Kingyo on Denman St is one of my neighborhood gems. It was one of the first izakaya’s to open in the West End and I think of it as a higher end Guu.
Kingyo is super popular at night and has been a partner with the awesome guy’s at VANEATS.ca in the past, they also offer lunch service from 11:30am-3pm and that is when I made this visit.
The menu is double-sided and changes regularly but they do keep a couple of standard items on it all the time, with a mix of sushi and sashimi along with meats and veggie dishes it’s pretty varied and there is sure to be something that will appeal to you.
I started out with a house made ginger ale, the ginger puree at the bottom once stirred into the drink was good but I did get a couple sips near the end of the drink that were pretty pungent. For $3.50 I thought it was OK but on the pricey side so I just kept it to one.
They also serve Asahi Black here so of course I had to have one of those!
Something that I have to order at every place I go that has it on the menu is Ebi Mayo, I’ve had some great ones and some not so great ones in the past but I’ve heard really great things about Kingyo’s offering and I was not disappointed. The prawns were HUGE, juicy and tender, the chili mayo was flavorful and there was some of the chili sauce not mixed totally with the mayo so every now and then I would get a blast of heat along with my mouthful of prawn, in my dish I figured there were 6 or 7 large-sized prawns. They were nicely lightly battered and not greasy. For $9 the dish was fairly priced-I recently bought some fresh, large-sized prawns similar to these and I paid an arm and a leg.
One item that I have developed a craving for ever since I had it at their sister restaurant Suika is the Salmon Carpaccio, here they had that but also had a Ahi Tuna with Avocado Carpaccio so I decided to give that a try, it had thinly sliced ahi with avocado on organic field greens topped with kaiware radish, garlic chips, lotus root chips and a wasabi mayo with soy based sesame dressing. It was $9.80 and was a solid dish but I would have liked to have more tuna in the dish for the amount of dressing that was used.
Another thing that caught my eye was the Cha-Shu Rice Paper Rolls for $7.20, they have roasted pork, lettuce and cucumber wrapped in rice paper with a special sweet sauce, mayo and yuzu sansho. These were pretty good but I found the rice paper wrapper to be really sticky which made it kind of hard to eat in bites neatly, the pork was flavorful and super tender and along with the lettuce and cucumber inside there was Japanese mayo which added an unexpected creaminess and tang.
Kingyo is known for having very good chicken karage and it’s true!, They serve it with a salt trio-Himalayan Pink Salt, Japanese salt and the third I can’t remember, the chicken is super crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside, as for the salts I ended up just using the pink salt for my chicken. For $7.80 you get a nice serving to share with 2 people or it’s a great appy for 1 person.
I had this bad boy for lunch, the pork cutlet tonkatsu set for $14, I had my eye on this for a while now and it lived up to expectations.
The set came with miso soup that was a bit different from what I’ve had other places, they add daikon and other fresh veggies to the bottom of the bowl that was a nice surprise, the soup was a nice balance between the miso and the broth, I love it when there is a nice flavor without being salty.
One thing that won me over with this was the interaction with my food I got to experience, there was a little Japanese mortar and pestle with black and white sesame seeds that I was encouraged to grind and mix with a sauce that would then become my dipping sauce for my pork cutlet. When I was grinding the sesame seeds the aroma of them being freshly ground really stood out and added a great touch to the sauce.
Also in the set was freshly shredded cabbage that I drizzled with a tangy sesame dressing, it was nice and light with just the right amount of crunch, also they’ll give you more cabbage if you like if you gobble all yours up.
In the past I’ve had this dish at other places and the pork has been really dry, here that wasn’t the case at all, the meat was tender without being overly juicy and the panko breading was light and crisp yet didn’t take away from making the pork the star of the plate. When combined with the dipping sauce it was a real feast for the pallet-the sauce has a spice or spices in it that I can’t put my finger on but it reminded me of Chinese five spice. The set also came with a bowl of sticky rice, it was nicely cooked but I didn’t eat much of it because the other items I had filled me up quite nicely.
Of course I was going to have a dessert while I was here and they did have a new creation that did catch my eyes but I ended up trying something that I have not had-a sweet almond tofu topped with a jasmine jelly. The jasmine jelly had a taste of cherry brandy to it to me-like very pronounced but the sweet almond tofu offset that taste quickly, it was a creamy rich yet not heavy dessert. At $4 it was there cheapest dessert yet something that I had to have on a 1st visit seeing it is a Kingyo classic item.
At the end of the day I had a great lunch and the quality of my items was top-notch and my service was outstanding, if you’re looking for a different Japanese lunch or dinner I’d definitely recommend Kingyo for a solid meal.