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Jul 8, 2009 10:06 PM

Another new izakaya "Koyoi"

Saw their grand opening ad in the Japanese paper. It's been open for 2 weeks, located at Yonge and Irwin (2 blocks north of Wellesley). It calls itself a "Restaurant Bar".

Was already eating at another nearby restaurant when I saw the ad. Decided to walk over and give it a look over. The manager (probably a Canadian born Japanese) explained how he wanted to introduce "tapas" to Toronto and they don't serve sushi. There is a relatively small(compared to say Ematei or Nami) everyday menu, with several additional items on the blackboard which they will change every week or so.

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  1. If it's better than the mediocre Fin, I'm willing to try it. Next destination, I suppose!

    3 Replies
    1. re: tjr

      Have you tried Fin yet? I'm interested in your opinion (yes I respect yours a lot). I blabbered about it in another post since I went tonight.

      beepbeep, I'm assuming you're referring to BITS. Are there any opening specials?

      1. re: aser

        I was going to wait to post it, but I posted a brief review in the other thread; I didn't find any of the dishes to be very great, I'll try it once more, but I'd much rather go to Ematei. Perhaps for those who are in the area and won't travel down any further it's a decent option. Nothing stood out, but nothing was terrible.

        I always pick up BITS, but never end up reading it (which also seems to be a problem with the LCBO magazines, though I do look at the pictures). Maybe I should start.

        1. re: aser

          Yes it's Bits. Opening special is free can of pop at lunch time.

          Went there for dinner and lunch. Kitchen staff is Japanese. Wait staff is mostly Japanese, or Japanese speaking(one guy is studying Japanese in university). Owner is Korean. They didn't carry any Japanese liquor. I was told that shochu and sake should be available in a few days(that was 2 weeks ago).

          Had curry katsu for lunch. katsu seems frozen pre-packaged. For dinner we ordered various small items. The cold tomato was nice but pricey(~3.50), 1 big tomato with coarse salt on top, and some yuzu juice. Some other dishes I can't remember, not memorable but not bad either.

          Izakaya is good business because people tend to order a lot, as each item is relatively cheap, but they add up quickly. Also you order drinks, lots. And they don't need to hire very experienced cooks.

      2. Is Izakaya is the new black or something? Seems like a whole contingent of them are storming Toronto in the last while... I'm not complaining, but what's with the coordinated launches?

        1 Reply
        1. re: jlunar

          Maybe they read chowhound? Or it's a popular way to cash in on a trend popular elsewhere.

        2. Stopped by Koyoi early this evening for a quick bite. I was a little surprised when i arrived, as the interior is nearly all white and there are only 3 seats at the bar. Feels more like a restaurant than a traditional izakaya.

          Ordered a sapporo and an okonomiyaki off of the specials menu. This is the first time i've tried okonomiyaki, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but i thought it was pretty good. Two egg & vegetable pancakes, with octopus, pork and vegetables in between, and topped off w/ a sweetish brown sauce and flakes of some sort. (How's that for a detailed description? ;) Service was friendly, although the (non-japanese) waitress wasn't really sure what okonomiyaki was when i asked.

          Gets a provisional thumbs-up from me. I'll definitely be going back to try out more of the menu. Curious what the experts think of this place.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Dr. No

            Here is some information on those 'flakes' (also known as 'katsuobushi') -

            1. re: JonasBrand

              Went to Koyoi for dinner tonight, the food was very good.
              I had the Spinach Salad which had spinach, tomatoes, onions and pine nuts with bacon and warm dressing, it was very different since I never had a warm dressing before but it was very good bacon was crispy and the dressing was made out of bacon fat so can't really go wrong.

              I also had the Japanese pancake (okonomiyaki) which was probably the best one I ever had thought ive only ever tried 2 nonetheless its worth a try. As Dr. No described 2 eggs with veggies, octopus, pork with Japanese sauce on top.

              The third item was the Japanese hamburger with rice which was also a good dish but the main feature was the sauce which was hearty i am not sure what it was made of but I sure tasted the sake and it was good. The hamburger itself tasted like regular meatloaf and was bland.

              To finish off the night I had Japanese vodka which had a sweet potato after taste which was very different and went down smooth, I have forgotten the name of it but I am sure if you ask the bartender they will know. With the vodka I had Octupus marinated with wasabi which complimented the drink very well as it was a bit spicy for me.

              Overall the place is worth a try if your in the mood for some authentic Japanese food but I would suggest coming half full as the food was low in quantity however it is just me and I am a big eater but the quality is up there.

              1. re: ilikefood1985

                Had curry katsu today
                Was pretty decent. I would have to do a back-to-back comparison but from what I rmeember I think I like Konichiwa's curry more. The Katsu was fried a bit on the dark side but didn't taste burnt or anything.

                Complimentary starter was a basic salad and a soup with bacon and mushrooms. This soup was actually pretty tasty. Not too salty or fatty at all. It wasn't a gourmet soup but it was soothing and tasty. Good enough for me.

                Overall not bad. I'll go back for lunch again for sure.

          2. Been twice, had okonomiyaki and curry katsu. The curry tonkatsu was just okay for Toronto (the pork wasn't fatty enough, the curry was just generic brick curry, at least, as far as I could tell), the okonomiyaki was better than Okonomi House, but didn't leave my okonomiyaki craving sated (though I don't think this will ever happen in Toronto).

            1 Reply
            1. re: tjr

              Went here again with my brother this time tonight for dinner, and again the food and service was great.

              Had the usual Spinach Salad with bacon and warm dressing and again did not disappoint. Also had the Grilled Chicken with Daikon Radish Ponzu Sauce, the chicken was cooked well and was moist and the ponzu sauce complimented it very well with its sweet, salty and sour flavour. Also had Sake steamed clam, the clams itself tasted very good and very fresh and the sake base also was great and was not very overpowering. And also had the Breast Duck, the duck was moist and was not very greasy the sauce itself I found sweet.

              For drinks I had the sweet potato Shochu which was called SatsumaMuso Sakuramon, this one was quite different from the first drink I had which was called Satsuma Shiranami as it went much smoother and had more of a distinct sweet potato flavour. With it we had the octopus marinated wasabi which again is a must not miss in this resto.

              I hope more people would come to this resto as the food and service here are great and all employees are welcoming. This place is a gem.

              Note: We also had Japanese Pancake, Hamburger Steak (Jap Hamburger) both were up to par and not need to be reviewed again.

            2. I live nearby and go 2-4 times monthly, so thought I should update this review. Koyoi is basically Guu Lite. They have a much smaller space, slightly reduced menu, and best of all - no lineup. If you enjoy Guu, you'll probably like Koyoi, as I think they use many of the same suppliers for standard dishes (i.e. the takowasabi I've had at each place could easily have been drawn from the same bucket). If you prefer the louder, more surreal atmosphere of Guu, this may seem a bit quiet. We bring friends here who have lived in Japan for some time, and are suffering from withdrawal. The owner and staff are very inviting, and seem genuinely interested in showing their patrons that Japanese food is about more than sushi. This is also my preferred places for okonomiyaki (unlike Guu's deep fried pancake), yam teppan, and the variety of grilled gelatinous cuts (pork foot, pork belly in light broths) that they tend to carry. Most of the dishes and sauces are very simple, quickly prepared, and always tasty.

              The room is a bit warmer than it was a year ago, though it still features the white walls. I think they've gotten better at organizing the space and making it look more comfortable.

              They serve Sapporo and Kirin, along with a decent selection of sake now. If you're a connoisseur looking for specific regions, you'd best call in advance to see what they carry. The prices are pretty good - I've had delicious non-burning sake (4 people x 2 servings) for ~$20. As a standard order, and depending on the group size, I order the takowasabi (octopus and wasabi), agedashi tofu (fried tofu in a wonderful broth, I like how the tofu coating becomes chewy), pork foot (soft and gelatinous in a light sauce), vegetable chips (dried eggplant, sweet potato, lotus root, etc.), beef tongue (grilled with soy and lemon), grilled eggplant with bonito, yam teppan and okonomiyaki.

              The lunch menu is gone (salads, curry katsu, hamburger steak mentioned in this thread), which is probably for the best, since they're much, much stronger with the izakaya staples. Weekends are packed with parties of Japanese native speakers, but they do take reservations and walk-ins; we've never had a problem getting seats for two. It's not fine dining, but it really did help me re-evaluate the concept of a pub. I have to say I prefer takowasabi and grilled mackerel with my beer over nachos, so that's what sold me.