1624 Rue Sainte-Catherine O. /Guy
Montréal, QC, H3H 2S7
Cost: $ 58.18-tax, tip & alcohol included
Chef Hats: 3
Japanese Pubs are becoming all the rage these days. Since 2010 we have seen a slow rise of at least a dozen izakaya’s in Montreal. The draw is not only the Japanese tapas style food (portions are small), but the convivial and fun atmosphere that can be found in all of them.
Warning: Ear plugs are in order as these types of places can get loud and within reason and Kinka Isakaya is no exception. Upon entering the restaurant everyone will receive the traditional loud welcome “Arigato Gozaimasu” from across the kitchen; which is open concept. This is part of the ritual here as well as the imminent “Sake Bomb” which occurs at least every fifteen minutes throughout the evening. A touch gimmicky, this adds to the fun and festive atmosphere. It is a new way to experience a taste of Japanese dining and drinking that deviates from the usual foodie adventure.
Kinka Isakaya Montreal is located downtown in new Chinatown, on la rue Ste Catherine between Guy and St Mathieu. Opened in early 2015 by the Kinka Izakaya’s franchise of Toronto it delivers all the fixings for a modern day Japanese pub. The décor is minimalistic with clean lines and boxy simple furnishing. The colors are simple, black slate walls and floors and light colored pine furniture. The scene is straight out of Japanese catalogue, the look is very Zen, until the place starts to fill up and the noise level gets louder.
I was surprised to see the new restaurants that now line the exterior of Le Faubourg, Kinka Izakaya’s and Kampai Garden are some of them that are bringing a sort of revival to Le Faubourg which has been in a slow decline over the last 15 years. The interior of Le Faubourg is no longer accessible and remain a shell of its former self; part of it is being used by Concordia University for classes. Parking can also be found underground if you can’t find parking on the street.
Tonight we were celebrating an anniversary and we were a group of at least twenty. Our party organizer negotiated the special party menu created for our group for a flat rate of $ 30.00 plus tax and tip, sake was not included for $14.00 extra. We sampled seven dishes, and Kinka‘s original sake shared between two.
We started with Miso Soup, which was somewhat generic. It lacked the usual seaweed and tofu cubes; instead it came garnished with floating sliced green onion. The broth was laden with dark soya sauce. I would have preferred a seaweed salad or Edamame instead. Not a good start to the meal.
The next dish was called Gomaee-Blanched Rapini with sesame sauce. We received a generous portion of sautéed Rapini with a drizzle of sesame oil and sesame seed garnish and a base of soya sauce. The Rapini were overcooked and wilted. They lacked texture and crunch. Nonetheless, they were better than the soup.
Our next dish was Maguro Tataki, slices of lightly grilled Albacore Tuna with a base of Ponzu sauce and green onions garnish. This tuna was perfectly cooked, medium rare and very tasty. This dish and the Black Cod were my favorite, unfortunately the portions were too small to be shared and completely enjoyed, but I would return just for this.
Soon afterwards we received the Karaage, deep fried marinated and coated chicken pieces. The food choices were getting better and started arriving quickly. The chicken was marinated with soy sauce and the batter was supposed to be infused with Sapporo beer. It came served with a garlic mayonnaise aioli sauce on the side, a lemon wedge and some lettuce. The chicken was very crispy on the outside, perfect flavors and not too oily. It was super tender and delicious on the inside. We got six portions for two.
The entrees kept coming and next we received Karubi, a side of beef marinated and grilled Japanese style. The beef was flavorful and delicious, except for its uneven texture it was a little chewy and tough to eat. I believe this stems more in the cut of meat chosen than anything else, and maybe a different choice of cut would have been better to eating without knives.
Next was the grilled Gindara, Grilled black cod in yuzu miso sauce, this was absolutely divine and the favorite of the table. The fish was totally blackened on the outside, once cut up it reveals mounds of white fish that fell apart in thick slabs, absolutely decadent and flavorful.
It was served along with Unagi bibimbap, a favorite Korean dish of mine that satisfies every time. A rice dish with eel, burdock and egg served in hot stone bowl.
For dessert, we had a piece of festive vanilla cake that was mediocre at best that was provided by our group organizer. We would have preferred the green tea ice cream that we were charged an extra $ 1.00 for anyways.
Sake bombs were ordered for our organizers and they are always fun to partake in or just too watch and cheer on. I liked Kinka Izakaya’s, it’s a fun place and the ambiance is not only cool but the décor very nice. The experience is different from just a regular pub. Bear in mind that Kinka Izakaya’s falls under the pub banner. First and foremost it is a place to drink and have fun .The food seems secondary with small food portions to quench your appetite, more than a culinary experience.