Imanishi Japanese Kitchen
Imanishi Japanese Kitchen is part of a roster of must-eat Little Portugal spots, which includes Royale's , Enoteca Sociale , and Midfield Wine Bar . Owners Daisuke Gomyo, Shori Imanishi, and co. have already managed to make this outpost for Japanese home-style cooking a neighbourhood fixture.
Cozy and modest, yet attractive and curated, this description could apply to both environment and their menu. You'd come here for a special occasion or a quick comfort stopover for an Asahi and set meal.
A hit during their pop-up residency at the nearby Churchill , Imanishi has matured from its grease-centric morsels to a spread emphasizing more nuanced Japanese flavours and ingredients than the American hybrid dishes from before.
But the upgrade hasn't meant heftier costs. Take, for instance, their shared apps, small dishes most of which are below $10. Some of the options include anchovy potato salad and seaweed taro chips ($6.50), the crispy and sweet tebasaki chicken wings ($7.50), garlic and ginger marinated octopus and celery ($7.80).
There's also sliced cuts of seared rib-eye steak cooked with sansho peppers, chickpeas, in a soya sauce and almond oil mixture ($9.80). Each dish wows, but is affordable. Think the quality of Kingyo but with a more humble price point.
I really enjoy their guai lan gomae ($3.80), a small plate of this dark green vegetable dressed with a thick ground sesame dressing and topped with a smatter of katsuo-bushi flakes. It packs an umami crunch.
The tai carpaccio is one of the few dishes over $10 (at $14) but worth the price. Delicate thinly sliced red snapper is topped with yuzu citrus dressing, tomato, and cilantro, and is inspired by modern Tokyo trends.
For another pricier app, ask which seasonal sashimi platters they have available. Sushi isn't the focus here, but these boards are lovely little creations.
If you turn into a regular patron, I suspect the go-to at Imanishi will be the set katsu curry rice meal. I get the breaded deep-fried pork loin cutlet option ($12.50) that comes perfectly crispy with shredded cabbage and drizzled in tonkatsu sauce.
They use S&B Curry Powder, one of the oldest and most popular Japanese curry powders inherited from the British Navy about 150 years ago. Rounding the meal out is a miso soup bowl that has fried tofu cubes and smoked bonito flakes.
Another special treat at Imanishi is their cocktails. Talking to Gomyo, the cold tea cocktails mixed with shochu, especially their Oolong-Hi ($7), are the blue-collar alcoholic beverage of choice next to beer, and are a staple of most izakayas.
You start with beer then switch to Chu-Hi. Low in sugar content, they help minimize nasty hangovers, without sacrificing taste. While the oolong is a classic, the soba buckwheat and aloe versions are also especially tasty whereas the umeboshi salted plum is more of an acquired taste ($7).
Not so with Imanishi as a whole, whose diverse menu and regular specials means you'll find yourself craving repeat visits.
Photos by the author.