Fin Izakaya

Finhttp://www.finizakaya.com/
55 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON M4P 1G8

For my birthday this year, my hubby took me out to Fin Izakaya.  We have been here a few times for other celebrations but it has been a while since we’ve been back.  I usually enjoy the food as I do love Japanese cuisine.  It’s quite refreshing to visit an izakaya rather than the usual sushi bars or AYCEs.  The Izakaya phase does seem to have died down, but there weren’t that many that has spurred during the popularity of this style of Japanese cooking.  I wonder if it has to do the pricing?

On this visit, Fin was hosting one of their fish auctions, but unfortunately by the time we finished dinner, it hadn’t started yet.  I really would like to go through one of these auctions and see what it’s like.  I’m not aware of any other restaurants that hosts these.

So let’s jump right into to what we ordered:

  • Tuna and Garlic rare steak
  • Dried Fish Kawahagi
  • Duck Shichimi Yaki
  • Hot Pot Crab and Asari clam + Rice (a special)
  • Beef Rice Bomb
  • Sashimi of the day – Sea Bream whole
  • Chicken Winglettes – Red Salt
  • Pear Sake
  • Asahi (on tap)

Line ups: None
We had made our reservations on Open Table (www.opentable.com/), but there was no one waiting at all.  Every time we visit, we’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes and we’ve always had reservations.  They are very consistent at ensuring their patrons are seated and those with reservations do not have to wait.  I greatly appreciate that.  Some places we’ve been to, even if you have a reservations, you’re just lining up when you get there.

Service: Great/Excellent
Let’s start with their parking.  I find it great that they provide parking space for dinner customers since it’s quite hard to find parking on that part of Eglinton.  The only thing that’s inconvenient was getting into the lot.  I called to advise we were approaching the entrance.  The person on the phone asked if we were right at the gate.  I advised him that we were just about to swing around to turn in as the construction was blocking the entrance from the westbound lanes.  He advised me to call back when we’re right at the gate or just come inside.  It was literally 30 seconds later when we found ourselves in front of the parking gate, but no one picked up the phone.  My hubby stayed in the car as I ran into the restaurant.

When I entered the restaurant, I advised the hostess my hubby was at the parking lot and she sent someone out to let him into the lot.  She noted my reservation and proceed to seat me.  Upon coming in, my hubby advised that after the attendant let him into the lot and told him where to park, he disappeared through a staff entrance and didn’t tell my hubby if the front entrance was the only way back.  We had a server come to us within a few minutes to ask what we would like to drink.  Throughout the rest of the evening, our food was always presented to us, they came to check on us throughout the evening, and the bill was prompt.

The only other item for service to note was when we asked for the rice for out hot pot.  We couldn’t find our server, so another server came to our table and when we told her we would like to add the rice to the hot pot, she said we when we finished the items in the pot, then let her know and she’ll take it to make the rice.  Moments later, our server came and asked if we wanted to make Okayu/Zosui (can’t remember which term he used).  We said “sure”, and he took the pot away.  We still had the crab claw and a few clams in there, but he got the chefs to make the porridge anyways.

Food: Delicious

finbeef
Tuna and Garlic rare steak
Findrinks
Asahi (on tap) and Pear Sake
2015-01-28 10.05.26
Beef Rice Bomb

 

Finseabream
Sashimi of the day – Sea Bream whole
finwings
Chicken Winglettes – Red Salt
finfishjerky
Dried Fish Kawahagi
Finduck
Duck Shichimi Yaki

 

finrice
Hot Pot Crab and Asari clam + Rice (Okayu/Zosui)
Finhotpot
Hot Pot Crab and Asari clam

 

Almost everything was excellent.  Loved the Beef Rice Bomb with the sweet/salty teriyaki like sauce.  The mayo adds a creamy texture to coat the beef and rice.

I always like the Dried Fish Kawahagi.  It’s basically fish jerky.  It has a nice subtle hint of sweetness, charcoal fragrant from the grill, and is chewy like jerk.  Great appetizer to go with a drink.

The Hot Pot Crab and Asari Clam was our favourite of the night.   The broth was a delicious concoction of seafood goodness.  It had clams, shitaki mushrooms, cabbage, a crab leg, enoki mushrooms.  What made it even better was the essence of the soup was used to make an Okayu (rice porridge).  I’d have to say, that was the best Okayu I’ve ever had.  Milky, creamy, cheesey seafood flavoured okayu.  I don’t know how they got so much flavour out of the broth, because there wasn’t that much seafood in the pot.

The Sea Bream Sashimi was very fresh.  No metal like taste or fishiness at all.  It had a firm, crunch texture.  Beautiful red, pink, white colour.  After we ate the meat, we had the carcass grilled with salt.   It was nice and light.  Went well with our okayu.

The Tuna and Garlic rare steak had a great soft yet slightly firm texture.  It was served atop of onions.  Although it was cooked tataki style, it didn’t carry much cooked flavours.  It wasn’t as garlicy as we would’ve liked.  Actually I tasted more sweet onion flavour than garlic.

Duck Shichimi Yaki.  It’s basically grilled slices of duck.  I’m pretty sure it was duck breast that was served on a bed of enoki mushrooms.  It was nice pieces of duck.  I didn’t find it extraordinary or anything that stood out, but it’s carried a subtle heartiness.

The Chicken Winglettes unfortunately was a little under whelming.  Yes it had a great crunchy without the oil and batter, but overall it just didn’t stand out in anyway.  Each of them only had 1 bone, so it was nice to not have to chewy out 2.  There wasn’t much fat content like your usual wings.  The red salt did have a hint of sweetness to it, but it was just lightly sprinkled on, so it was very hard to taste it.

I didn’t try my hubby’s Asahi, but he had no complaints and ordered a second too.  The pear Sake was very refreshing.  Sake is a strong alcohol and I know not everyone likes it.  With the subtle hints of pear, it adds a fresh lightness to the drink.  Don’t be fooled though, it’s still 15%-20% of alcohol.

Decor/Cleanliness: Excellent
We’ve never had issues with cleanliness at Fin.  Tables are always clean when we are seated.  We’ve never had to change cutlery.  If food is dropped on the floor, it is cleaned up immediately.

Overall: Great/Excellent

We don’t have any complaints.  Food flavours overall were well developed, sashimi is fresh, drinks are good, general service is good.  There really isn’t much else I would say about Fin.  It’s one of our usual spots when we feel like izakaya.  The overall experience of this visit was great.

Fin Izakaya, you’re YOL Approved!

Kinton Ramen – 4

As Ramen is a popular trend in the last few years, there’s more and more shops popping up everywhere.  Most of these authentic Japanese ramen shops are closer to the heart of Toronto.  The chain Kinton Ramen has decided to open their 4th location in North York. http://www.kintonramen.com/locations/

I’ve been to 3 of the 4 locations now but I do have to say, there is a slight difference from this new location to the ones downtown.

On this visit we ordered their appetizer special, Kinton Ball, Original Chicken-Shoyu-Thick Noodle Ramen, Original Pork-Shoyu-Thick Noodle Ramen, and green tea to drink.

kintonball
Kinton Ball
kinton1
Original Pork-Shoyu-Thick Noodle Ramen
kinton2
Original Chicken-Shoyu-Thick Noodle Ramen

 

So let’s break down the visit.

Line ups: None
It was awesome.  It’s very rare to go to any ramen place without a line up.  It could be due to the holiday season as we went just after Christmas and maybe it was lunch rather than dinner, but regardless, lucky for us=)

Service: Good/Great
As we entered the shop, there’s the familiar “irasshaimase!” greeting by everyone.  The staff seated us right away and a within a few minutes a server came to ask what we would like to drink and if we’re ready to order.  At the end of the meal, it wasn’t difficult to find someone to ask for the bill and within 2 minutes, we received our bill.  The only thing about the service that wasn’t perfect was, our tea.  At the other locations of Kinton Ramen, whenever we order tea, no matter how busy the staff are, if they notice that our cups are empty, they will ask if we would like more water.  During this visit, as I mentioned, they had no line ups and the restaurant was not full, so it was just a little disappointing to not be offered more water for our teas.  We did look up for staff a few times during the meal, but there were no staff in sight (other than the ramen chefs, busily putting up the orders).

Food: Good
Kinton Ball: Delicious! What is it, you ask?  It’s a pork scotch egg with sweet chill mayo.  The egg of course is a seasoned egg with the gooey egg yoke center.  It is panko crusted then deep fried.  The ball is light and crispy on the outside, not oily at all.  As you break through that you get into a thin layer of shredded pork, next is the seasoned egg white, then you hit the center with yoke slightly oozing out.  It’s one yummy layer after another, but without the sweet chilli mayo to embellish all the flavours, it wouldn’t be the same.  The mayo adds to the flavour of the pork and keeps the whole ball moist as you’re eating it.  Presentation was fabulous and attractive.  Just like the one from the Baldwin location, better actually because the yoke was a little more gooey.

Chicken Ramen: I decided to get the chicken ramen because the last time we visited the Queen St. location, my hubby got it and it was a nice light broth but full of flavour (minus the fat=P).  The amount of chicken was the same from the other location to this one – 2 slices of  tender chicken breast.  The noodles were chewy and al dente as expected.  The broth was a little disappointing.  It was not the same light flavourful broth I had at the Queen St. location.  The broth was very heavy and thicker, much thicker.  I don’t know what they added to it, but the broth separated and when you stirred it, the flavour was strong and aromatic, but it was no longer a light chicken broth.  I was quite disappointed.  The presentation was ok, a little lacking when it was first served.  As you can see in the picture, the chicken was sunken and you can’t see much of the noodle, it just looked stale and sad unfortunately.

kintonchicken kinton2

Pork Ramen: My hubby got the basic pork ramen because we wanted to go with the basic to see how it holds up.  The pork shoulder-2 pieces, great!  It had grill marks, with the coal aroma, well seasoned, and it was soft and not chewy. The noodles, same as mine, perfectly cooked.  Consistency is so important.  The broth, did not measure up to the other location. We ordered the regular fat level as we do most of the times.  Why do I say the broth didn’t measure up?  It didn’t tasted as though the flavours were not fully developed through the simmering process. (Here’s a link that will explain in depth the broth process so you can try it yourself: http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/02/how-to-make-tonkotsu-ramen-broth-at-home-recipe.html)  The broth had some elements of the flavours, but not that full smooth, milky, slightly thickened texture and flavour.   Broth and noodles are the essence of ramen; the toppings are just the extras.

kintonpork kinton1

Decor/Cleanliness: Excellent
The decor is consistent with all the other location.  Unique wooden squares laid out on the walls. The trademark golden piggies everywhere.  It’s modern-chic, in line with the brand.  It’s was definitely clean.  No sticky tables or chairs.  All the utensils were pristine.

utensils

Overall: Great
All in all, I would say it’s a good visit.  This is the closest, distance wise, authentic ramen we have near us.  Everything was great except a few details.  Main issues are just the soup bases, which are very important.  Since they have just opened a couple of months ago, maybe it’ll take a little time for them to catch up.  I, for one am keeping my fingers crossed.

Will definitely will be back to see if you will make it on the the list!