Koyoi Japanese Restaurant in Toronto

I have been living in Toronto’s Gay Village for just over three years and routinely comment that my neighbourhood is a culinary wasteland. The Yonge Street stretch from Dundas to Bloor is mostly made up of sex shops and fast food restaurants. Exclusions to The Village Rule include Kinka Izakaya, Smith, Sabai Sabai and Darvish.

I’m always on the hunt for authentic eats on the home front. Toronto welcomed a wave of Izakaya concepts over the past few years and I’ve always been curious to ask “actual Japanese people” what restaurant they visit to indulge an authentic taste of home. It was while enjoying a tasting last summer in the Distillery District at Ontario Spring Water Sake Company that I had an opportunity to chat with two staff on site who had just moved to the city from Osaka and Nagano. In response to my question they both unanimously chirped, “Koyoi near Wellesley Station!”

I was of course taken aback that there could be a diamond in the ruff I had yet to discover a stones throw from my apartment. A year later I found myself strolling up Yonge Street with my favourite female feasting duo Karolyne and Steph. The city had just survived a wild summer thunderstorm and we joked about our damp state of mind before spilling into Koyoi’s petite bar and dining room.

We spent the next two hours sipping through two pints of Sapporo and nibbling through what seamed like an endless parade of steaming plates. Karolyne ordered a refreshing chuchai cocktail featuring sochu, calpico (described by our waitress as a milky juice) and soda fizz. Over a much needed gossip-filled catchup at the table the three of us wolfed down addictive izakaya staples. Highlights from the kitchen include beef tataki adored with fresh minced daikon and aromatic green onion, crispy karage with salt and wedge of lemon, petite okonomayaki covered in whispering benito flakes and french fries drenched in Japanese curry and topped with sweet cheese.

 The Feast:

Sapporo

Chuchai Cocktail

sochu, calpico, soda

Baked Grated Yam

Spicy Pork Udon Noodle with Sesame

Beef Tataki

Karage with Salt and Lemon

Okonomayaki

French Fries with Koyoi Curry and Cheese

Green Tea Cheesecake

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