (with a few tweaks to meet our climate).

To sample the noodle in its most neutral form, have a plate of the tsuke udon ($7.95), the cool noodles served with a sweet soy, ginger, daikon and onion concoction for dipping. It goes particularly well with the beef tataki ($12), the thin slices of lightly seared beef spiked with a lively jalapeno basil and karashi-su miso, complimenting the plainer noodles.


Being a versatile starch, there are tons of other styles on MeNami’s menu. The spicy pork udon ($11) uses slivers of the meat with a chili mixture that when mixed into the broth provides a good level of heat.


For something richer, the mentaiko cream sauce ($12) is a dish that an Italian nonna would even like. The sauce is not unlike alfredo, with the marinated fish roe adding a gentle briny essence to it. The spicy tomato oil has no bark once it’s mixed into the heavy sauce and I love the hint of freshness the finely chopped green onion and shiso leaves provide.


The curry udon with shrimp tempura ($11) has such a deep rich Japanese style curry and an aroma that lets you know it’s on the way. On top, hot and crunchy pieces of shrimp and yam tempura can make it into a meal.  


If you enjoy sweet and salty combinations, the black sesame puree udon with beef ($15) should hit the spot. For me, it took some time to warm up to the idea of dressing the udon with the black sesame soup (gee ma woo) that’s found in dessert houses. Perhaps, if the beef wasn’t bulgogi (also sweet) but rather something that’s more savoury, I would have liked it better.


The kitsune udon ($9) has an appropriate balanced sweet and salty quality, where the large fluffy piece of aburaage (deep fried tofu) is marinated in a honeyed sauce that softly permeates into the broth.  


MeNami serves more than just udon (although to visit and not haves noodles is a waste of time), offering tons of tasty izakaya options. If you’re not allergic to seafood, get the deep fried ika ($7). After having it at their media event, I had two orders of the dish on a return visit with friends. Mongo ika is in reality cuttlefish; at MeNami pillowy soft and just ever so lightly dusted with nori speckled flour. The cool dipping soy was the only thing saving me from completely scalding my tongue as I couldn’t wait to tuck into the fresh-from-the-fryer dish.


Another crowd pleaser was the corn kakiage ($5), a fritter of sweet chewy kernels with a honey butter mayonnaise for dipping. The deep fried eggplant ($6) was also pretty good once you reach the vegetable hidden amongst the deep fried yam slivers.


The oven roasted yam salad ($8) smells heavenly with cubes of caramelized yams tossed with kasha. It’s rather hearty for a salad, sitting on a bed of spring mix and grape tomatoes, garnished with pickled and deep fried onions.


Surprisingly, for a dish that sounds heavy, the convection roasted pork belly ($11) was so well rendered that it wasn’t fatty tasting at all. Each slice has been rubbed in a dry spice having a Cajun twinge to it; the dish reminds me of bo ssam as you wrap the pork with pickled onion and spring mix.


For something lighter, the albacore tuna tataki ($12) is good, the meaty thick slices of fish dressed simply with wasabi, soy sauce, green onion and green onion oil.


If you’re only going to do one raw fish plate, try the smoked salmon with parsnip sauce ($10) instead, the fish is salted, torched, and flavoured with a smoke gun giving it the oaky essence of smoked salmon but the texture of sashimi.


Their larger “one pot” dishes, kept warm on a burner, is great for sharing. The sukiyaki ($24) had a decent portion of shaved beef and tons of earthy mushrooms (enoki, shitake and oyster) in the slightly sweet broth. It was good, but I still have my heart set on trying the oden, which was sold out during our visit.


MeNami wouldn’t be called a sake bar without a menu sporting a sizeable collection. Some are available by the glass ($5.50 to $28.80) and others by the bottle ($11 - $130); something from every price point. I was just glad to see they had the Mio sparkling sake ($26), which is fast becoming my favourite easy going drink.


The restaurant has some interesting cocktails as well. The Kir in Tokyo ($11) a relatively strong mix of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, chambord and cold sake.



At their media event, they served a fantastic sundae – the mere sight of the Pocky biscuits stuck in the matcha ice cream excited the inner child in me. Every layer presented another taste and texture with crunchy cereal, soft sweetened red beans and whipped cream. Although it's currently not part of their regular menu, I've been advised they are considering expanding on the ingredients and offering a rendition of it.

Just be warned, if you’re visiting with more than two people, get a reservation. Trying to make sense of how staff choose to sit walk-ins amongst reserved tables can be a frustrating ordeal; and no, attempting to work out the logistics for them with recommendations on how to situate the tables will only confuse them further. MeNami, please hire a front-of-the-house manager!

Nonetheless, the mere fact that I returned just weeks after gorging on so many dishes at their media event, should be a testament to how much I enjoy their creations. So with a reservation in hand, I will return to the restaurant.      

Overall mark - 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: Tasting of dishes in the post were from attending MeNami's media night (where they were complimentary) and on a return visit (paid for). Rest assured, as noted in the mission statement, I will always provide my honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 5469 Yonge Street

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:


MeNami Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Kinka Izakaya North York (Toronto)

Kinka Izakaya North York

Kinka Izakaya, formerly known as Guu, continues to churn out Japanese shared dishes amongst a jovial environment. At the North York location, the shouting becomes too much: not only occurring when people enter and leave, but also for communicating orders and announcing dishes are ready for pick-up. I’ll admit, I needed a glass of Taiheizan Chogetsu sake ($10) to take the edge off and settle into a mellower mood.


Luckily, Chef Ippei Iwata’s creations makes it worth it to suffer through the screaming. The takowasabi ($4.50), which I first had at sister restaurant Yakatori Kintori, may not look photogenic and somewhat drab, but the flavour couldn’t be further. You may be put off by the jelly like consistency of the marinated octopus, yet before you can decide if you like the dish, a powerful hit of wasabi stem washes over you. It’s shocking, but so delicious.  


Having the kaisou and tofu salad ($7) with the takowasabi would be smart – the cool pieces of tofu helping to mellow out the flavours. The sweet marinated seaweed and citrusy ponzu soy vinaigrette topping the spring mix readjusting the taste buds for the following savoury eats.


Kinka first marinates the chicken used in the karaage ($7.80) so that the meat itself is well flavoured. Coating it in enough flour to form a crust but not too much to become overpowering, the chicken is simple but tasty.


I founded the tontaro ($7.50) too salty (coming from a person who loves salt). The yuzu pepper sauce accompanying the grilled pork cheek skewer was just too well seasoned, which is a shame because the tender pork is devoid of flavours and really requires a condiment.


If you’re a fan of oysters, the kakimayo ($8.50) is the dish to order. Plump, large oysters are filled with mushrooms and spinach in a creamy garlic mayonnaise. It’s baked with cheese and served piping hot, Kinka’s version of an oyster Rockefeller.


The flaky gindara ($12) is one of my favourites: the miso marinated black cod grilled to perfection with a crispy skin but the fish’s meat still moist.


Kinka’s gyu carpaccio ($7.20) is a stunning plate, the seared rings around the beef sashimi so fine and even. Sitting in a ponzu soy and covered with wasabi mayo and garlic chips, it’s also a flavourful and refreshing selection.


With the rise in popularity of aburi offerings, Kinka’s North York location also offers blowtorched salmon oshizushi ($12.80). The pressed sushi incorporating a nice ratio of smoky salmon against rice. Personally, I prefer the typical jalapeno garnishes, but the green onion and ginger topping wasn’t bad either.


The end, the hojicha brulee ($5) had a thin sugar crust, enough to add sweetness but not overpower the faint roasted green tea essence within the crème brulee.



Kinka has been having events assuring eaters that nothing has changed except for the renaming (resulting from the end of a franchising agreement). This was certainly highlighted in my experience – the food just as flavourful, menu options still abundant, and prices equally wallet friendly. Lastly, depending on your opinion, their staff just as energetic … to the detriment of my ear drums.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in the mission statement, I will always provide my honest opinion. 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4775 Yonge Street

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:



KINKA IZAKAYA NORTH YORK Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato