Restaurant: Imanishi Japanese Kitchen
Location: 1330 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y1
Price Range: $$
Imanishi Japanese Kitchen is another hole-in-the-wall restaurant type with no obvious storefront sign and one could easily miss this humble Izakaya from outside. Upon entering, I loved the decor of the restaurant, from the stacks of Japanese magazines and manga at the very top of the bar to the cute little Japanese reservation signs – basically everything screaming out to you that this was a Japanese restaurant. A nice thing about Imanishi is that the restaurant is not as noisy as other typical Izakaya, you won’t hear the staff chanting here – which is nice if you want a quite meal or on a date.
The Yuzu & Shiso Mojito was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. It was compelling subtle: tart, herbaceous and refreshing – a must get if you are at Imanishi!
On the other hand, if you are a gin lover then you will enjoy the plum wine negroni. However I noticed that the gin definitely overpowered the plum wine and campari though. My friend said the oolong-hi was quite watered down and she couldn’t taste the tea nor the shochu.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the eggplant was served cold! The deep frying helped to remove the bitterness and prevented de-coloration of the eggplant. The tender eggplant easily absorbed the light ginger dashi broth – even if you are not a fan of eggplant (like myself), I can assure that you will love this dish.
The paper-thin red snapper was translucent, smooth and light. The tangy yuzu dressing brought out the freshness of the red snapper and it was quite pleasing to the taste.
Like other Izakayas in the city, this was the only sashimi option available on the menu at Imanishi and I believe the fish is seasonal. I’m happy to tell you though that the fish was fresh and had a melted-in-your-mouth texture. The wasabi was strong and hot, but with no harshness and no lasting burn – this is what fresh wasabi truly taste like!
The anchovy was undetectable and the potato salad on its own was quite bland, but it went well with the salted taro chips. I also appreciate that the salad was smooth yet still had nice chunks of potato in it for some texture.
This was a favorite of the night! The stingray itself had an odd texture: a little chewy and tough – but similar to the packaged dried squid in Asian grocery store. The flavor was out of this world. The fin was sweet and had a slight fish taste, and the char from the grill gave it a smoky flavor that seemed to just enhance the taste of the stingray. I found that the mayo was not necessary, but if you want something to balance out the fishy taste, the soy mayo will definitely do that!
The pate was served with a lightly toasted baguette and the texture was quite interesting as it was a bit more runny or silky than other pate that I’m more used to. With that said, the pate was rich and creamy, but yet at the same time very light and delicate.
The squid was tender inside yet still remained to be chewy on the outside, nothing like the tough or gummy texture I dreaded. Seasoned perfectly and served with a dollop of yummy mayonnaise infused with a kick from the garlic – such a simple dish but done to perfection. Highly recommended.
Overall I loved the meal here and service was great and attentive. A reservation is a must as the restaurant was about half to almost full on a Saturday night. Although the food was a little on pricey side, I thought the price was similar to other Izakayas in Toronto yet the menu was more innovative and well thought out.