Kinka Izakaya South Core
Kinka Izakaya is a chain of restaurants representing Japanese izakaya traditions, which typically involves daily changing handwritten menus and lots of communal seating for large groups.
That makes this location particularly appropriate for this area, as there are lots of attractions and arenas around here.
The high-ceilinged space has six tables for eight, suspended light fixtures overhead giving the appearance of floating. Bar seating and much smaller tables are suitable for one or two.
A Salmon Don Set ($13.50) is part of a selection of donburi on a mainstay lunch menu, the one small static part of the menu.
A big scoop of rice is topped with both raw diced salmon and seared salmon sashimi, along with wasabi, tobiko, nori, pickled ginger and scallion.
The set is rounded out with a little salad with sesame dressing and rich, salty soup, a little dish of soy on the side appropriate for dipping the salmon.
The Karubi Set ($13.50) brings together six pieces of grilled salt and pepper beef short ribs, a scallion sauce, soup, salad and steamed rice.
As for daily specials, an Otsumami Set ($8.20) appetizer platter makes for a good start and a fun way to try a few little things that go nicely with a frosty beer.
Pickled cucumber is topped with bonito for a snack that's both lightly crisp and funky, boiled okra with dashi sauce is clean and crunchy, and smoked cheese in soy sauce is just plain unexpected and rich.
A Marugoto Potato ($5.90) is described to me as a kind of Japanese-style mashed potato that feels to me almost more like a potato salad on top of a big wedge of potato. Tomato, cucumber, egg and wasabi mayo break up the onslaught of potato a little, but not much.
Atsuage Negi Tofu ($5) sandwiches scallions in between sliced cubes of deep-fried tofu, sitting in a pool of flavourful dashi and soy. Toppings of bonito, ginger and tenkasu (deep-fried dough) add a little extra texture and flavour to the spongy, sopping snack.
Wagyu Katsu ($15) is presented in mini sandwich form, a more affordable bite-sized version of what can be a pricey gourmet snack. The price feels good for value as all the focus is on a generous piece of fatty beef, with only a light crunchy breading, toasted white bread and a little BBQ sauce to set it off.
A classic Sapporo ($6.50) on draft in a stein perfect for swigging is the ideal accompaniment to a wide array of little shared Japanese snacks.
Ten varieties of sake make for an equally appropriate pairing, if more boozy.