It’s not easy for me to say a meal is “the best I’ve ever had”. Not because I’ve been to so many great restaurants in my life but because it’s usually a dish from a place that stands out, not the entire meal.
Having tickets to see the Arctic Monkeys, it was a good opportunity to get into downtown Toronto. Long a fan of NY chef David Chang, I was lucky enough to eat at Noodle Bar in Toronto at long last a few months back. Momofuku (which means Lucky Peach and is David Chang’s brand) Toronto closed their upstairs which used to house two restaurants and a bar to renovate and reopen as Kojin. Kojin is a grill-based restaurant. Fire touches most every dish in some way.
So having gotten in touch with an old friend to go to the show, he agreed to check out this great restaurant. We had a beer at the bar while we waited for the restaurant to open. I went with the peach ale as it seemed appropriate to the locale. And so we headed upstairs.
I had booked seats at the counter so we could watch them prepare the food. I ordered a “Smoke and Mirrors” to drink, which is tequila, yuzu (a type of citrus), chamomile and agave (for sweetness). There’s also a touch of spice.
Light and delicious and strangely, my first ever tequila drink!
We ordered the corn flatbread to share with Drew’s grass-fed butter and spiced honey. The corn flatbread was light and crisp and delicious all on its own. The spiced honey had a nice bite to it. They also brought us some in-house pickled vegetables (and maybe fruit – wasn’t sure what some things were) which had great flavour without overwhelming each item. They also brought some house made hot sauce which was habanero based and was truly delicious. Basically we ate everything with everything and it all worked. The hot sauce on the pickles worked and the hot sauce on the corn bread worked. Added the hot sauce to the butter and honey on the bread and that worked too. Incredible!
Next came the appetizers! I had the sirloin tartare and my friend had the shrimp ceviche.
The tartare (which is raw beef) was my first despite always wanting to try it. I don’t know if I wrecked my ability to top it by starting here but man was it amazing. They brought out this ball of beef (the server said they hit the outside of the ball with a bit of flame to add texture but most of it remains raw) on a bed of all-dressed chip crumbs and an egg yolk on top. They proceed to mix it all together at the table and instead of bread or crackers, they use all-dressed chips as the vehicle for eating it. I tasted it by itself first and then with the chips. It was a remarkable flavour. There’s a mushroom spice in there as well which is strong but doesn’t take away from the beef taste. The chip crumbs add flavour and texture. It was truly stunning.
I got to taste the shrimp as well and I was thinking “how could this be amazing”? Shrimp is often bland or completely overwhelmed with spice. I had one bite and stopped and looked at my friend and said “What the hell? Wow!”. It was like there was the exact amount of onion to give a punch to the mouth but still taste the excellent shrimp flavour. Again, stunned (yes, this was theme of the whole meal).
When we were ordering, we were asking the waiter about the various steak cuts. He stops and says, we also have cuts off menu as we buy whole cows and do our own butchering. He then mentions the 30 ounce porterhouse (for two). I can’t say the price because I was thinking ‘no way’ when my friend says ‘yup, let’s do that’. He brought the monster out and explain that one side of the bone is filet and the other side is a New York strip steak.
There are no words to adequately describe this. I have never tasted a piece of beef with so much flavour, cooked so perfectly and just melted away. The fat on the strip side was just, wow. They served it with their own barbecue sauce, a hot sauce and the most amazing marrow butter I’ve ever had. It also came with a small jar of Kozlik’s green peppercorn mustard which had a bite and is also delicious. It was stunning and we slowly worked our way through the entire thing. Part way through, one of the chef’s came over and made us a bonus sauce. Grilled corn kernels in a small cast iron pan on which he poured what he called ‘corn tea’. It bubbled and settled down and it went amazingly well with the beef. Like a corn gravy, really.
We polished off the evening with a slice of Momofuku Milk Bar’s insane crack pie. It was quite an evening. Without question, the best meal I have ever had. Period.
The space is beautiful without being stuffy or high-brow. It can be a fancy date night or a comfortable hangout. We were in shorts, as were others, but some were dressed up. It all works.
The chefs and the service staff are friendly but not intrusive. We had some great chats with the various people who work there. It was comfortable and at no time was anything off or out of place. Clearly they work hard at bringing both personality to the restaurant but letting you have whatever type of evening you want. It’s the type of place anyone would enjoy, whether a foodie like me or not. Relaxed environment with friendly staff and the most beautiful food you can imagine. Go here. I want to take everyone I know here. As over-the-top as this was, it can be much simpler as well. The type of place where dinner for two can run a hundred dollars if you want it to or five hundred. Find a reason and go.