Location: 170 Baldwin Street, Toronto
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Location: 520 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Tonkatsu is one of those dishes that’s very difficult to dislike. You can coat pretty much anything in panko breading and then deep fry it, and that thing is going to be tasty. A fried, panko-breaded pork cutlet? Served with rice and a delicious dipping sauce? Yeah, it’s hard to go wrong there.
And while Mr. Tonkatsu doesn’t serve the best tonkatsu I’ve ever had, they certainly do a solid job with it.
They have a couple of different pork options on the menu — loin and tenderloin, with the latter being an extra dollar. I went with loin, which comes with a bowl of rice, tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage, and miso soup.
The panko breading on the tonkatsu had an absolutely perfect texture — it was golden and lightly crispy, with just enough heft to make its presence known, but not enough to overwhelm the meat. But it was way underseasoned; it was actually pretty bland.
Thankfully, the tonkatsu sauce very thoroughly solves that problem. I normally like that stuff — it’s kind of like a Japanese take on HP sauce — but the version here was something special, with way more complexity than the norm.
It’s good that the sauce was so delicious, because the meat needed a lot of it. Aside from the distinct lack of flavour, the pork itself was overcooked and extremely dry. A prodigious application of the tasty sauce goes a long way towards fixing those problems, but they are problems nonetheless.
Everything else was quite good. The dressing for the cabbage was the usual sesame-infused concoction you’d expect; it was quite satisfying. And the miso soup had a mildly fishy funk that I found to be delightful.