Kingyo (51 Winchester St. Toronto)

We stumbled into Kingyo, a Japanese establishment in quaint Cabbagetown on a stormy night. Our bellies aching after hard laughter from an improv show, we needed food to wrap up the fun evening!

I had heard quite a bit of buzz about Kingyo, so my expectations were higher than usual.  My happy-go-lucky buddy hadn’t heard anything so he was just ecstatic to be indoors to use the bathroom!  I taunted him all the way to the restaurant of course.

As we shook snow off our boots, I noticed the virtually unchanged space once occupied by the famous Stonegrill.  The plush lounge booths were still in tack and the moody decor still present from its predecessor.  Japanese art and greenery accented the big space, warming the setting a little from cold and aloof.  The back wall boasted a large built in flat screen with Japanese scenes flashing as bar staff mixed away.  Bamboo shutters frame the flat screen creating a very zen atmosphere.  Overall, we liked the setting, and imagined the 160 seating capacity brimming to the max with hungry diners.

It was quiet.  Four to five tables seated at the most.  The menu was extensive, with good variety of protein options, from seafood, beef, pork, to chicken. We ordered:

Ebi Mayo the famous Kinyo deep fried prawn with chili mayo sauce

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The deep fried prawns were generic.  Quite a steep price tag for six generically fried insects.  Wrapped in light tempura batter, it sat unadventurously on top of baby greens and a sriracha mayo dip.  Nothing jazzed or imaginative.  Another element of crunch or sweet chili jam would’ve elevated the dish to a whole new level, but it didn’t happen.

Next was the famous deep fried Karaage chicken with magic powder

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We weren’t sure what was famous, the bland chicken or lack luster of the supposed magic powder (nothing more than pink salt, where was the pepper?!).  Once dipped into the small container, our mouths were blasted with nothing but pure salt.  Unpleasant.  We opted for more sriracha mayo from the shrimp dish to finish the plate.  It was one humdrum of an order and would have been a lot easier to eat if the pieces were cut into smaller portions.

Next we moved on to the flame seared tuna toro and avocado

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The not-so-seared tuna fell apart from the rice from the slightest touch.  How pretty is it when you try to pick it up and it disintegrates?  It was so delicate it made its way on our table and my warm sweater.  The fermented black bean and soy on top added a nice salty touch bu the green tea powder added nothing more than just decoration on the plate.  This was by far the tastiest of the two but fell apart to easily.

Portuguese style sponge cake

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Desert came just as quickly as everything else.  It was a rush of dishes so we ate quickly, especially the hot items.  It was not pleasant having to worry about our food wilting away while other dishes glared at us impatiently screaming: “eat me now! I’m dying!!!”.  The pacing and flow was a major problem.  The experience was rushed and timing flow way off.

The Portuguese inspired sponge cake seemed more influenced by the store counter than that of Western Europe.  It was dry and the ice cream was tasteless.  Not the best way to end of the meal.  The service was adequate, nothing mind blowing, but most of all, the food was placid like the waters in the fish tank for their famous gold fish “kingyo”.