Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kinka Izakaya

A few years back on one of our trips to Toronto for the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival I discovered a place that has been a revelation to me. One evening we booked some spots at Guu SakaBar. First off, that's when I discovered the concept of izakaya, or simply put, Japanese tapas. Second, that's how I discovered a creative yet still authentic menu that's exclusive to the Guu family which has six locations in Vancouver and three in Toronto.

When I came back from France last Summer one of the first things I was told was "Guu is coming to Montreal".

Say what?

You mean that place we went to in Toronto that served such great food it nearly gave me multiple orgasms and which I had dreamed of for months?

"Yeah, but the name won't be Guu, it's going to be Kinka".

So I went, I had to give it a try. Before I move on to actual pictures of food, let me tell you one thing : it is very good, BUT, not as good as Guu in Toronto. And from what I've heard, Guu in Toronto is not as good as Guu in Vancouver. Recipes are the same and the staff handles everything the same way. The slight difference in the taste (if you can actually taste it) most probably comes, in my opinion, from the ingredients themselves. I highly doubt they use the exact same ingredients in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Also, having worked in the food industry before, I know freshness and handling aren't the same from a location to another mostly because of transport, and that might explain that difference in the taste.

Because I'm a pig, I obviously went several times. Each time I go I have to have at least one serving of takoyaki but I always try different things, my goal being to try every item on the menu.

The following pictures are from the time I brought Nathanel there for the first time (what have I done now I got someone hooked to that place). Initially we were supposed to go to Kazu, but because there was a line up as usual, he suggested we go to Kinka because he hadn't been before. We decided not to abuse and this is pretty much nothing compared to what we had the times we came back.

Enough talking. Pictures please!

We started off with some delicious gomaae.

Basically blanched spinach and green bean with sesame sauce. Eaten as an appetizer and delicious on its own (don't you eat that over a bowl of rice).

How about some slimy takowasabi?

The texture may be weird to some and hard to work with for others. That yummy marinated octopus with wasabi has to be eaten with the nori sheets and careful if you can't handle wasabi because you won't be able to handle that appetizer.

Next up, a classic, a must have, karaage.

Marinated fried chicken served with a spoonful of spicy mayo. I am honestly not a fan of fried chicken but karaage is so good I always make an exception for it. The reason is simple : because it is marinated it stays moist and tender despite being tossed in flour and then deep fried. It ain't your regular dry fried chicken, hell no.

Ooh the next one I had trouble sharing it : kaisen udon.

I am not a fan of udon to start with. But that bowl of creamy udon noodles with salmon, squid, prawn, clam, and vegetable changed the way I look at udon now. Actually it's so good it puts to shame any traditional pasta I've had before. Oh snap.

Next up : takoyaki.

I don't have to explain myself. No really. What, you don't know what takoyaki is? Delicious balls of heaven. Whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant I have to have takoyaki and I will judge the entire restaurant's integrity based on their takoyaki. Does Kinka pass the test? Hell yeah. The taste and texture are perfect. I could go on all night long stuffing myself with them octopus balls.

Ooh yes, one of my favorites, kakimayo.

Take an oyster. Bake it with spinach, mushroom, and garlic mayo. Then garnish with cheese. Finish it off under the broiler. This. No word.

Another one of those Japanese classics : okonomiyaki.

Just like I do with takoyaki, I will judge a restaurant if they can't make a proper okonomiyaki. Unlike other places though, the one at Kinka is very caramelized on both sides, which intensifies the taste of the tonkatsu sauce and gives it a smokey flavor. It's also very dense so be prepared.

We started getting full (oh yah, we had two pints of beer each) but when our lovely waitress asked if we wanted dessert we looked at each other, hesitated, and as I was about to say no Nathanel said yes. Sooo we had dessert.

Nathanel decided to go for some kabocha zenzai.

It seemed weird and appealing at the same time. It's a sweet kabocha pumpkin purée with rice cake, red bean paste and ice cream. In my opinion even if you think it sounds weird you should totally give it a try because that thing is absolutely delicious. It was so good Nathanel wouldn't let me have more than a spoon of it.

For my part I decided to go for something I am more accustomed with, hojicha pudding, or in other words, green tea crème brûlée.

Served with a ball of green tea ice cream, it's a safe value if you don't have a sweet tooth or are scared of trying out new things. But all the desserts there are worth it, trust me.

And so that's it for today. Kinka is a great way to enjoy Japanese food with a modern twist. My favorite spot to sit is at the bar because you get to see the cooks working and talk to them at the same time. As the food lines up on the bar for the waitresses to take to the tables it gives you a very good idea of what the other items you haven't had yet look like. And it smells good. And it makes you wanna get fat. Also, the ambiance at Kinka is quite awesome, with everyone welcoming you loudly as you come in and wishing you goodbye when you leave. I hope you'll give Kinka a try and will enjoy it as much as I do.

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