Linner? Dunch? Lunner? I guess ” a lunner” would be almost adequate. In any case, to follow up my fellow foodblogger The Other Annie’s post on Ematei, I’ve decided to follow the asian/Japanese theme and go with a Japanese restaurant I visited recently: Kokyo Sushi!
Location: AS YOU CAN SEE IN MY PICTURE, 501A Yonge Street 🙂
Price: Very cheap for what they’re offering! Check out how much their bluefin tuna and bluefin tuna belly costs!
Once again, bad lighting, and a bad camera. The woes of being a student foodblogger! Oh well. We shall make due. In any case, I’ve heard some good things about Kokyo — that they serve fresh, traditional sushi for great prices, and that the man behind the sushi bar was a super nice guy. I also saw an online article @ Torontolife that highlighted this place as affordable, yet awesome. Perfect!
When I first walked into Kokyo, it really did seem like I had entered one of those older, more traditional sushi joints. Not because of the decor or anything, which was in fact quite plain.
I guess it was just the general feel of the restaurant. It reminded me a lot of back when I was but a wee lad and my mom and dad used to take me to eat Japanese, that kind of ‘old-school’ place, so to speak. Feeling adventurous, I decided to sit by the sushi bar so that I could talk to “Chef Johnny”, the owner of Kokyo.
After looking at the menu for a few (like ten… their menu is big!) minutes, I ended up going with the Sushi Special (A), which came with six pieces of maki and four kinds of sushi. Since I was quite peckish, I decided to add a Sushi appetizer. Unable to resist the cheap prices, I also decided to get a piece of bluefin tuna sushi just to try it. It was extraordinary cheap at Kokyo! Normally, one slice can cost upwards of $8. Here, it was $4! A very expensive slice of meat, even at half-price, but better than nothing, right?
Kokyo’s miso soup was particularly flavorful, nothing like the watered down versions one might find at Top Sushi, Sushi on Bloor, or New Gen. The salad was pretty standard stuff. Fresh, though!
These were seriously big spicy salmon rolls! They also didn’t look too pretty. But looks can sometimes be deceiving, and upon trying a piece, I was hooked. Crispy tempura bits, a nice kick of spicy flavor, and flavorful chunks of salmon with every single bite. This meal didn’t come with rice, but these six rolls were honestly the equivalent of a bowl of rice already. It’s nice when you can combine quantity with quality of flavor.
Of the sushi, on the top right hand side is the slice of blue fin tuna. It’s time for a random burst of knowledgeable food writing! Notice that it is more pink than the regular tuna (maguro), which appears to be a deeply colored scarlet. Blue fin tuna contains a much higher concentration of fatty tissue. A slab of high quality o-toro (blue fin tuna belly) can sometimes resemble a steak, due to its levels of marbling. Because of the heightened fat content, the flavor and texture of this fish is remarkably different from its maguro cousin. Having the luxury to try both today, I noticed that whilst the maguro had a far more ‘fishy’ flavor (think of that smell you get when you go to the seafood section in supermarkets), the blue fin tuna had this buttery, delicious flavor that had only a subtle and perfect hint of tuna flavor. In addition, the blue fin tuna was far meatier in texture than maguro. Indeed, it had a bit of a bite and elasticity to it. While I was enjoying my slice of blue fin, I noticed that unlike the other sushi on my plate, there was no dab of wasabi underneath my blue fin. I later confirmed with Johnny that he had done this on purpose. After all, blue fin is best enjoyed as is to fully appreciate its delicate flavors.
At this point, Chef Johnny started to talk to me about my blue fin. He asked over his work, “how was the blue fin?” This somehow turned into a fourty-five minute long conversation where we talked about blue fin tuna, sushi restaurants all over Toronto, the favored flavors of the Chinese palette (according to Johnny, uni, hamachi, and bluefin!) He even told me about how buying blue fin tuna worked, and when it was in season (June-July, for those who are interested). Throughout our discussion, I noticed how genuinely interested he was into his own craft. He had visited many other high-end venues, such as Sushi Kaji (maybe one day, friends… maybe one day), Yuzu and Japango just to name a few. In his opinion, his restaurant was more for a group that wanted traditional flavors for affordable prices. In the end, he convinced me to have one more item on the menu since I had never had it before: a spot prawn.
I think most of us have had shrimp sashimi and sushi before. But this was definitely a little different. For one, this was about twice the size of your regular shrimp sashimi. For two, the flavors were far more concentrated. Some of you may notice that when you eat shrimp sashimi/sushi, that the taste is rather bland, and that sometimes the shrimp meat may seem almost dry and overcooked. In the case of this spot prawn, however, the meat is succulent and juicy. Also, It’s still got it’s HEAD! Jesus! In any case, this was a really nice treat. I wish AYCE sushi places had these instead of their regular, tasteless shrimp. I guess one can dream, right? =D
Conclusion: I left this restaurant with some more words from Chef Johnny. “You’re a university student, aren’t you? You shouldn’t eat that much sushi! It’s expensive stuff, and if you eat too much, you’ll get addicted!” I think that’s a little difficult when there are such affordable places that offer such delicious food, Johnny! I think everyone should take note of the fact that Kokyo does not look as well-polished as a place like Sushi Couture or Japango. It’s definitely got a more plain, homey feel to it, and the offerings will not be presented in as flashy a manner. However, as I said earlier in this post — sometimes, looks can be deceiving, and such is the case with Kokyo Sushi. Underneath a plain exterior is good o’fashioned Japanese food!
PS – Sushi Couture is still my first food love but Kokyo can tots be my food mistress. Peace. (But seriously, I think Kokyo might be a little cheaper with some of their a la carte options, if that’s what you’re into. Check it out!)