Izakayas or Japanese-style pubs have becoming very popular in and around Montreal over the past year or so. Previously, there was Imadake and…. well no others really. Now, each neighbourhood seems to have one and more are soon the way. Through a friend’s birthday gathering, I found myself at Kinoya along St-Denis curious to see if this particular Izakaya holds up to my previous experiences itself in the city and elsewhere.
Walking into the wooden hut/grotto Kinoya has structured within the standard plateau storefront, the restaurant definitely has a unique visual appearance compared to many of the new Japanese pubs in town. They do have the classic “salute” from the staff when you walk in – which I’ve always loved despite the awkwardness that it can create for the uninitiated. Also, it is rather weird to be saluted in Japanese by an entire French Canadian staff I must admit but I digress….. The space is nice overall however the low ceilings created by the grotto look creates more cacophony than is ideal.
We were at a pub after all so a drink is a must. Given the presence of some speciality cocktails on the menu, we decided to try a couple. First was the Zen – Sake, Midori and Lychee Juice. Very strong on the Lychee side of things which worked for my girlfriend but not so much for me.
My choice was the Gingin – Gin, Ginger Ale, Fresh Ginger Juice And Soda. Once again, the non-alcoholic components overpowered the alcohol. I enjoy ginger but not on the level that this drink brought forth. A totally miss on my end here.
Given the nature of an Izakaya, over the course of the evening, we ordered a much of plates in no particular order. The key is that process is that service is spot-on and the dishes come quickly which is exactly what occurred. First up, I can never say no to a nice bowl of salty edamame.
The Tako Kimchi or octopus and cucumber with spicy kimchi sauce was less successful. The spicy kimchi was good but the octopus was a little chewy and frankly the portion was much too small given the price of the dish. The plate could barely be shared by 2 people. I know an Izayaka is all about small plates but this was pushing it a little too far.
The Kamo Carpaccio – seared duck breast carpaccio with spicy tahini sauce – was a better success. The rich fatty duck was sliced thinly and paired well with the sauce although it wasn’t as spicy was perhaps I would have expected.
I couldn’t help ordered some Gyoza – pan-fried Japanese dumplings – as well. The dumplings were okay nothing more sadly. The filling was nice and meaty but I wanted them a little more fried up and the sauce was unremarkable.
The big hit was the Ikayaki – squid marinated in sake and grilled with shichimi spice and mayo. The squid was beautifully tender and grilled nicely although the sake marinate really wasn’t noticeable flavour-wise. The spicy mayo provided a nice kick and a good pairing to the squid.
I also wanted to try the Kara-Age – Japanese style fried chicken marinated in fresh ginger and soya sauce. Very enjoyable on my end. Great crunch to the chicken while still keeping the meat tender and juicy. Again, the marinade wasn’t noticeable flavour-wise but it was good regardless.
Lastly, I felt the need for a dessert so I went with the Anmitsu – mochi pearls in red bean sauce with ice cream and matcha. A very nice dessert – I love red bean sauce and matcha with vanilla ice cream matched well with that sauce. A great way to end the meal.
Kinoya was a good experience but not a memorable one. Some dishes were hits. Others were disappointments. With an Izayaka, the ambience is very important but if the dishes don’t hit consistently, it is hard to be a memorable night regardless of the rest. Kinoya goes into the mix of all of the other Japanese pubs in town but doesn’t elevate above the fray to be one of the best.
4250 Saint Denis
514 508 5200