Friday, October 12, 2007
let the weekend begin (again!)
Yikes, it's the weekend again! (and yes, you're right, that is a good thing). I need to get caught up, keep my promise, and tell you about the other new restaurant we checked out last weekend.
To tell you about Kingyo Izakaya on Denman Street in Vancouver, I need to first ask if you've ever been to an Izakaya? It's a very different experience from going for sushi. I've heard izakaya variously described as being like tapas bars and as being like Japanese inns. We've been to Shiru-Bay Chopsticks in Yaletown, Hapa Izakaya on Robson, and now Kingyo on Denman. What they all have in common is a happy buzz you notice as soon as you walk in the door with greetings being called out to you in Japanese by the hostess, the chefs, and the servers. Meanwhile, said servers and chefs are yelling customers' orders across the room to the chefs and everyone's bustling back and forth with the tapas-sized wonders: hot pots, sashimi, stone bowls, as well as the occasional dish--mackerel, for example, that gets cooked with a kitchen torch (think crème brulée). Kingyo is smaller than the other two izakaya we've visited and more intimate, and there's no Japanese low seating to wiggle one's way into -- a relief for me! As well, shoes stayed on -- at Hapa, if I remember correctly, we were provided with slippers or could just go with our socks/stockings, but we were definitely encouraged to take our shoes off and leave them just outside the dining compartments.
Kingyo is Asian-soothing yet hip in décor: taupes, blacks, and greys, bamboo and concrete, gorgeous plaster treatments on the walls (especially the bathroom--mud/taupe coloured plaster walls textured with horizontal ridges about 1/4-inch deep, about 1/2-inch or less apart, as if some sort of fork or comb had been pulled through the wet plaster). Even though you're essentially sitting at a long communal table, the bamboo screens separating the eating areas carve out a sense of intimacy. Audio ambience is something I'm always aware of in a restaurant, and it worked here -- you could speak loudly enough across the table to be heard over the background music, shouting servers, etc., without feeling as if your neighbours could catch every word.
And the food? Fresh, fresh, fresh for the sashimi! The best scallop sashimi I've ever had. I ordered a plate of Kobe beef despite the expense 'cause I figured this was one time I could afford it, given that it was only a tapas-size serving. Richly flavourful -- it tasted and had a mouthfeel as if it were marbled all the way through but without tasting unctuously fatty. Our favourite dish was probably the tan tan noodle soup, although Paul also really liked a dish with chicken karaage served on a bed of fried rice, and the salad rolls were yummy as well. I know I'm forgetting one other dish for a total of six. That and the sake and a generous tip came to $90 -- so reasonable Paul double-checked with the server that she had the addition right!
So after Vij's on Friday night and izakaya on Saturday, you'll probably understand why we decided to focus on fairly simple homecooked for Sunday, our day to celebrate Thanksgiving. We just headed to Granville Market and picked up all kinds of locally-grown-or-produced comestibles: Oyama's great chorizo, some candied smoked sockeye, ravioli stuffed with sausage, sun-dried tomato pesto, patty-pan squash, some apple tarts to finish the meal, and to start it, this beautiful plate of many-coloured heritage tomatoes grown in either Langley or Abbostford (can't remember for sure). Unfortunately, the flash doesn't seem to have been working (most likely an operator error!), but you get the idea. The range of colours is surprising, from the palest yellow to a rich purple. Heritage tomatoes are truly worth seeking out if you have a local source. For one thing, some varieties are much lower acidity, thus much kinder to sensitive stomachs, and, more importantly, the flavours are so much more intense. We easily finished this platter between the two of us after drizzling them lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkling them with salt. And we were very thankful!