Description: Walking into the room is like stumbling across a remote Japanese temple that happens to be hosting a rollicking party. There are loud greetings at the front door, followed by interactive cocktails and dangerous foods. Then two frozen grapes on tall skewers in a bud vase appear and it’s over. Time flies when you’re having this much fun.
Chef and owner Minoru Tamaru has a playful approach and a fine-tuned palate, elevating the izakaya – a.k.a. Japanese pub – experience exponentially. Cocktails set the tone. Nama Grepefruits (sic) Wari is presented with a whole split grapefruit and a juicer. Half is reamed tableside, and the remainder is left behind for self-administering. Japanese Childhood Memory Tickling Soda with Shochu involves a penguin-shaped glass soda bottle that carbonates on impact. Just try it.
If this were a search for Canada’s most dangerous new restaurant, Kingyo would be a shoo-in. Open flames and sharp twigs are only some of the perils that await. Thin slices of beef tongue are presented alongside a lava-hot boulder for searing the meat. (It may be the second most fun you can have with tongue.) The kitchen revels in esoteric ingredients, boasting salt from Utah, the Himalayas and Japan, designer rice, barley-fed pork and fresh wasabi. The menu is lengthy and equally adventurous: Cheese agedashi – tempura mozzarella in a light broth – sounds like a hot mess but actually works. Pork cheeks, more tender and less fatty than the ubiquitous belly, are revelatory.
Kingyo is a royally good time.