Kingyo Izakaya

Kingyo Izakaya has been on my list for some time now, and I kept wanting to make it down to the restaurant, but life kept intervening. It was mildly amusing, then, when I ended up making it to the restaurant twice in one week.

My first visit was with Earl, Jonathan (who both kindly took pictures for me), Ruth and Ced, who, having seen the dining package on vaneats.ca (picture to the left is borrowed from the site), decided to capitalize on the deal and invited me along. Ced had made a reservation for us, and so we were seated right away in the already bustling restaurant.

We perused the menu and ordered a few extra dishes in addition to our four (yes, four) dining packages, and while we were admiring the decor (the table we were seated at looked especially historical and distinguished), our first dish, Five Kinds Sashimi Omakase ($28) arrived. Displayed on a long dish with various garnishes, we had the pleasure of eating some salmon, yellowtail, scallops, shrimp, and one other type of fish, which I forgot the name of. The expertly cut slices all had a beautiful sheen to them, and tasted very fresh.

Next up was the Deep Fried Corn (~$9), which didn’t taste deep-fried at all– I was actually a little confused because there was no batter that I associated with deep-fried foods (silly me). These pieces of corn cob were cut so that they were easy to eat (no need to get your hands messy here), and were lightly seasoned, so as to let the natural sweetness of the corn stand out. I think these were the second-sweetest pieces I’ve had in recent memory (the first being the bbq’d organic corn we had on a camping trip earlier this year, which was sweet as candy– post to come), and I loved that we were able to munch on part of the cob as well, much like you would on sugar cane.

And of course, we couldn’t NOT order the Stone-Grilled Beef Tongue (~$10). Served raw and spiced lightly with salt and pepper, we were instructed to sear the tongue lightly on the hot stone, then eat it with a little bit of yuzu red pepper paste and some green onion. I’ve always loved beef tongue– the texture and taste– but there’s something about cooking your own food at the table that ups the deliciousness factor. I’d definitely order this again, and not just because it was fun cooking my meat on a hot rock.

Our last ‘extra’ dish was the Seared Toro Pressed Sushi (~11), which was on the fresh sheet the night we were there (but I think it was just specially priced, because there’s one on the regular menu as well). This roll included lightly seared toro and avocado, and was drizzled with plum seaweed and sesame sauce. I wasn’t too big a fan of this, as I thought that there was too much sauce on the plate, making the rice a little too mushy (so mushy that it fell apart, and this time it wasn’t due to my poor chopsticking skills). The flavours did work well with the fish, and the fish was fresh, but this just wasn’t to my liking.

Now, onto our dining package! The first two items, the Tomato Kimchi Tofu Salad and the Tuna Tataki, were presented together as appetizers. The Salad consisted of kimchi marinated tomatoes, crisp iceberg greens, four cubes of chilled tofu, and was served with a sesame soy dressing. While the tomatoes were really juicy, I didn’t feel that they were particularly “kimchi marinated”, as they were severely lacking in spice. There were a few sparse flakes of red pepper mixed in with the salad, but there really wasn’t any heat involved. Overall, I felt that the salad was alright, but wasn’t anything spectacular. The Tuna Tataki was served on a bed of onions, and topped with fresh green onion and garlic chips (yumm!), in addition to the ponzu sauce and ponzu jelly. I felt that the fish in this version (compared to ones at Guu and Gyu-Kaku, among others) was a little drier than usual, but it didn’t really detract from the dish. Everything tasted as expected, but again, there wasn’t really anything to write home about.

The standout for the package came next in the form of the Stone-Grilled Kobe Beef, which was served raw and marinated atop a bed of lettuce. This too was a grill-it-yourself adventure and yes, I did have tons of fun cooking it on the hot rock again. The only problem was that one of the rocks was a little on the slanty side, so it was hard to cook on it. But onto the beef itself! The Kobe Beef was extremely tender and flavourful (as advertised on the menu), and had a lovely melt-in-your-mouth butteriness that I wanted more of. In fact, there was enough flavour already that we didn’t need to dip it in the spicy and garlic sauces provided. I would most definitely order this again, even if the price on the regular menu was a little hefty (hopefully the portion size would be bigger too, since what you see here are two portions on one plate).

We finished off the night with the Clam Ramen, which the kitchen had kindly separated into 5 bowls for us so we weren’t left with the dilemma of flinging noodles into bowls ourselves (flinging, because of bad chopstick skills). I felt that the soup had a lot of depth (tasted very strongly of clams and seafood), but it was a bit on the salty side. We enjoyed the noodles, which were a perfect al dente, and I was actually left wanting a little more. Each bowl came with 4-5 clams, which were all opened and were quite meaty as well.

My first visit here was a positive one, lended both by great food and the great service from our two waiters. The vaneats package was $22, and I did feel that it was a good deal, seeing as the Kobe Beef itself is over $20 on the regular menu (again, not sure about portion sizes). And obviously, I had a good enough time there to go there a again….

With my friend Bonnie, whom I haven’t seen for nearly a year! We met in the summer of 2011 on a tour in Beijing, and as luck would have it, she lived in Vancouver too, so of course we had to meet up (she introduced me to the joys of noodle combos at Deer Garden, which I then posted about here).

I had actually gotten to the restaurant at 5:20, and was horrified to see it dark. I was actually running through my head the various places we could go to as backups in the area, and panicked a little all before seeing the sign that said they opened for dinner at 5:30. What a dork. Anyways, I went for a walk around the neighbourhood before heading back at 5:30 to meet with Bonnie, but when I got back there was a lineup already. Talk about being popular…

We managed to get seats anyways, and since we only had 2 hours to eat (the server said that there was a reservation for 7:30), we got right down to it. We started off with the Yuzu Tuna Tataki (~$8), which was on the fresh sheet as opposed to the menu. I’m pretty sure that this tuna is different from the one I had before– I just don’t know what this particular one would be called, and I forgot to take it down when we were at the restaurant. This tuna was a lot more flaky (but it wasn’t toro-flaky), and wasn’t dry like the other dish. It was again served with onions, green onions and garlic chips. I think I would get this version of the dish the next time I was here, as opposed to the other; this one was a little more interesting, and definitely wasn’t your regular Joe tuna.

Bonnie insisted that I try the My Ebi Mayo ($8.80) since I’ve never had it before (it just never crossed my mind to order this dish at the other izakayas I’ve been to). The black tiger prawns were deep fried with a very light batter, and pre-dipped in spicy chili mayo before being placed on a bed of lettuce. We thought that the batter was a little too light, and it didn’t have the satisfying crunch Bonnie had come to associate ebi mayo with. In fact, the batter actually got a little soggy, and we had to eat this dish up rather quickly. The prawns themselves weren’t overcooked though, so that’s a plus.

I decided to give their pressed sushi another try, and since I had heard rave reviews about their Pressed Mackerel Sushi ($12) from David, we gave this a go. The mackerel was satisfyingly fishy, and I enjoyed the mix of textures between the seared top and raw bottom. I originally thought that the addition of mustard sauce would be kind of weird, but it actually worked nicely with the fish, bringing out the distinct mackerel taste. This wasn’t as wet as the Pressed Toro Sushi, and held up on the journey over to my plate.

Our last dish of the night was the Sea Urchin Bibimbap (~$10) on the fresh sheet, which also included a variety of seafood such as salmon roe (ikura), squid and shrimp, as well as some daikon cubes and an egg (I took the picture after the waitress mixed the egg in). I liked this bibimbap quite a bit, even though it wasn’t very “authentic”– the sea urchin didn’t overpower everything with its salty taste, but it was still present on the palate. As well, the shrimp and little pieces of squid served to break up the texture of the rice, which was a little bit on the wet side– but not too wet for a nice crust to form at the bottom of the bowl.

Based on my two visits there, I’d say that Kingyo is a restaurant worth going to again. The servers and hosts were extremely friendly and helpful, and while the restaurant was busy, the noise level wasn’t overbearing and I was still able to hold conversations with my friends. Most of the food was executed nicely, and I thought that prices were on par with other izakayas in the downtown area. If you do make the trip out, remember to make reservations!

Kingyo Izakaya
871 Denman Street
Vancouver, BC

Kingyo Izakaya 金魚居酒屋 on Urbanspoon

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One Comment on “Kingyo Izakaya”

  1. apintoflife says:

    Looks delicious. Especially the pressed sushi.


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