August 20, 2014
Jan 25, 2013
04:35 PM

First Look: Kingyo Toronto, a new izakaya in Cabbagetown

Kingyo's elaborately decorated sashimi platter (Images: Karolyne Ellacott)

As patrons drift into Kingyo Toronto, each party is greeted with an enthusiastic chorus of "irashaimase," (which means, roughly, "welcome"). The latest addition to Cabbagetown’s culinary landscape, Kingyo is, in fact, a transplant from Vancouver. Out west, the eatery has been dishing out elegant Japanese pub fare for some seven years; this rendition is the first to make its way eastward.

The space is outfitted in various décor items plucked from the land of the setting sun: shiny new Pachinko machines beckon from one corner; rows of matchboxes, amassed over years, liven the front of the bar while a Doraimon cartoon plays above. Elsewhere, samurai swords act as a focal point, while diners at a large back table are privy to a display of live goldfish swimming laps along the table’s centre.

Kingyo’s most noteworthy menu option is the sashimi platter (from $23), a visual feast available with three, five or seven seafood picks. Currently, ahi tuna, sockeye salmon and Japanese scallops are available. Meanwhile, the beef tongue ($10) is served with a cilantro dipping sauce and a hot pepper paste. Diners cook the meat on piping hot stones that have been heated on the stove.

Most of the menu remains true to the Van City outposts, but local palate preferences have resulted in more vegetarian options. The eight-piece veg nigiri sushi is based on a vegan Buddhist monk recipe ($22), while the avocado battera comes with plum-seaweed sauce ($8). Diners can expect seasonal changes; additionally, a special menu rotates every couple of weeks. A roster of sakes is offered, with picks including Kagatobi Junmai ($30), Urakasumi Honjozo ($25) and the house sake, which arrives table side in a whimsical goldfish flask.

Open since Dec. 18, Kingyo’s arrival once again proves that Torontonians have an insatiable appetite for all things Japanese.

Kingyo Toronto, 51B Winchester St., 647-748-2121

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