What to try at Ki?
I ambeing taken for lunch at Ki this week on an expense account and would like to know what I shouldn't miss. Have checked the other threads and didn't see anything in particular that lead me in one direction or another.
What's the quality of the sushi? Any not-to-miss appetizers? Understand they mix sushi with more traditional mains. Anything unusual? Can't try it all and would like some direction.
Note that I have spend considerable time in Japan and know my stuff!
The a la carte sushi at Ki is fairly average and not worth the high price! For $44 plus tax, I got 12 pieces of nigiri but nothing really stood out, not even the uni. Mushy, underseasoned rice as well! To be honest, the sushi at new Omi is of similar quality but less than half the price. I probably should have stuck to maki and nouveau Japanese at Ki, though I suspect I would have had more delicious sushi at Take or Hiro.
re: Food Tourist
We all know what KI is, the bar is for the after work crowd looking to be scene and the expense account crowd. I mean most high end restaurants downtown would be up the creek without expense accounts. I also think that when a huge amount of their clientele is not actually paying for it, the restaurant knows it and it reflects in their food.
Just went to Ki last night for a bachelor party.
Here's my take:
I'm the kind of guy who's had ZERo interest in going to the Keg. Nothing about it -the decor, the commericals,what i hear about it - interests me. So i was hesitant to try Ki.
We got there and, yes, its a pretty bar/resto and yes, there are pretty women there. but who cares. we are there for the food and not to eat the interior.
The 7-spice edamame was good, not amazing. had a kick, but was missing some salt. Their sweet potato frites were VEY tasaty - in fact, they were (sadly) the best part of our meal. huge chunks of tender sweet potatoes with a spicy mayo side. mmmmm.
We ordered some sushi as apps and i will admit that I do not eat fish or seafood. But i had the beef aki roll and it was...good. not great, just good. Seemed like everyone enjoyed their sushi, but, compared to other sushi i've seen, the portions were on the small side.
for mains, we ordered the grilled peppercorn Striploin, the short ribs and the saki butterfish. the striploin was tasty and had a nice peppery crust, but was rather tough (even though it was cooked medium rare). the butterfish was tasty (from what i was told). the short ribs were short on quantity and on meat. not a lot of eats per rib - one, maybe 2 bites - and they were grizzled and not hot. it reminded me of eating my mom's miami ribs when i was a kid - my parents only knew how to barbeque until things were charred. Ki should know better.
the dipping sauces they had were ok. the sesame sauce was bland, as was the terriyaki. i tried their spicy chili sauce and it wasn't so hot.
we ordered the asparagus and mushroom platter as a side. bland, boring, tasteless, and the asparagus was anemic.
on the upside, they do make good mojitos. their draft selection is quite sad. clearly they cater to the average joe's beer tastes, when their decor and location would indicate that they want to attract a nice, high-end clientelle.
in the end, i would not recommend that you go there unless you want to chase skirts or have your skirt chased. the bill wasn't outrageous, but we didn't leave there full or insanely satisfied. if you are looking for a high-end Montana's or something of the ilk, then Ki is great. If you are looking for great food and interesting flavours...go elsewhere
Re: Tsukiji. Sorry about the name dropping. Tsukiji is the Tokyo Central Fish Market, and the surrounding market, which is a sushi mecca. Used to travel to Japan on business and we'd stay near Tsukiji just so we could chow down on Uni. There was this one little stall where you could get these huge bowls of rice topped with the freshest toro imagineable, and/or uni and/or beautiful large red fish eggs (darn, the name escapes me right now).
Anyhow, ki is nothing like that, but the uni was not bad as I mentioned in my earlier post. Have a blast with your $200! You'll have fun if you go in with an open mind!
Thank you for this high quality post. I can't wait to blow my 200 now :D I'm glad to hear the Uni was good since it's been pretty bad or at best average everywhere I've had it in Toronto, except one sweet time at a random Sentusuro that for some reason had incredibly fresh uni that day.
Where is Tsukiji????
I'm also glad to hear that it seems like there are lots of non-raw options as I'd like to go down with my wife who's pregnant and can't eat any raw stuff.
A little more time now...
I'd heard the reno on this place cost $7M dollars, but I can't say it shows. But I enjoyed the space, it drew me in, and accomplished what I think the restaurant is trying to achieve, which is to suggest Japanese without actually being Japanese. It's like Japanese interpreted by Jaimie Kennedy.
We looked at the Bento boxes, but at the suggestion of the server, and the agreement of the people paying, we decided to put our palates in the hands of the chef. I mentioned Omakase above, but really this was more a Tapas experiences as everything that arrived was off the menu: no specific interpretations for our table, at the chef's whim.
But I'm not complaining. We started with a selection of maki, including kiwi tuna, ki beef maki, spicy tuna and rice-(tempura)shrimp, as well as spicy tuna/salmon on crispy rice cakes and some salmon sashimi. I ordered a a side of uni, a particular favourite of mine.
Each maki was prepared well, the nori was crispy, the fish fresh and the mix of inredients interesting and tasty. However, they were clearly using the traditional concept of maki as their palette, but interpreting it for an audience used to recent trends towards small dishes of contrasting ingredients with small dollops of drizzzle etc., that seem to be trickling down from the Susur's of the world (and no I'm not comparing ki to Susur). No complaints from me, however, nor from my colleagues and we scarfed it all down. Perhaps the one complaint was that the spicy tuna, while tasty, was not very spicy.
The tuna/sashimi "pizza" (as out server described it) was as well dones as I have at Japango, the fish served tartare style and nicely flavoured with sesame oil, and the rice cakes crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
I am not a fan of salmon sashimi, but it was fresh and to my great happiness was served with shredded daikon and a shiso leaf, something you just don't see often enough at most places. (*sigh* have not been to kaji sushi, so not comparing to this either: just mean that shiso is underappreciated in NA, the chefs know it, and usually just don't bother). While the quality of the salmon was fine, the shiso and daikon made the dish for me.
As I mentioned previously the uni was great! Not Tsukiji great (where I used to eat large bowls of rice topped with the stuff for breakfast) but flavourful, good texture, and the portions on each pedestal of rice and crispy nori, were large.
We moved onto hot dishes, and they introduced them by first serving grilled pancetta wrapped asparagus spears (from the kushiyaki menu), which were too salty and not suited to the chili ponzu sauce served with it. Indeed the ponzu was not lemony enough and tasted like watered down shoyu. The chilis were apparently on vacation today. I should have tried the teriyaki sauce instead, whose sweetness might have tempered the salt in the dish (if nto too salty itself).
While a little disappointed in this, I was happily surpised, to varying degrees, by the three hot dishes that arrived. The first, my favourite, was Jumbo Shrimp + tomato in rayu-chili sauce. The shrimp were large and crunchy, and very fresh, the sauce somewhat spicy (finally!) and nicely layered in flavour (though I am not sure what rayu actually is).
The grilled tenderloin, with sesame and red wine dips was tender. While I enjoyed the sesame dip, the red wine dip was too syrupy and sweet to be worth trying more than once. I'm not a huge fan of steak, but it was terrific quality for what it was. The grilled baby bok choi that came with it was also nice for dipping.
A side dish of grilled enoki and shiitake mushrooms, with asparagus was perfectly prepared, and impressive as Enoki mushrooms are notoriously easy to overcook.
Overall a nice, if expensive, meal, with the final bill coming to something over $200 for five of us (i think: I glanced at it for the sake of this post, but one does try to be polite).
While I wouldn't call ki a chowfind or anything, I am mystified by the heaps of criticism poured on it. Simply because a place is catering to a certain crowd, and prices itself accordingly (can you imagine the rent alone??), really means nothing in the end. They could have simply hired a third rate sushi chef, located a source of AAA beef and opened for business, but the menu has been clearly thought out, they've carefully defined the mix of Japanese with current higher end food trends, and in my opinion have succeeded nicely.
Having said that, would I go back? If I wanted "good Japanese", and I think we all know what I'm talking about, then no. However, if I wanted Japanese, but was with a group of people I know couldn't handle even Hiro or Japango, then why not? While the cost is high, at least I know I could satisfy some of my own tastes, get good quality food, and keep my friends happy at the same time. It's a concept and there's nothing wrong with it.
And finally, I really have to reiterate that the comparison to the Keg, and steakhouse fare in general, is grossly unfair. The Keg is line food prepared with mass produced sauces and no nuance whatsoever. Even the lowliest maki served at ki requires individual attention.
Blue dog et al - I apologize if my earlier post was not clear. The comparision I was attempting to draw was Ki to the similar restaraunts in NYC. Megu, Ono, Koi, Ninja, Tao, among others. Large scale - Japanese type, the bar is a major attraction. INMO, Ki holds up well. In fact better than some I listed above.
The link to the Keg and Hys is the concept of Ki is Ki was orginated form 2 high level management individuals from the two respective "chains". To that end I believe they are attempting to apply that model to Ki. Dependable, reasonable quality, attractive - exotic relative to the era (okay I was around before the Keg what bought by a large corporation and was 'trendy' and a destination place). I have heard Ki is considering similar establishments in Vancouver and a couple of US cities with a similar urban demographic if the Toronto model does well.
I agree with your analysis - infact I took a group of people last evening (a couple of which I did not know if they would enjoy 'japanese' food) and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the food. I frequent Ki - it is accessible, comfortable (I can get my husband to go because it is not challenging for him :)! Would I prefer if Kaji-san was closer to me - absolutely. But we make the trip to Ki often - and enjoy it.
FYI Hy's was started by Hy Aisenstadt, and the Keg was his son David's creation, basically an attempt to bring an economical Hy's to the masses. And Ki was started by David Aisenstadt and someone named Hoss Drees according to Martiniboys. All 3 restaurants are owned by the same group.
Thanks for all your suggestions. We had an excellent lunch and while I did not get to try everything we decided to go with a sampler menu, more or less Omakase style (i.e. they decided what we would get and we just paid the price).
So to start, I have to both agree and disagree with many of the comments above. I found the food to be Japanese/Asian inspired, if not exactly traditional Japanese, but the quality was well beyond The Keg, and somewhat beyond Hy's I would argue. Everything was freshly prepared, care went into the presentation, and the sushi was reasonably fresh.
I will post later on exactly what we had, but as to the Uni question, I specifically ordered it and really enjoyed it. Very tasty, and if not exactly Tsukiji fresh, reasonable quality for a dish that does not travel well.
I do agree, though, that the price was astonishingly high. Service was superb, friendly and not snobby at all.
If you have deep pockets, and are not offended by suits or the "blonde brigade" (and I think that is an unfair comment), its worth checking out, especially if you like Japanese but are little tired of more traditional stuff.
Well said. Would like to hear more about what you had - for the next time I'm there for a "client" lunch.
I didn't like the "blond brigade" comment either - and if it is a fair comment at all it's really only evident on Thursday nights, which is after work party night - nothing wrong with after work party night in my book.
Ki is a concept - based on the concept coming out of NYC. Think Megu, Koi, Ono, Nobu 57 (as opposed to the orginal) and others. Large resto/bar type places - hyped scene type places - large on the bar crowd. Also realize it is originating from Keg/Hy's management. In that comparison it is not bad. My last experience at Megu was painful - others not so terrible but really Ki is up there.
Ki's food is somewhat what you expect. Not spectacular but reliable. You can see they are attempting to take the Keg model and take a Japanese/Canadian fusion idea (albacore tuna with maple syrup?) not for me but they tried. It is actually a great place to take a large group of people who have diverse food interests. Their steak is reported to be very good (I dont eat meat). The pork pretty good. Their tempura - pretty good. Raw fish - decent.
Negatives: price point high. Service: very unreliable, sometimes pretentious relative to their knowledge. Last time I was there the sommelier was completely inadequate.
For $200 and interested in sushi: unagi, mustu, hamachi & jalapeno special (ask for lime and side of cilantro/the lime cuts the richness). toro - has not been dependable - from ortoro to chutoro. Most of it again is dependable - not inventive. Edamame. Sake.
Ki is not traditional Japanese - your time in Japan isn't likely to help you much with the menu, at least with the hot plates. Think PEI Oysters, Canadian Tenderloin, Ontario Lamb, maple glazes, etc.
I recall some of the signature dishes being pretty good - Tuna tower and ginger butterfish being two that come to mind.