Goodbye Guu, Hello Kinka Izakaya!
I was lucky enough to be invited to the grand of the hottest Japanese Tapas chain in the city, Kinka Izakaya. Formerly Guu, they've launched their 3 locations under the new name.
I attended 2/3 tastings, Bloor and Original. Both menus were similar, but each had its own twist. After checking out their website before going, I was happy to see that the exact same tasting I had, is actually a real thing on the party menu! It's always a pain when it's 'special' for that event and you never see it again. Not this time!
The atmosphere at all Kinka Izakaya locations is enthusiastic to say the least. All of the staff yell a greeting when anyone arrives or leaves. It was startling at first, but then you get used to it and want to know what they're yelling so you can yell too! When we were leaving, we were not disappointed by our send off!
Let's do this!
Both locations started with Gomaae, blanched spinach drizzled with sesame sauce. From this I learned that I would eat anything with this sesame sauce on it. Spinach was tender and the sauce made it pop. A nice, light starter.
Salad time! We were served a Seaweed & Tofu Salad at Bloor and Gyu Shabu Salad at Original. As someone terrible with chopsticks(I refuse to use the beginner sets!), this salad was easy to eat. The greens were fresh and crisp(and not cut super small so I would starve). The tofu was firm and tasty(not mushy so someone like me has to use their hands). The Gyu Shabu Salad had shredded beef on greens with that sexy sesame seed sauce.
Next up was sashimi. Original served Hotate Carpaccio( scallop sashimi in wasabi sauce) and Bloor plated some Muguro Tataki(seared BC Tuna). I've never had scallop sashimi and I would absolutely order it again. The wasabi sauce was the perfect match to the mild mannered scallops. It wasn't spicy, it was more of a creamy sauce. The tuna was delectable. It was tender, and had great . This is where the quality of the ingredients really shine. Great presentation!
Put those chopsticks down and pick up some short ribs AKA Karubi. Original seasoned theirs with salt and pepper and Bloor marinated theirs in miso. Both were tender and juicy with a little fat. On the front, the marinated miso ribs were the winner. The miso went all the way through the meat giving it a sweet/salty taste. Can't get enough of those ribs.
Karaage was next up, some good ol' breaded, deep fried chicken with a side of garlic mayo. I've been eating a lot of Korean Fried Chicken lately and this was better. The breading was perfect, crisp, light, good seasoning, but not overpowering. The chicken was juicy and barely needed to be chewed. Everyone at the tasting quickly made these disappear.
What's a tasting with no Bibimbap?! My first time trying this and I was lucky to get to try 2 different variations. Original went with Buta Kimchi Bibimbap and Bloor served us Kinoko Bibimbap. They were served in hot stone bowls and the ingredients were mixed at our tables. Love this! The Buta Kimchi bowl had rice, ground pork, kimchi and egg. The Kinoko bowl was filled with rice, cheese, mushrooms and seaweed sauce. Both bowls had personalities of their own, there is no clear winner! Both mixtures were so different. One had the kimchi pop balanced with the pork and egg, while the other had the seaweed sauce pop with the mingling of cheese and mushrooms. I simply cannot pick my .
Luckily, both locations served Kaki Mayo, a oyster served with cheese, mushrooms and spinach. These were the surprise runner-up to the tasting. Chopped oyster and mushrooms, cooked to perfection, in a thick spinach sauce smothered in cheese. It was a overload. Neither of us expected to like it this much.
Our absolute was the Gindara, grilled black cod. Bloor had it marinated in miso and Original served it with saikyo miso and white wine sauce. Both are fantastic. You could taste the of accompanying sauces all the way through the fish. It was soft, but the skin peeled right off. Some tiny bones were found, but not a big deal. This was a crowd .
We didn't really know what to expect for dessert. Any Japanese restaurants I've been to have had only ice cream and tempura bananas. Fail. Here Original treated us to Almond Tofu and Bloor brought us Sake Tiramisu. The tiramisu was different. The sake was mild and the dessert wasn't overly sweet, not really like tiramisu, but still enjoyable after all that food. The Almond Tofu was amazing. I'd never had anything like it. It was so smooth and sweet, but not too sweet. It tasted like the liquor Disaronno in dessert form. So good!
The staff, service, food, décor and atmosphere are all on point. This is a great place to go where you always feel welcome. I can't wait to go back!
A big thanks to Stella and Wonjin for inviting us to the tastings and being awesome.
I'll remember to wear tights next time,