Sunday, 28 August 2011

Go Fish... Goldfish, That Is

The open section of Kingyo's kitchen.
Specials menu at Kingyo.
Thanks to being Canada's Pacific Gateway, Vancouver has strong Asian communities and a dining scene that matches.  Japanese cuisine is no exception, and unlike in Toronto, izakayas have been established in Vancouver for a longer period of time.  I definitely enjoyed my first izakaya experience, and I was hoping my experience in Vancouver would be just as well.  I knew from my parents' and sister's prior experience last year that the place we wanted to go was more subtle, but it was in the end for my parents' benefit as it was less raucous than most izakayas would typically be.  Kingyo, Japanese for "goldfish", is located in one of several dining hubs, Denman Street in Vancouver's West Side, and there are actually several izakayas on Denman.  Unlike Guu in Toronto, reservations are allowed at Kingyo and highly recommended; I fortunately did manage to reserve the last available table of the evening.

Homemade Ginger Ale
As we pored over the menu we ordered some drinks.  I was happy Kingyo had genmaicha (roasted brown rice green tea), but I was curious about its homemade ginger ale and ordered one.  Though I didn't find it as refreshing as The Fish House's Ginger Mock-hito, it was still a delightful drink made with freshly grated ginger.
Salmon Carpaccio
The first dish to arrive was the Salmon Carpaccio.  The garlic chips were a nice savoury touch to the dish, and the grated daikon provided a fresh counterbalance to the salmon, garlic and mayo.  The garlic chips also provided a fun crispiness to the soft texture of the salmon.
Agedashi Tofu
The next dish was one of the specials, Vegetarian Age-dashi Tofu.  The tofu was deep-fried and then served in a kelp broth and garnished with nori, green onions and shredded ginger.  Considering how most of the other dishes ordered that evening were meat-based, this dish was a welcome change of pace.  Though the tofu's exterior had lost its crispiness, it still maintained that deep-fried flavour mingled with the broth on the outside along with its more neutral original flavour inside.
Stone-Grilled Wagyu Beef

Cooking Wagyu beef on the accompanying, and very hot, stone.
Next up was an eye-catcher, the Stone-Grilled Wagyu Beef.  The unique marbling of Wagyu beef means a virtually even texture with each slice, as well as no need to add oil to prevent sticking to the rock.  Though two different dipping sauces were offered, I'd personally forgone those sauces, enjoying the delightful flavour and the tender and moist texture of the beef.
I honestly don't remember what this dish was, but I'm placing my bet on pork.  I guess this is one side effect to not posting my adventures sooner; perhaps a laptop is in order, but that's another story.
Undefeated Dan-Dan Noodle
This dish I definitely remembered, and it had a unique name, the Undefeated Dan-Dan Noodle.  Dan Dan Noodles is originally a Sichuan-style dish, but this place gave it a Japanese twist, especially with the garnish of nori and uni, or sea urchin roe.  It had a comfortable level of spiciness, and I just loved the texture of the homemade ramen noodles as well as the flavour and texture of the broth mixed with sesame paste.
Mushroom Bibimbap
We also had a Mushroom Bibimbap.  Bibimbap is originally a Korean dish, its signature being the stone bowl in which the rice and other ingredients are cooked and served.  The flavour of this dish was enhanced by the various mushrooms, and I certainly enjoyed chomping on some of the rice "chips" that formed on the bottom of the bowl.  Bits and even sheets of crispy rice are my favourite part of a stone-cooked rice dish!
Grilled Hiramasa Cheek
Realizing we still had room in our stomachs, we decided to order three more dishes, including one of the specials, the Grilled Hiramasa Cheek.  Here, yellowtail kingfish (aka yellowtail amberjack) cheeks have been marinated in a yuzu-and-jalapeno based terriyaki sauce before they were grilled.  This resulted in sweet, savoury, slightly tangy and slightly spicy flavours playing with each other and the tender flesh so often found in fish cheeks.
Grilled fish with uni-based sauce.
Alas, I've forgotten what this dish exactly is, but I do recall with certainty that it was a piece of grilled fish and that the sauce was made of uni.  I for one have not been able to get enough of uni ever since trying it on sushi years ago.  Good uni has a creamy texture and a mild sweetness to it.
Vegetarian Onigiri
Lastly, we had Vegetarian Onigiri.  The rice was mixed with various vegetables including carrots and shiitakes before being shaped into triangular "balls" and grilled.  Light in flavour, it was a simple finish to a big feast... or so I thought.
Frozen Grapes
As we received our bill, the server provided us with some parting treats of frozen grapes.  Presented creatively in a floral arrangement, it was a cool and refreshing end to a satisfying meal.  If you enjoy izakaya food but prefer a more subtle setting, Kingyo would be a good place to go.  Again, reservations are highly recommended.

Name: Kingyo
Address: 871 Denman St., Vancouver, BC 
Cuisine: Japanese, Izakaya
Price Range: $30-$70 (depending on diner's appetite)
Accessible: Yes

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