August 20, 2014
Mar 12, 2014
02:40 PM
Eat

First Look: Yakitori Kintori, a new venture from the team behind Guu

Angus beef tongue (at right, $9) and U.S. wagyu rib eye ($9) (Image: Ron Piano)

In a small second-storey space above Kinton Ramen in Koreatown, cooks fan the embers at a binchotan grill, sending a geyser of bright orange sparks into the air. Aside from the greeters at the front — who shout “mushi-mushi” to each new guest — the spectacle is likely the first thing customers will notice at Yakitori Kintori, the latest restaurant from Guu owner James Kim.

Binchotan isn’t your everyday charcoal. It comes from Japan, and it burns longer and cleaner than the traditional stuff. It imbues food with smoky aromas, but it isn’t overpowering. It’s perfect for grilling skewered meats, which are the crux of this new restaurant.

Kintori’s chef, Wataru Yasui, is an alumnus of the reputed Sushi Kaji, and he also worked at Izakaya Ju in Markham, where he learned the fundamentals of yakitori. The restaurant is brand new, but cooks are already spending five to six hours per day skewering meat and vegetables on bamboo sticks by hand. They’re currently making 300-500 skewers every day, but the restaurant is hoping to double that amount in the coming weeks.

Chicken makes up the bulk of the yakitori options, which makes sense: the name “Kintori” translates to “golden chicken.” On the menu, a diagram of the bird points out which parts make up which skewers. There are expected options, like thigh ($2) or wings ($2), but also less common choices like tail ($2.50) or gizzard ($2). Pork, beef and vegetables make some guest appearances, too. Skewers are either dipped in tare (a sauce made from soy plus some secret ingredients) or seasoned with kosher salt at the customers’ whim.

To fill in the gaps, Kintori also offers a selection of tapas-style plates, kind of like you’d see at Guu: blanched kale with sesame sauce ($5), sake-steamed mussels ($7) or deep fried tofu on udon noodles ($7).

The 35-seat restaurant is currently in its soft-opening phase, with a grand opening planned for next week.

Yakitori Kintori, 668 Bloor St. W., second floor, 416-551-7588