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Jul 9, 2008 02:25 AM

Kingyo: an awful izakaya

yeeesh...i tried this place tonight based on the some good reviews here and based on a rec from a local bartender...what a disappointment...

-- things got off to a bad start when i ordered a shochu...the bartender measured a meager shot and poured it over the bullet-shaped ice-cube...maybe a centimeter of shochu at the bottom of the glass...i commented that this was a pretty tiny glass of shochu and he said "it's a shot" "well, because shochu is half the proof of vodka, that's like half a shot"...bartender: "wow, i don't really drink shochu, lemme check"...[bartender reads the bottle]...bartender: "wow, you're right!" "yes, i know"...ok: this place has been touted as the best izakaya in town and the bartender doesn't really know what shochu is?...

-- the menu: not very extensive, and w/ many dishes boasting wasabi-mayo, teriyaki-dressing, etc...yikes...

-- i ordered some yellowtail sashimi (average/mediocre) and the black cod w/ miso, which was very greasy, like it'd been injected w/ vegetable oil, and topped w/ slimey creamy miso dressing...

-- not wanting another glass of shochu, i ordered a glass of red wine, which was barely drinkable vinegar...

i left quickly and went to Hapa, where i had a quite nice meal (will review separately)...

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  1. i ate at kingyo on sunday night and had a great meal - good service, decent wine and delicious food!

    i used to live around the corner from hapa and ate there a lot and always enjoyed it but after kingyo opened i've switched over - hapa has taken one of my favorites off the menu and just doesn't seem as good anymore.

    1. Black cod is a very oily fish. It's also known as sablefish, and more descriptively, as "butterfish" due to its fattiness.

      1 Reply
      1. re: aburitoro

        IMO - Black Cod is best unembellished for that very reason. All it needs is salt and a very hot pan.

      2. That's too bad you had a bad experience there. I've never had a bad meal there yet. I do have to say that Kingyo provides the smallest bang for buck of all the Izakaya...especially compared to the Guus.

        1. My experience was slightly better. Food was above average, but value was not there.

          I am curious about your shochu exchange. Do you expect more "liquid" for baileys (20%?) on the rocks than vodka (40%) on the rocks?

          13 Replies
          1. re: kwailan4

            when you order a glass of shochu on the rocks anywhere in Japan (or even in NYC!), you get a variety of pours, but nowhere anywhere in Japan would you ever be poured a 1.5 ounce or less shot-o'-whisky pour when ordering shochu unless you are ordering something terribly rare and arcane (in fact, many places will give you closer to a giant water glass full)...this is especially lame in Vancouver given that the shochu they are serving is incredibly cheap and uninteresting...

            given that they are serving what can only be called "crap shochu", the least they can do is fill the glass w/ ice and pour act like like the lame rotgut they are pouring is precious just underlines how fraudulent the whole fake izakaya enterprise is overall...

            1. re: Simon

              Ah, so it is a shochu thing, not an alcohol content thing. I'm not into shochu, but I drink soju and I usually order by the bottle. So shochu tastes like vodka, but should be served like wine?

              BC has some weird liquor laws (a bartender once told me it is illegal to serve a mix drinks with more than 2.5 shots of alcohol). I wonder if this has anything to do with it.

              1. re: kwailan4

                you usually don't get as much as a glass of wine (though it happens) , but usually more than a single shot...usually maybe 3 ounces or so?...2.5?...give or take?...*shrugs*...i'll ask Silverjay (veteran of the NY and Japan boards and a shochu expert)...

                i doubt it's the liquor laws...more likely just cheapness...Guu served it the same way as Kingyo...Hapa served it up more like in Japan: a healthy enough pour...Hapa wins!...

                i'm not a big fan of soju...too sweet for my taste...but it's funny: in Korea, if you tell Koreans that soju is sweet, they will invariably say "It's not sweet! It's strong!"...

                another sidenote on the alcohol pouring: at a Japanese-owned place in NYC i once ordered a glass of port: instead of serving me an appropriately small serving of port, the bartender poured me a full to the rim wine glass of it (assuming that it's like any other red wine and then trying to be generous on top of that) i just it all evens out...*smiles*

            2. re: kwailan4

              sidenote: while i like Hapa, i'd have to conclude that the much-hyped Vancouver izakaya scene is pretty bad...based on my trips to Guu and Kingyo, i'd say both are worse than even Kenka in NYC --- and Kenka is the lamest of the izakayas that have opened in Manhattan in the last few's strongpoint is it's cheapness...Guu and Kingyo seem to have comparable-to-worse-food, at slightly higher prices...

              1. re: Simon

                If you are coming in from Manhattan - I can see how you would not be too impressed. NYC izakaya has a more varied scene and has a much much (much) better alcohol selection than Vancouver. But then Manhattan has it good for just about everything in the dining department.

                1. re: fmed

                  actually the real reason i'm spoiled in terms of izakayas is because i've spent a lot of time in Fukuoka over the last year...

                  Manhattan actually lacks quite a few things dining-wise: for example there is almost no decent Thai...

                  What i'm always delighted about in Vancouver is the fresh seafood, local ingredients, and friendly, knowledgable service...places like Chambar and Boneta are far better than similar places in NY...

                  1. re: Simon

                    We have a similar issue with Thai here. Montri's was the best Thai restaurant here - until he retired...leaving a gaping hole in that scene. O-Thai's (on Broadway near Granville) proprietors used to run a Thai restaurant in Manhattan....I don't recall the name.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Coindicidentally someone rec'd Montri's to me it no longer exists?...or just exists in weaker form?

                      Is there anywhere else you'd recommend for Thai instead?...maybe i'll post a separate thread for it...

                      1. re: Simon

                        Montri's is closed until Jul 15 for a staff vacation right now. I suggest O-Thai as a sub.

                        I am going by what others have told me about Montri's - that since he retired "things have gone downhill" - You know that it could all be in their heads of course. I have not been to Montri's in at least a year so I shouldn't really be casting judgement.

                        1. re: Simon

                          The Thai food at this place was pretty good IMO:
                          Sawasdee Thai Restaurant
                          4250 Main St, Vancouver
                          Tel: (604) 876-4030

                          1. re: Mawson Plan

                            Agree with Mawson Plan.

                            Sawasdee Thai Restaurant
                            4250 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3P9, CA

                      2. re: Simon

                        BTW Simon, I recall that your posts on the Manhattan board informed much my last izakaya crawl in Manhattan a few years ago.

                        1. re: fmed

                          thanks, hope it was a fun crawl.

                          i must say i was pretty content at Hapa...their renkon dumplings were tasty, and the seared spanish mackeral was a huge portion...nice staff too...

                2. I went to Kingyo yesterday with your review in mind. This was my second visit there -- the first visit was a few months ago. I can't really comment on the shochu, since I didn't order it straight. But I did have a shochu cocktail, and they were a bit skimpy with the shochu. The shochu cocktails are definitely stiffer in Tokyo izakaya. But drinking wasn't my reason for the visit.

                  We enjoyed our meal quite a bit. We started off with the agedashi kinoko tofu with okra. I generally like agedashi tofu, but usually not enough to order it unless it's at a restaurant with a really boring menu. Well, the enoki mushrooms and okra tempted me, and good thing it did, as it was pretty dang good. The sliminess of the okra made the tsuyu that much better.

                  We then had the gyutan (beef tongue), which was also quite good, but nothing spectacular (I've had better, I've had much worse). It's served raw alongside a hot stone, which is used to cook the tongue at the table. Sure, a bit novelty-ish, but probably still enjoyable and fun for many.

                  The grilled pork cheeks were next, and they were quite delicious. The texture of the meat is firm with a bit of a crunchy bite. And the meat is nice and fatty and very flavorful.

                  The mentaiko-kimchee udon came after that, and it was good, but nothing I couldn't make myself at home. It also seems to be a standard item at many of the izakaya here in Vancouver. We only ordered this because I felt like eating some starch.

                  Our final dish was the kakuni man (stewed pork belly chinese style steamed bun), which sounded more interesting than it actually was. The bun was a bit dense - it definitely could have been fluffier and lighter, and the pork was a bit above average, as far as kakuni goes. It was served with a dab of hot mustard, just as both kakuni and niku man (meat bun) usually are.It was still good though, and I'd consider ordering it again. I think our expectations were a bit too high when we ordered it.

                  The meal was quite good, but it wasn't mind blowing or anything. I didn't order any of the wasabi-mayo or teri-dressing concoctions either. $50 for the five dishes and a couple of drinks -- I really can't complain for the meal we were served. I'd say it's comparable to Guu, but maybe 25% more expensive (maybe even more if you want to get drunk).

                  I don't think it's really fair to compare izakaya experiences btwn North America and Japan, as they are fairly different (then again, I've never done the izakaya thing in NYC). The customer base itself changes the vibe entirely -- without the drunk Japanese businessmen, how can anything in the western world compare to an izakaya in Japan?

                  From my izakaya experiences here in Vancouver, I'd say that Thurlow Guu comes the closest to the real deal (vibe-wise), primarily due to the Japanese to Gaijin customer ratio. Lots more drunkenness and screaming and such. And many of the more old-school izakaya in Tokyo offer traditional menu items I don't even see here (especially Hoppy!).

                  I'll be going to NYC for a short visit again in September,and I definitely plan to hit a couple of izakaya out there this time. Can't wait :-)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: aburitoro

                    Glad you had a nice meal...perhaps i was too harsh and i went there w/ too high expectations...

                    For whatever reason, i feel comfiest at Hapa...a subjective thing...

                    Have fun at the NYC izakayas: they do vary quite a bit though...(the highest end one and prob the one closest to a top Tokyo place is Aburiya Kinnosuke (which is a bit pricey and more food-oriented than drink-oriented)...for shochu i rec Uminoie, though the food is a chowhound post for the latest rundown before you go...i'll be there in August and may have some updates on what's yummy these days...