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As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto is home to a large population of new immigrants, most notably from East and South East Asia. Communities have settled across the GTA, setting up restaurants and businesses that fuse old culture with new culture, bringing elements of “back home” to Toronto life in surprising and delicious ways – cue the multitude of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican restaurants (the list goes on) that define the city. It’s no surprise then that a wealth of top notch Japanese restaurants can be found in Toronto.
Another successful restaurant import from Vancouver, Kingyo has made it to the Toronto food scene, following in the footsteps of Guu Isakaya and Sakabar, Kinton Ramen, Ramen Raijin and others. Located in the East end of Toronto, Kingyo Isakaya has got a distinct vibe that differentiates itself from its competitors. Instead of the typically cramped quarters and loud, boisterous atmosphere found in many isakayas, Kingyo gives its customers breathing room and a little more leeway for a normal noise level of conversation.
Kyo is the newest and perhaps boldest offering to come out of the Antonopoulos Group’s restaurant making machine. With hot spots like Auberge du Vieux-Port, Verses, Mechant Boeuf, Taverne Gaspar, Bevo and a handful of others under their belt, creating a restaurant concept, setting it up and running it successfully is something that the Antonopoulos Group can do seemingly blindfolded. It is worthy to note that Kyo is their first venture in serving up ethnic food.
For those that are regular readers of the blog, you’ll know that I went to Japan in December 2012. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t yet been able to blog everything I’ve eaten there yet, so you’ll have to be patient with me. Expect a sprinkling of posts from Japan here and there for the next couple months. Here’s one I can’t wait to share: my first experience at a Michelin starred restaurant.
Kenzo Ramen is one of Toronto’s prime destinations for quick and easy no-nonsense ramen. There are a plethora of other ramen houses close by that compete for your dollars – we noticed Sansotei Ramen as a big competitor with a lineup that spilled out into the cold noontime weather.
Last time I went to New York with my family, we went to EN Brasserie. This is the same trip where we went to the legendary Cocoron – check out that experience here. Talk about amazing Japanese restaurants, right? We loved EN so much that we made it a point to go back on our most recent trip. Located on Hudson street, this place is like the shining light of the surrounding blocks, giving off this mysterious and intriguing “come to me” vibe. Don’t ask questions. Just go. But make sure to make reservations here because it won’t be easy to stroll in and expect a table.
If you like Japanese food and you’re in New York City, you’ve got to go to Ippudo. A steadfast regular on NYC’s Talk of the Town on Urbanspoon for several months now, I made sure to check it out this time around. Hopping into a cab, we made it just in time to catch a spot in what became the middle of a long line minutes later. People really love their food here, that’s for sure. Showing up to the restaurant an hour before opening to secure a spot inside? Braving the elements in the name of a good meal? This definitely becomes more admirable as the weather gets colder. Now, that is commitment. In some ways, I’m thankful Montreal hardly has lineups this size – maybe it’s because we’re a smaller city or maybe it’s because people in the city have yet to catch this level of food craze or maybe, dare I say it – no restaurant has yet been able to inspire it.
Having heard great things about Antonio Park’s westmount restaurant Park – Our expectations were set high going into the the experience. The first surprising thing is that it’s in westmount at all – this is not fertile culinary ground – NDG yes, westmount No. Park is situated on Victoria street (close to sherbrooke) below Victoria Park Spa where the now defunct Vic Park Market once was.
The ramen noodle bar just keeps getting raised higher and higher in Montreal – just when I think I’ve had the best, I went for lunch at Ramen Ya on St Laurent. Ramen Ya is a great and understated little restaurant with seating along the kitchen bar and a few tables for groups.
I think Montreal may be becoming ramen spoiled. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When Big in Japan first opened in 2010 I ate there a few months later. To be honest, at the time I was simply happy to have cheap Japanese pub food in a convenient location (St Laurent and Pins) and in many ways, I still am.
Guu Sakabar is exactly what it should be. It’s loud, it’s busy, it’s crazy and it’s delicious. We showed up on a Saturday evening and waited about an hour and 15 mins for a table. This seems par for the course at any of the trendier restaurants in Toronto. The Sakabar is located on Bloor street close to Bathurst while the original Izakaya is located on Church street.
After having one of the greatest meals in 2011 at Icehouse, we got a chance to try its sister restaurant Kitchenette earlier this month. A little off the beaten path, the place is located on the outer edges of the Village on the corner of Rene Levesque and Panet. There is a distinct vibe that lends itself to the space – an open kitchen is prominently featured, being visible from almost all angles of the restaurant. The mix of antique decor – leather banquettes, old wooden floors and weathered barstools – with the modern facilities of the kitchen meshes incredibly well to create an intimate yet contemporary atmosphere that is unlike any other.
Mikasa has locations across the city, including Laval, the Rive-Sud, Marche Centrale and downtown Montreal. The latter spot is probably the most well known among Montrealers as it was the scene of a fatal freak accident back in 2009. The restaurant is relatively low key and offers decent sushi for a little above average sushi prices. We headed to the spot by Marche Centrale on Acadie which is a little trickier to find as the entrance is tucked around the back of a compound mini strip mall. We’ve been here a few times before but mostly for the lunch special.
Just as we walked into Imadake, a large group was leaving. Sent off with surprisingly loud yells of “arigotou gozaimashita” – thank you in Japanese – we were immediately made aware that this was a real, as authentic as it gets kind of Japanese pub. All around us, groups of laughing, tipsy diners were egged on to do shots and chug their drinks by waitresses dressed in school-girl type kilts and thigh highs. The atmosphere is loud and convivial, definitely a good spot to check out if you’re in the mood to be around a lot of people, drink some good Japanese beer and eat tapas style typical to the izakaya way.
For the longest time the Faubourg on St Catherine (corner Guy) has simply been a place for me to get Phad Thai from Cuisine Bangkok. Recently, Yuki Ramen has caught by eye as there are two employees hand spinning Ramen noodles at all times. I can’t resist ramen knowing the noodles were stretched and boiled less than 5 minutes ago, so I finally gave it a try. As I ate and listened to the rhythmic slapping of the noodles on the counter, I couldn’t help but stare at the noodles being stretched and twisted with acrobatic precision.
The Zagat rated Bistro Isakaya is a quiet, delightful little place on Parc avenue. In close proximity to McGill university, students, families and seniors alike frequent the authentic Japanese restaurant. Featuring daily specials based on the freshest ingredients in house, the menu changes a little every time we go. Selling a variety of Asian candies, cookies and novelty knick knacks (sushi erasers) by the front cash, there is a friendly and homey type vibe from the minute you walk in.
Meat Market is one of those places you always pass by and take note of but never actually venture inside for one reason or another. The name itself may cause a little controversy as some know the term “meat market” as slang for a place where men and women go to hook up (check this definition if you’ve never heard of it), but then again it could also just mean a place where meat is sold. In any case, yesterday was the big day – stopping by for dinner, we were surprised to find that we were one of the few clients there but maybe it was because it was a Wednesday night. There is a lovely terrace outside, a perfect conduit for enjoying the summer weather while eating some delicious food in Montreal.
Located in the basement level of the prestigious Regent Hotel (incidentally where Lady Gaga chose to stay when she came to Taipei for a show several weeks ago), the Brasserie is an upscale all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant with a selection of foods wide enough to make your jaw drop. The sushi/sashimi bar features freshly caught lobsters, crabs and oysters, king mackerel, swordfish, yellowfin tuna, sea urchin among other premium raw seafood. The Japanese section also had cold soba and oolong noodles prepared on demand, just fried tempura (fish, potato, taro, shrimp), miso soup among many other choice selections.The “American” section featured some typical foods you would expect which for some foreigners may be a welcome relief from the rather different Asian foods you find most places in Taipei.
An hour and half away from Taipei city by bus, Shen Yen is located in the suburb of Yilan. It is a quaint little restaurant across from an elevated bike path with a gorgeous view of the lush green mountains. The owners of Shen Yen are dedicated to bringing their customers the freshest ingredients and the best food – this becomes quite obvious from the moment you even get a glimpse of the front of the restaurant as they have dozens of large pots full of fermenting soya beans so that they can make their own soya sauce. The garden out back is full of home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.
For lunch, we went to the Yamato restaurant for some Japanese cuisine. Whetting our appetites with a plate of crunchy marinated burdock roots, we eagerly waited for the the deluxe sashimi assortment. It was a nice mix of different elements that are harder to find as fresh in places like Montreal. The squid was very tender and chewy, the tuna and salmon melted in your mouth. As for the tempura shrimp, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and asparagus, each item was deep fried to perfection. The tea kettle soup was one of my favorites of the entire meal – it was tasty and full of nutrients, being composed of the juices of clams and mushrooms and a hint of lemon. Served piping hot, the tea kettle is served with a miniature cup that rests on top – you flip it down and use it to drink the broth out of. I thought it was a compact way to serve the dish and an aesthetically pleasing one too.