Those of us Vancouverites with a more discerning palate that wanted some Japanese cuisine for dinner had always turn to izakayas. From powerhouses like Guu and Hapa to smaller, independent ones dotting the city, sometimes we do get overwhelm by all the choices. But what if you wanted the best? What if you need to impress an out of towner friend? Or your girlfriend? Before you default to Guu, check out Kingyo.
Kingyo earned the Best Casual Japanese for 2012, not an easy feat considering how highly competitive Japanese cusines are in the city. It is located all the way out on Denman, probably the worst area for parking. Good thing the food was worth it.
We immediately fired off a salvo of orders after we received the menu, and the feast came so quickly that the table ran out of room. First up was the humble Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, thinly sliced ahi tuna and avocado over organic greens topped with Kaiware radish, garlic chips, lotus root chips, wasabi mayo, and soy based sesame dressing. I was immediately taken in by how intricate this was, and how the tuna was complemented by so many ingredients – all working together to give the dish a wonderful combination of flavors.
Next was the Five Kinds of Sashimi, consisted of five of the freshest sashimi in the kitchen that day with freshly grated wasabi. Our selection that day was salmon, ahi tuna, yellowtail tuna (hamachi), scallop, and shrimp. Presentation was over the top, but so was the freshness – any fresher and it would’ve just swam away.
Every time Kobe beef is on the menu, it’s a like a beacon and I just have to get it. No exceptions. It was presented yakiniku style, with meat marinated and the “grill” being a hot stone. The diner is responsible for bringing the meat to the way that he/she wants it to be cooked…so blame’s off the chef for if the meat was overcooked (too dry) or undercooked (too chewy). I of course didn’t overcook mine, and as a result I was rewarded with that subtle buttery texture as expected of Kobe beef and a marinated beef taste.
Close up of the Kobe in action.
Grilled Black Cod, grilled “homemade sweet miso” marinated black cod with special yuzu miso sauce. Not one of the more creative dishes of the night, this was nonetheless enjoyable. It was silky and buttery in texture. However I though it was a tad oily and I couldn’t quite taste the miso marinade. I was expecting it to shine through the fish taste, but it didn’t.
Chinese sweetened balsamico sauteed dynamic jumbo beef rib, sweet balsamic vinegarette sauteed super tender beef rib, with sweet balsamic vinegarette sauteed super tender beef rib with baby carrot, snap pea, and original cilantro sauce. This is more or less the same recipe from Suika. Just like the rib from Suika, it was sweet, ULTRA tender, and just simply pack full of flavor.
Kingyo’s Chashu Plate, long time stewed tender pork belly served with soft boiled egg dip. Like all of other Kingyo’s dishes so far, this was well executed with the meat being very tender. What really surprised me was the egg dipping sauce. It was creamy and quite tasty, and I was using it for dipping other meat on the table as well.
The second yakiniku style dish was the Stone grilled beef tongue, served with yuzu red peper paste and green onions. This was so thinly sliced, that it would burn and stick to the hot stone if you’re not careful. When cooked properly, it was delicious.
More food porn:
The Kingyo’s famous invincible and undefeated tan-tan noodle, noodles in pork bone and shrimp broth seasoned with sesame, miso and Chinese chive and black sesame. This was a bowl I’d love to have for lunch on a cold, rainy work day. A Chinese influenced dish with Japanense ingredients, the flavor was strong and flavorful. The broth, which was pretty much the soul of the dish, had so much depth. The noodles were firm and chewy, and the garnish were so well seasoned and was screaming with flavors. Very well done.
For desserts, I had the Green Tea Brulee. The ice cream was almost frozen like an ice cream bar topped with a razor thin, sweet caramelized crust. Perfect way to end the evening.
Here are the other desserts that the others have. The Kingyo Homemade Gelato (Matcha/Yuzu):
The Kingyo Almond Tofu, yet another dish I did not get a taste.
Complementary Frozen grapes – Kingyo’s way to finish up a good meal and to clean your palate.
Kingyo set itself apart from others by having higher standards and more focused flavors. It’s like saying, I’m an adult now, and I should be having something better than Guu/Hapa, and Kingyo would be the ideal place to come to. I love how everything was seasoned and carefully executed – there wasn’t a dish that I didn’t like. Kingyo is fast becoming my favorite izakaya restaurant. There’s a certain website selling “dining passes” to it right now, but that menu barely scratches the surface of what the restaurant can offer. Ditch the pass (and its juvenile antics) and come explore the menu yourself.