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.
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: http://www.kinkaizakaya.com/location/
, by Natalie G