What’s on the menu at Koi Koi, Kensington Market’s new sake bar

What’s on the menu at Koi Koi, Kensington Market’s new sake bar

Name: Koi Koi
Contact: 170 Baldwin St., 647-343-4618, koikoibar.com
Neighbourhood: Kensington Market
Previously: Graffiti’s Bar and Grill
Owner: Linda Dang and Nancy Young (Sukoshi, North Poke)
Chef: Nancy Young

The food

Japanese bar snacks including yakitori skewers (shiitake, chicken thigh, pork shoulder), curry croquettes and potato salad, which all the sake suppliers begged Dang to include on the menu (it’s made with a Kewpie mayo-mustard dressing and is a popular bar bite back in Japan).

This fried rice is made with smoked bacon, egg and carrots. It’s topped with garlic chips, green onion, furikake and Kewpie mayo. $12.


These crunchy chicken wings are marinated in a sweet soy-chili glaze. $9.


The katsu sando is built around a deep-fried, tenderized pork cutlet topped with hot mustard, lettuce and tonkatsu sauce. $12.


Salmon ochazuke is a Japanese breakfast dish, but it’s also popular as a late-night snack. Ume tea is poured over a bowl of dashi-flavoured rice topped with teriyaki salmon. $10.


This tiramisu swaps out coffee for matcha. $6.


The drinks

Japanese sakes, cocktails and beers (Sapporo, Asahi, Hitachino, Kagua, Kirin Ichiban). The only thing not made in Japan here are the wines.

The sake is numbered on the menu (for easy ordering), and each one comes with detailed tasting notes. One boasts Fuji apple notes, while another tastes earthy with a fresh-cut grass finish.


This Dassai ’50’ Nigori is one of the most exclusive bottles on the menu. It’s unpasteurized and has been milled to 50 percent. Dang is hoping to import the much-coveted Dassai 23 (made with rice milled to less than a quarter its original size). It’s almost impossible to find the 23 outside of Japan.


The rose petal-topped Onna Yokai mixes vodka with Cassis, shochu and matcha syrup. $13.


This matcha whisky sour is made with Toki Whisky, lemon juice, matcha syrup and matcha-flecked egg white foam. $14.


The space

After 25 years, Graffiti’s owner, Steve Mitchell, was keen to get out of the bar biz, but he wasn’t willing to sell business to just anyone. “He wanted a Kensington local to take it over,” explains Linda Dang, whose business partner Nancy Young was born and raised in the neighbourhood. They thought they could salvage much of the space, but when they started working on it they quickly realized that almost everything needed to be replaced. Now, the only thing left is the roll-up garage door. In the spirit of Graffiti’s, however, they’re hoping to have live music.

Artist Tristan Picard made the installation of cherry blossoms on the ceiling.


The frosted-glass fridge is for storing your sake. If you commit to the a big bottle, you’re welcome to come back within the month and finish it on a second visit.


This wall is decorated with Kabuki masks imported from Japan. There are a few hidden in the washrooms, too.


They made these lamps out of Hanafuda cards. The name of bar, Koi Koi, is from a card game played with the Japanese playing cards. There are a few decks behind the bar, which you can ask to play with. (The staff won’t teach you how to play, though; that’s what Google is for.)


Young (left) and Dang, outside Koi Koi.