It was one of those rare self-extended long weekends; after a rather busy errands-filled Monday morning, we found ourselves craving for Japanese food and headed to Kingyo on Denman, a popular local Japanese izakaya which has been reviewed (and raved about) many times,on many food blogs, Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor.
I admit I actually frequent its sister restaurant Suika for evening gatherings more often; Though I’m already very familiar with Kingyo’s menu and flavors (or perhaps because of it), it somehow remains my go-to Japanese restaurant for weekend lunches in downtown Vancouver.
Their Hitsumabushi is the reason why I’m writing this review, as I do not recall having seen reviews on this particular dish often. The soy-sauce cooked eel was served in a sizzling stone bowl of rice with green onions, seaweed and special house broth. This is Kingyo’s version of a famous Nagoya-area local dish. Our waitress took her time to explain how I should enjoy it and I really appreciate her efforts: This is one of the aspects which I love about food, or rather the sharing of the “joy of food” with those who have a real passion for it. It is such a great common topic which breaks down all barriers and sometimes lead to the most interesting conversations; there is always something new to learn every day…
Eating this dish is particularly interesting because its like a “four act” play or a symphony with “four movements”…each act uses the variations of the same basic ingredients to offer a slightly different kind of eating experience. I might have missed if I had not asked our server about “recommendations” on how best to eat it! I think it reflects the finest of dining traditions..the chef imagines the experiences and creates the opportunity with the ingredients and serving vessels presented in a certain way, the server helps to convey the opportunities, providing their recommendations if asked, and the diner, if they have the will and openness of heart, chooses to participate. I am sure for this particular dish, this has been done perhaps thousands of times, each participant trying to “make it better’ as an experience for the diner. I suppose, like most things great and lasting, it is done with full heart and a loving, sharing spirit..
To enjoy: 1st helping – scoop some unagi and rice into bowl and eat as is; 2nd helping – enjoy with added condiments to your taste (green onion, seaweed and wasabi) ; 3rd helping – this time poured the special broth over, it’s similar to having ochazuke; last helping – the bonus with Kingyo’s serving style and definitely the best for last..scraping the “burnt crispy rice” bottom and mixed with the broth…The flavour changes throughout as you add on each component, it was a thoroughly delicious and enjoyable experience. Some may beg to differ and say it’s different from Nagoya’s original, for now, this will do…
Of course there is still an old favourite, Kanazawa Katsu (Deep fried pork cutlet) Curry, a scrumptious rich-flavored curry dish (served with rice, cut cabbage and onion pickles) which Andy ordered as his main and quickly devoured…
For starters, we shared a Kingyo green salad, a simple and fresh blend of organic greens with avocado, tomato and veggie chips with a mixed vegetable dressing.
The standards and levels of consistency are definitely maintained at Kingyo; while I do yearn for new and exciting flavors at this old-time favourite; I realize through today’s experience: rather than always expecting the restaurants to change as quickly as fickle diners’ tastes; it’s good to seek ‘”new” favourites or new ways to experience old favourites.
Now I’ve found a new favourite at one of my “old” favourites , so what’s yours?
Kingyo – 871 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC
Authentic Japanese taste, eclectic shared plates and interesting drink menu; fair-sized portion and moderate-high pricing. Reservations highly recommended. Friendly service and great ambience, lunch is a better time to avoid long line ups and try their specialties (must try Special bento box). Parking could be troublesome, mostly metered (free parking available on side streets).