The terrible weather didn’t stop us from spending Halloween stuffing our faces at Kingyo, where we were rewarded with outstanding food, friendly staff and a haunted basement.
Eating at Kingyo was more of a marathon than a feast, as dishes came out one by one. On the other hand, it was ideal, since nothing ever went cold, and we never felt overly full, despite eating a large meal. The service was fantastically friendly, and since it was Halloween, our waitress was a cheerful version of Maleficent.
The first dish to arrive was Kazu Mayo, grilled oysters in a creamy white miso sauce. Given that we had one oyster each, this dish was surprisingly hearty, with a dominant miso flavour that gave way to the oyster as you bit in.
This was followed in short order by the stone-grilled beef tongue. The beef tongue was so thinly sliced that it barely had to touch the stone to be done. The final result was surprisingly tender, and I enjoyed it most wrapped around the sliced scallions, while our dining companion particularly liked the yuzu pepper sauce.
Next up was the Zombie Brain Karaage, or deep-fried sweetbreads. This dish was probably my least favourite of the evening, though not a let-down by any stretch, as the softer sweetbreads provided a nice counterpoint to the crunchy exterior.
Stone bowl mushroom tofu was the next to arrive, delivered by a waiter in a kendo uniform, who poured the mushroom sauce over the tofu. This dish was not only visually impressive and flavourful, but the soft tofu provided a great contrast to the slippery mushroom sauce. A hit all around.
According to the menu, they prepare koshihikari rice with sake and binchokan (charcoal). Intrigued, I searched the menu for a rice dish and landed on our favourite of the night; stone bowl pork kakuni don, or slowly stewed pork belly on rice. The dish itself was a bit reminiscent of stone bowl bibimbap, as the waiter in the kendo uniform mixed it up. I’m not sure if it was the fantastic pork, or the rice or the stone bowl or the vegetables, but this dish had all three of us salivating, and we could easily have consumed another round of it.
Our dining companion was still hungry at this point, and decided to order the Jumbo Yellowtail Cheek grilled with natural salt. We all enjoyed the crispy skin, and the moist flesh of the fish, eaten with grated daikon on the side.
We were all full at this point, but obviously not too full for dessert. I ordered the Otona no Pudding (inspired by the constant talk of pudding in “Clinic by the Sea”), JK ordered the Frozen Matcha Crème Brûlée, and our dining companion ordered 2-colour Almond Tofu. The almond tofu was refreshingly mellow, while my pudding was oddly reminiscent of my aunt’s crème caramel, a childhood classic. I was too overwhelmed by nostalgia to really analyze the dish, but I definitely enjoyed it. According to JK, her crème brûlée was well balanced in flavour, with neither the matcha nor the red bean overwhelming each other, a great end to the meal.
Kingyo really went all out with the Halloween details, and the staff were dressed in a variety of costumes, from the aforementioned Maleficent to Gene Simmons in the kitchen. They also decorated the basement with a corpse in a full murder scene, and there was even a hanging body in the ladies’ washroom. Sadly, it was too dark for photos, but if you’re in Toronto next Halloween, dress up and go to Kingyo; you won’t be disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★.5
Kingyo, 51B Winchester Street, Toronto, Ontario
Dined October 2014 – Only and Junguggeo Kaenada