Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chou Izakaya: the Underdog

**Note: This restaurant is now closed.

My visit to Chou Izakaya was a result of my Groupon addiction. I was intrigued to check out this place from friends' recommendations and just couldn't turn down a great deal! It was such a bargain that I even bought two Groupons, so get ready for some overflowing yumminess!

Grilled Mackerel しめ鯖  (Special) $8.00

The grilled mackerel was simply unreal. Accompanied by a dippnig sauce resembling a sweet soy sauce, it is prepared by searing the marinated fish with a torch gun. My friend and I were hooked on this light but flavourful dish. I was so tempted to place another order, but didn't since I had to save space in my stomach for the dishes to come.

Beef Tataki   牛たたき  (Special) $11.00

Served on a chunk of ice and with a dipping sauce, the thin slices of beef tataki was quite a piece of art. I've had beef tataki in lots of places, but never I have ever had it in the form of a flower.  While the presentation was mesmerizing, I thought the taste was mediocre in comparison. I still think Koyoi has the best beef tataki.

Yuzu Duck 柚子鴨  (Special)   $7.50
I hadn't expected much from the yuzu duck simply because I wasn't a fan of coconut. At first bite, all I could taste was the disfavoured coconut which was so heavy that it overpowered the original meaty taste of the duck meat. We voted this as the most unsuccessful item of the night. 

Curry Korokke   カレーコロッケ $5.50
The curry korokke balls was basically a fried ball of curry flavoured mashed potato and ground beef. Different from what was claimed on the menu, there was hardly any ground beef. Also, the shell wasn't as crispy as anticipated. Nothing about this dish stood out.

Kamo Rice 鴨飯  (Limited)  $6.00
The kamo rice consisted of slices of duck on a bed of oily rice. This was like a redemption for the yuzu duck earlier - the duck was very meaty and juicy. The only drawback was the rice that was rather bland.   

Kimchi Pork Cheese  チーズ豚キムチ $6.50
This had the strongest flavor of all dishes. The thin pork slices were heavily seasoned and the kimchi was spicy. I'd never thought the combination of the three would be so delicious! I also liked that it was served on a hot plate because the pork sides got crispy as they were left on the plate for longer. 

Gunkan Sushi  軍艦寿司
Left: Squid & Salmon Roe  $2.50
Right: Beef Tataki  $3 
I hadn't come across gunkan sushi in Toronto yet, so was determined to try it out. The second time here, they didn't offer the beef tataki from above, so we compromised by having the beef tataki sushi.  The texture of the beef was different as it was in chunks. The squid and ikura sushi was less enjoyable - the squid was bland although fresh and the salmon roe was extremely salty.

Sashimi 刺身  $14.00
This was hands down the freshest sashimi I've had in Toronto. I adored the sweet shrimp in particular and enjoyed sucking out the brains of the shrimp (ew, I know, but I loved it!) They also used real wasabi instead of artificial paste. 

Rice Burger   ライスバーガー $6.50
By the time the rice burger arrived, I was almost too full to enjoy it. I was hoping the burger would resemble the rice burgers at Mos Burger in Asia, but it wasn't. The rice was made crispy (although it turned soggy very soon) and the contents of the burger was ordinary. 

On top of the expert presentation and great taste of food, the service at Chou Izakaya was impeccable. The servers were extremely attentive and friendly. The restaurant is also quite spacious with a warm ambience. The only thing that I found weird was the top 50 pop songs that were playing - I was expecting something along the lines of J pop. 

Taste: ★★★★☆
Environment: ★★★
Service: ★★★★
Price: $$$

Chou Izakaya 
556 Church Street
Toronto, ON

Chou Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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