Kingyo Izakaya

Posted on March 30, 2013


This week my friend Diona a.k.a TitaFlips was craving a really hot noodle soup.  With the advent of all ramen places all around Toronto,  I have several places that I suggested.  All of them were not chosen though as when I saw the featured Top 10 New Restaurants 2013 of Toronto Life,  I put all the potentials on back on my restaurants-to-visit list and I tried selling visiting Kingyo Izakaya  to Diona instead.  This restaurant caught my eye as it was never in my radar before reading the Toronto Life article.  It was surprising how all other 9 restaurants on the list I have heard before but it was the first time I came across Kingyo.  It was just my luck that most reviews that I found talked about his rather addicting ramen soup even if the restaurant was of an izakaya format.

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Wanting to avoid the crowd that was the norm when dining in a ramen restaurant, Diona and I agreed to meetup by 5pm.  Kingyo technically was not a ramen place but I thought it would be prudent to be early.  With Toronto Life having a good reach of foodies all over Toronto, I expect the place would be brimming during regular hours.

It was easy enough to find and I was surprised that there were already people milling by its doors at about 5:20pm.  I was praying that the crowd outside just looked big as the restaurant was just about to open by 5:30pm.  As we have no reservations, it would be really be disappointing if we don’t get a table when we arrived really early.  Going through a reclaimed wood door, we approached reception and we were later told we could have a table if we agree to leave by 8pm.  As we were only there really to have a quick dinner, it was not such a problem.  I guess most guests tend to stay longer.  It was an izakaya after all.

We were then led to a table fronting the bar and I noticed anime playing on the flat screen that adorned the wall.  For the life of me, I could not remember which one it was but I know I used to watch it as a kid.  Looking around, it was not as boisterous as the other izakayas I have been in before.  Roomier booths, panchinko machines mounted on the walls and an interesting tiger mask was displayed prominently at the bar. Add to that a viewing/dining bar in front of the kitchen for patrons to watch the inside of the kitchen as they dine.   There was certainly a lot of eye candy to see as you look around.

I had my heart set on trying out Kingyo’s Pork Tantan Ramen (Spicy Pork Ramen).  Diona went for the specials menu, selecting Beef Tongue Miso Ramen (Beef and Pork broth special miso ramen with with beef tongue slices).  We also picked two appetizers to start, Tako Wasabi (Baby Octopus marinated with wasabi stems and sea kelp. Served with seaweed paper) and Renkon Kinpira (Spicy panfried lotus root with Nama Shichimi).

The Tako Wasabi and Renkin Kinpira arrived plated together before the ramen.  I was surprised that the Renkon Kinpira did not look pan-fried as I envisioned it.  It seemed to me that it was blanched and not fried.  But after I got over that, I must say that the marinade was quite satisfying.  The taste definitely took away the disappointment that I was not eating something fried.  The Tako Wasabi meanwhile was the most unusual dish I have tasted lately.  The baby octopus was boiled tender and the sea kelp reminded me of eating okra, slippery and moist.  With the addition of a good dose of wasabi, it was a very interesting dish.  I think I wouldn’t mind eating a bigger bowl of it.  I love that rush of nasal zing that the wasabi gave at each mouthful.  Wasabi addiction, I’ll admit to. :D

When the ramen arrived, my Pork Tantan Ramen looked deceptively unadorned.  I gotten used to overly pimped bowls (soft-boiled eggs, slivers of pork shoulder or belly, green onion, garlic, etc) from the other ramen places I have been to.  Diona’s Beef Tongue ramen looked like most of the ramen I have eaten sans the soft-boiled egg.  Tasting a spoonful from each ramen, my understated-looking Pork Tantan ramen was actually the better one.  Its broth was really deep and rich in flavour that it makes you forget that there are no big slivers of meat on the bowl.  The noodles I loved as it was appropriately firm, pliant and had a clean finish, no alkali-after taste. The spice of the broth added to the interest without burning or killing your palate with its intensity.  I slurped all the way to the bottom of my bowl.

As I sat there with an empty bowl, my hierarchy of favourite ramen.  Sansotei’s has always been my most favorite of all the ramen I tried but now it has a serious competition.  Yet I still do miss my soft-boiled egg and sliver of pork belly.  So I think I am calling a tie for first place.  I do have room to have two favourites. :)

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