Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kintori Yakitori

After my excellent dining experience last month at Kinka Izayaka, I got the chance to try out another Kinka Family establishment called Kintori Yakitori.  Kintori Yakitori is located in Koreatown and is situated on the second level of Kinton Ramen, another Kinka Family restaurant. 

Although Yakitori is translated to grilled chicken, which is what they are known for, you can try many different kinds of meat and vegetables at Kintori.  All of the skewers are traditional Yakitori grilled over binchotan charcoal imported from Japan. The unique charcoal is essential in Japanese grilled cuisine because it burns at a very low temperatures and does not produce smoke or unpleasant odours that could potentially alter the taste of the food. The perfect grilling conditions is what makes the fine quality of meats and vegetables at Kintori taste so damn good.

The menu is separated by Yakitori items, Tapas, Hot Dishes, Rice and Noodles and Drinks.  The Yakitori section is the largest with many different types of skewers to choose from. The skewers are fairly cheap starting at $1.80 per skewer and climbing to $8.80 which is for the wagyu beef.  The menu also has some items that can found at Kinka Izayaka such as the signature fried chicken and miso marinated black cod. You can also order ramen from the downstairs establishment. The options are endless.

Here’s what I tried:

Original Chicken Broth

Oshinko Moriawase - Assorted Japanese Pickles - $3.80

Negima - Chicken Thigh & Scallion - $1.80

Zuri - Chicken Gizzard - $1.80

Nikumiso Kyabetsu - Cabbage Salad with Chicken Miso Dip

Tebasaki - Chicken Wing - $1.80

Uzura Kushi Age - Panko Fried Quail Eggs

Premium Gyu-Tongue - Beef Tongue - $3.80

Tsukune - Chicken Meatball - $1.80

Hatsu - Chicken Heart - $1.80

Reba - Chicken Liver - $1.80

Asparagus - Deep Fried Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

Negi Shio Gyu - Beef with Scallion Sauce - $3.20

Houji Cha Creme Brulee - Roasted Green Tea Creme Brulee - $5

My favourites of the night were the Chicken Wing, Chicken Meatball, Assorted Pickles, Beef Tongue and Crème Brulee.  The chicken wing and meatball were both cooked to perfection and the meat was very juicy and full of flavour.  The assorted pickles were just some pickled cucumbers, burdock root and pickled lettuce/cabbage but it was a nice dish to clear and refresh the palette. The beef tongue was thinly sliced and tasted excellent with a spritz of lemon juice to enhance it's grilled flavours. The crème brulee was a big A+ as I am very picky when it comes to crème brulee.  Luckily this one was unique with its prominent green tea flavour and the right amount of sweetness and burnt crust. My least favourite items were the organs but that's only because I don't eat them in general.  Friends at my table really enjoyed the hearts though and said they were really tasty and well-done.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Kintori Yakitori and will be back soon to try out other Yakitori skewers such as the pork belly, chicken skin, eel, and lamb! I also can't wait to try out the ramen at Kinton which is below Kintori as I have only heard excellent things about their authentic broth. 

Thank you to Stella and all of the Kinka Family for the invite!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Recipe For Change 2016

February may seem like a slow month, right smack in the middle of winter here in Toronto, but there are so many great food and drink events to look forward to! One that really stands out to me is FoodShare's seventh annual Recipe for Change, a fundraising event presented by TangerineThe event will take place on Thursday February 25th, 2016 at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market South Tent.

Photo Credit FoodShareTO

The event supports healthy food and food literacy in schools, helping to shape our future generation of healthy eaters, growers, and sharers. For those of you not familiar with FoodShare, they are  a non-profit organization that works with communities and schools to deliver healthy food and food education. They offer programs and resources that support healthy choices for kids, adults, and communities through hands-on training, markets, Good Food Boxes, gardens, and cooking.

This year’s event will include many chefs, brewers and winemakers that all have supported FoodShare over the past years as well as some new and exciting features from Toronto.

Photo Credit FoodShareTO
Some highlights include:
  • Colette Grand Bistro’s Executive chef Amira Becarevic and her warming vegan mushroom soup served with pickled mushrooms and truffle oil.
  • Dailo’s Nick Lee and his much-loved Big Mac Baos
  • Biff ’s Bistro’s Amanda Ray’s French bistro fare
  • Mnandi’s hand crafted, Zimbabwean meat pies
  • TheTempered Room featuring Chef Ber trand’s French pastries
  • SOMA Chocolatemakers bean to bar chocolate treasures
  • Mata Petisco Bar with Felipe Faccioli
  • Karelia Kitchen with Nordic open faced smorrebrod
  • Santo Pecado’s Paola Solarzano’s Mexican bites
  • Pizzeria Libretto with Chef Rocco Agostino
  • Carmen Cocina Espanola’s LuisValenzuela
  • Sweet Sammies ice cream creations
  • Beamsville Bench’s Good Ear th Winery’sTherese De Grace food and wine
  • A selection of Black Oak Brewing and Beau’s All Natural craft beers
  • VQA Wines including offerings from Chateau des Charmes, Good Ear th Winery, Grange of Prince Edward CountyVineyards and Estate, Southbrook Vineyards and Frogpond Farm Organic Winery
  • Specialty coffees by Crema Coffee Co. and organic teas by The Love ofTea

This is a must-attend event for foodie lovers who appreciate the diverse food and drink scene in Toronto and who also want to support an important and worthwhile cause.  Your ticket includes unlimited food and drink from over 30 notable chefs, 2 craft brewers and 4 wineries. Get your tickets now to this year’s Recipe for Change:

#RFC16 @FoodShareTO

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Beer & Food Pairing with Unibroue

We have all heard about wine and food pairings but what about beer and food? I certainly haven’t done this yet so I was very excited to learn more about it at a tasting session with Beer Sommelier, Sylvain Bouchard, and Unibroue Brewmaster, Jerry Vietz.

I've been a long time Unibroue fan ever since I tried their Blanche de Chambly.  That was actually the gateway beer that led me to explore the world of Canadian craft beer and the many different styles of beer that exist. Blanche de Chambly is the very first refermented witbier in North American that was brewed according to Belgian tradition.  Since Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue has produced a number of quality beers that stand true to their style and embody the inspiration of brewing traditions developed over the last two centuries by Trappist monks in Belgium. 

Jerry and Sylvian are truly passionate about quality beer and really take pride in the Unibroue brand. They gave me a very informative run-down about the history of Unibroue, the many awards their beers have won, the styles of beers they make and how they are made and of course, how to pair certain beers with food.

The first beer I tried at the tasting was the Grande Reserve which is an extra strong dark ale that is released once a year across North America (about 90,000 bottles). This beer has a strong malty flavour with hints of cocoa and mocha and a subtle oaky finish.  We paired the beer with an Opera Cake which is a French style dessert made with layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee buttercream, and covered in a chocolate glaze.  This pairing worked really well because the cake was very light and not overly sweet.  If the dessert is too sweet the sugars will affect your perception of the beer which is why it’s so important to choose a beer that is just as sweet as the dessert, or sweeter.  The mocha really stood out when pairing these two, making it a clear winner for a sweet ending after a dinner party.

The next beer was La Fin du Monde which is a triple-style golden ale with mild yeast and a complex palate of malt, fruit and spice notes followed by a smooth, dry finish.  La Fin du Monde is one of the most popular beers by Unibroue and has won more medals and awards than any other Canadian beer. 

This beer pairs well with any type of blue cheese, mussels, salmon, game, or sausage. We paired this beer with an old white cheddar cheese which to my surprise, was amazing. The yeast and cereal like flavours complimented the cheese quite nicely and gave it an extra creamy mouth-feel. Jerry pointed out that the beer is basically like liquid bread, which is why it goes hand in hand with cheese so perfectly.

In fact, every Unibroue beer can be paired with cheese which makes me SUPER excited to host a beer and cheese party.  Here are some of the different cheeses you can pair with Unibroue beers with:

Blanche de Chambly
Brie & camembert, fresh goat cheese, firm washed rind, firm beer washed rind, soft washed and mixed rind.

Éphémère Apple
Brie & camembert, fresh goat cheese, firm washed rind, firm beer washed rind, firm 100% pasteurized  cow milk.

Soft washed and mixed rind, aged goat cheddar, soft 100% pasteurized  cow milk, 21 days, firm washed rind, raw milk, 90 days, soft washed rind, raw milk, 60 days.

La Fin du Monde
Firm 100% pasteurized cow milk, aged goat cheddar, aged cheddar, firm washed rind, raw milk, 90 days

Don de Dieu
Brie & camembert, firm 100% pasteurized  cow milk, aged goat cheddar.

Trois Pistoles
Firm beer washed rind, aged goat cheddar, aged cheddar, firm 100% pasteurized  cow milk, 50 days, firm washed rind, raw milk, 90 days, blue cheese.

(pairings from

Just add some crackers, nuts, dried fruit and cold cuts and you’re good to go!

Thank you to Jerry and Sylvian for a wonderful tasting session!

Happy Pairing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kinka Izakaya

This restaurant had been on my list of musts for a while now and I finally had a chance to visit the former GUU Toronto last week, which is now renamed to Kinka Izyaka.  The name was changed due to the ending of a franchise agreement but nothing else has changed in terms of food, quality, and service.

In the Japanese culture ‘Kinka’ means golden flower and symbolizes happiness and an ‘Izayaka’ is a Japanese-style pub. The new name suits the establishment quite naturally as you can’t help but be in a happy mood while dining at one of the most fun and lively restaurants in Toronto.

From the moment you walk into Kinka, you are greeted by all of the staff.  I’m not talking two petite ladies saying hello at the door,  I’m talking like 20 wait staff and cooks SHOUTING out to you the moment you open the door.  It’s surprising if you’re not expecting it,  but it helps to set the mood in terms of making you feel truly welcomed.  The worst thing I have experienced is walking into a restaurant where you’re waiting around for 5 minutes for someone to notice your presence; it makes me want to leave immediately and find a new place.  Luckily at Kinka, the friendly vibes were felt throughout the entire meal.

In celebration of the new name change, I was invited to a tasting menu to try out some of the most popular items at Kinka.  The menu is sorted by  hot, cold, grilled and fried dishes that are meant to be shared.

Pints of Sapporo to start

CHERRY BLOSSOM - Peach liqueur, cassis liqueur, red wine, 7up - $7.20

NAMA GURE SOUR - Half grapefruit, vodka, soda - $6.80

GOMAAE - Blanched spinach with black sesame sauce - $4

HOTATE CARPACCIO - Hokkaido scallop sashimi with wasabi dressing - $8

GYU SHABU SALAD - Shabu-shabu beef on greens with black sesame dressing - $7.80

KARAAGE - Deep fried soy sauce marinated chicken with garlic mayo - $7.80

KAKIMAYO - Baked oyster with spinach, mushroom, garlic mayo and cheese - $8.50

KARUBI - Grilled salt and pepper beef short ribs with scallion sauce - $7.80

GINDARA - Grilled miso marinated black cod with yuzu miso sauce - $12.80

BUTA KIMCHI BIBIMBAP - Rice, ground pork, kimchi, vegetables & egg in a sizzling bowl - $9.30

ALMOND TOFU - World smoothest almond tofu - $4.30

My favourite dishes were the GYU SHABU SALAD, KARUBI and GINDARA. The black sesame dressing in the shabu salad was so incredibly tasty; I love anything with sesame flavour so I was very satisfied with this dish.  The beef was also very soft and marinated nicely. The Karubi was perfection! Who doesn't love grilled beef short ribs? These were full of so much flavour, I could have had this dish all to myself.  The Gindara was buttery and flaky as black cod usually is, but it has to be cooked well, and it certainly was at Kinka. The Executive Chef, Ippei Iwata, made himself available, coming around to the tables to talk to the customers. 

 Chef Ippei Iwata

We were even given a gift bag as we left full of awesome goodies! I had such a great experience at Kinka and can't wait to go back.  The bustling atmosphere is inviting and you may even feel like you’re transported out of Toronto and into Japan! Although it's a busy spot, it is also quite versatile, making it a great option for a birthday gathering, date, work party, or just about any good reason you have to enjoy an exciting night out with good food and company!

Kinka Izayaka is now taking reservations at their three locations:

Follow Kinka Izayaka on Twitter and Instagram

KINKA IZAKAYA ORIGINAL Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bugigattolo Kitchen

photo by Tonya Papanikolov 

Finally, with the opening of Bugigattolo Kitchen, a cozy and intimate ‘hole in the wall’ spot graces the busy streets of Liberty Village.  Bugigattolo literally means ‘hole in the wall’, which perfectly suits this authentic Italian kitchen nestled away on 54 Fraser Ave.  From the outside, I could barely tell that I was walking towards a restaurant until I saw the sign painted upon the layered bricks. The inside is quite small and it definitely reminded me of one of the many cicchetti bars I wandered into while visiting Venice this past summer. The inside sits 18 people, but there is also a 25 seat back-patio that is heated and covered for the colder months.

photo by Tonya Papanikolov 

Bugigattolo aims to change the food game in Liberty Village by providing the community with eclectic Southern Italian fare, a certain contrast to the very pub-grub ridden locale that currently exists. Executive chef, Quin Josey, has put together a detailed menu full of pizzas, pastas, paninis, soups, salads, pastries and much more. 

I went to the media launch of Bugigattolo so I had the chance to try many different food items from the menu.  Italian food is one of my favourites, so I was really excited to see what they had to offer.

Spritzers to start the night off

 Antipasto Spread 

 Butternut Squash Soup - Butternut Squash, Panna - $6.95

 Insalata di Radicchio - Radicchio, Parm Reggiano, Pepperonio, Onion - $8.95

Proscuitto Pizza - Tomato Sauce, Fior di Latte, Arugula, Proscuitto, Reggiano, Olive Oil - $14.95

Uova Affogato - Poached Egg, Ricotta, Nduja, Toasted Ciabatta - $8.95

Pasta alla Birra - Rigatoni, Beer-Infused Cheese Sauce, Parm Reggiano (not on the menu at the moment)

Lasagna alla Bolognese - Homemade Pasta, Besciamel, Veal Ragout, Mozzarella, Reggiano - $14.95

My favourite dishes were the Pasta alla Birra and the Butternut Squash Soup.  The Pasta alla Birra was rich, creamy and absolutely delicious. I loved the gracious amount of parm and black pepper sprinkled on top to really enhance this dish. The butternut squash soup was one of the best I've ever tasted.  I have no idea how they perfected this soup, but they did and it's something I would come back here for, time and time again, especially on a chilly day.

Each dish I tried was quite tasty and thankfully nothing disappointed. I did wish that we had a chance to sample some of the desserts, but I will make sure to try a cannoli or two on my next visit.

If you're looking for a different taste in Liberty Village, I highly recommend popping by Bugigattolo for authentic eats, unpretentious clientele, and a warm and welcoming ambiance.

Bugigattolo is currently open for full day breakfast and lunch (8 am to 6 pm) and will be open for dinner starting January 2016

Bugigattolo Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato