Japanese Domination Continues at Koi Koi Sake Bar

Koi Koi Sake BarLocation: 170 Baldwin Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.koikoibar.com/

Joining places like Little Pebbles, Sakoshi Mart, and Millie Creperie, the Japanese domination of this stretch of Kensington Market continues with Koi Koi Sake Bar, which features a tasty selection of Japanese eats.  I, for one, welcome our new Japanese overlords.

I tried a few things.  First up was a nice little snack that every table gets by default.  I meant to ask what these were and completely forgot, but they were crunchy, savoury, and a little bit sweet.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

Next up was the katsu sando, which is a fried pork sandwich topped with a generous amount of mayo and tangy tonkatsu sauce, with some romaine lettuce for added crunch and freshness.  It’s a solid sandwich, though the pork was overcooked (I had a hard time even biting through it in parts).

Koi Koi Sake Bar

The miso nasu followed, which is a dish consisting of grilled, miso-glazed eggplant.  It feels like it’s missing something (a crunchy counterpoint to the soft eggplant, perhaps?), but it’s enjoyable enough; it basically tastes like they distilled the flavour of miso soup into a glaze and then brushed it onto an eggplant.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

The last dish was the bacon fried rice, which food writer David Ort called “possibly the best fried rice [he’s] ever had.” This is mostly what made me want to come here.

Koi Koi Sake Bar

I’m not sure if it’s the best I’ve ever had, but it was definitely top-shelf fried rice, with a nice meatiness from the generous bacon and a satisfying level of crispiness from the fried garlic slices.  The creamy mayo on top was a nice touch.

A Mixed Bag at Tabule

TabuleLocation: 2009 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://tabule.ca/

I like Tabule a lot; it’s probably one of the better Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, though this particular visit wasn’t particularly awe-inspiring.

The starter was fantastic, at least — we got the sampler platter, which came with hummus, babaganuj, and tabule.  The creamy hummus had a nice garlicky bite without overwhelming, the tabule was fresh and zingy, and the babaganuj had a mild smokiness that really set it apart.  It comes with a basket of soft, toasty pita bread.  It’s great.

Tabule

My main wasn’t quite as good.  I got the eggplant, which comes served on mujaddara, a Middle Eastern rice dish with lentils and fried onions.

The eggplant was perfectly cooked; that particular vegetable can easily be mushy, but in this dish it had a satisfyingly firm texture and an amazing creaminess.  I think it might have been some of the most well-prepared eggplant I’ve ever had.

But while it and the rice were both quite tasty, the whole dish was one-note rich; the tahini sauce didn’t do much to contrast with the eggplant and the rice.  Something with some sweetness or acidity would have really rounded things out — as delicious as it was, I was getting tired of eating it by the end of the plate.

Tabule

I had the kunafa for dessert, which was a more unambiguous failure.  I actually had this on a previous visit, and that time it had a really great balance of creaminess and crispiness, without being overly sweet.  This time?  Not so much.

But to quote LeVar Burton: you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s a side-by-side of the the one I just had, and the one I was served on my last visit.

Tabule

Yikes.  And it was as bad as it looked — it was absolute mush all the way through, with an unpleasantly intense, throat-burning sweetness.