Introducing: Kingyo Toronto, the Cabbagetown outpost of Vancouver’s celebrated izakaya
Kingyo is the latest Japanese restaurant to make the move from Vancouver to Toronto, following the success of Guu, Guu Sakabar, Kinton, Hapa Izakaya and Ramen Raijin. Helming the Cabbagetown restaurant, which took over the space that previously held Stonegrill on Winchester, is Koji Zenimaru, formerly head chef at the original Vancouver location, who is joined by a team of former Kingyo and Guu staffers. The 120-seat room is full of whimsical design touches: tables with tree-stump legs, a bar inlaid with an antique matchbox mosaic, blinking Pachinko machines on the walls. There’s also plenty of goldfish paraphernalia; after all, kingyo is Japanese for goldfish.
Chef Tsuyoshi Yoshinaga heads the kitchen, serving a menu of refined Japanese bar food that will be very familiar to fans of the original Denman Street location in Vancouver, although expect that to change as the kitchen continues to practise kodawari (the never-ending pursuit of perfection). The visually arresting seasonal sashimi platter ($23-$45) is served on a bamboo fan and dusted with thin goldfish-shaped carrot slices, roe and lotus root chips. Staples like the popular karaage (fried chicken) with magic powder ($9) and the “KinChan” chicken wings ($8.20) are available, as is DIY stone-grilled Tajima beef ($30), which is sourced from Australia, and its wallet-friendly counterpart, beef tongue ($10.20). The cheekily worded menu also boasts an impressive array of vegan dishes, including a Kyoto-style kobachi bowl ($15) and “looks like fish yah? vegetable nigiri sushi” ($22), both of which are based on shojin (vegan Buddhist monks) recipes.
The long drink list features reasonably priced wines that are not available at the LCBO, beer both in bottles ($5–$7) and on tap (starting at $4.50), shochu (starting at $3) and a Japanese-dominated list of sakes (starting at $9.50), including Kagatobi Junmai Sake ($30 per bottle). Cocktails include the signature fresh ginger highball ($8.50) and non-alcoholic options like homemade ginger ale flavoured with honey ($4). Come January, Kingyo will also have Kozaemon sake on tap ($9 per glass), an Ontario first.