First Look: Imanishi Japanese Kitchen, a new Dundas West restaurant from a pair of izakaya veterans


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Chicken wings ($7.50) with a sweet soy-sesame glaze

Images: Jason Finestone

Opened in December on Dundas West, Imanishi is a new Japanese kitchen offering izakaya-style appetizers and teishoku, a traditional style of pre-set meal consisting of meat, rice, salad and soup.

“It’s what I like to eat,” says co-owner Daisuke Gomyo. “This is what we see in Tokyo. Mom and pop shops. They’re small — maybe 15 seats. They’re old. We wanted to bring that here.”

Gomyo and chef/co-owner Sori Imanishi became buddies nearly 15 years ago while working at Guu Garlic in Vancouver. Gomyo originally hails from Tokyo and moved to Vancouver at age 15. Imanishi was born and raised in Van, but spent three years cooking in Tokyo. Both spent considerable time in Tokyo’s Yutenji neighbourhood. According to Gomyo, it’s a wealthy area where descendants of samurai and lords have lived for roughly 300 years.

Teishoku is a staple of Imanishi’s menu. Four options are currently available, including one with pan-fried pork ($9.50) and another with deep fried chicken thigh ($11). These are sided up with rice topped with shredded cabbage, along with pickled veggies and a daily miso soup.


Teishoku – a set meal – is a staple at Imanishi

 

Appetizers outnumber the teishoku options, and are analogous to the izakaya style. The tako celery ($7.80) is marinated octopus with celery, garlic and ginger, inspired by a Cantonese joint in Tokyo. Beef tataki ($9.80) sees rib-eye seared, sliced and topped with sancho pepper, fried chickpeas and soy sauce. If the anchovy potato salad ($5) seems un-Japanese, that’s because the recipe comes from a friend who owns a Spanish restaurant in Tokyo.


The recipe for the anchovy potato salad ($6.50) was taken from a friend's Spanish restaurant in Tokyo

 


Little corn tempura ($6.50)

 

It’s worth noting that aside from being part of the opening team at Kingyo Izakaya, Gomyo and Imanishi made waves back in 2014 with several successful pop-ups at Churchill. Gomyo also has a foot in the fashion world with his involvement at Haven near Queen and Parliament.


Daily sashimi board

 

From the scuffed-up maple tables salvaged from an old post office to hangers made of skateboard decks to Imanishi’s own name on the front window, these guys have inflected their personalities into the restaurant’s aesthetic. When speaking of the build, Gomyo waxes poetic.

“The human vibration is the most important thing to the new ambiance of the restaurant,” he says. “We just went all-out on who we are.”


Inside Imanishi

 


Spicy Nagoya-style ramen with a light chicken broth and ground pork and chicken ($9.80)

 


Fried eggplant in a cold ginger dashi sauce ($6.80)

 

 

Imanishi Japanese Kitchen, 1330 Dundas St. W., 416-706-4225

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Jason is a freelance food and travel writer and the Chief Experience Officer at U-Feast, a website to discover unique, off-menu dining experiences. A lover of dumplings, noodle soups and schmaltz, his ethnically inclined palate is constantly searching for the next flavour wave in Toronto and beyond. Find him on Instagram @finest_one and on Twitter @j_finestone.

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