When a restaurant review ends with a backhanded compliment, watch out. That's the case today with Ariane Krol's write-up of Kinka Izakaya, the wildly popular, sole Montreal foray (so far) from Toronto's determined Kinka Family restaurant group. The Faubourg Sainte-Catherine brasserie japonais has atmosphere in spades; Krol takes note of the "[c]lientèle jeune, largement anglophone, baignant comme un poisson dans l'eau dans cette atmosphère extraordinairement bruyante."
Minutes after the introductory "arigato gozaimasu!," the critic tucks into some izakaya classics. It all bodes so well. "On y trouve des choses succulentes comme la morue charbonnière marinée au miso, ou ces brochettes de joues de porc grillées qui valent à elles seules la visite." The next two plates—French fries with marinated ginger and bonito flakes, and rapini with mushrooms, garlic, and soy sauce—are tasty and hold Krol's interest. But then it all starts to slide downhill. A sashimi salad has too much onion and vinaigrette. The outside of an okonomiyaki is almost black; the inside practically devoid of the promised squid. A disappointment, much like a subsequent bowl of udon noodles, bereft of cod roe.
Kabocha squash croquettes would be perfect to snack on with a beer if not for the prevalence of an insipid cocktail sauce. Finally, Krol seems happy with her dessert choice but even this cannot escape criticism. "Ce petit bol n'a rien de spectaculaire, ni par son look ni par son taux de sucre, mais c'est une expérience agréablement surprenante."
The critic ends the review with a paragraph that addresses the French side of Kinka Izakaya's menu. It seems to have been produced by "un moteur de traduction automatique." The mistakes amuse at first, until they become problematic ("sushi pressé au maquereau soufflé"). I expect better from a restaurant group that has plans to conquer the world, snipes Krol. Oh and that backhanded compliment? It comes in answer to the question, "Would we return to Kinka Izakaya?". Krol's response is yes, with a caveat. "Oui, si on a envie d'une sortie pour s'amuser, et non d'une cuisine grandiose." For another take on Kinka Izakaya, free of linguistic quibbles, recall that Sarah Musgrave gave the restaurant a coveted "Good to Great Bet" score in the Gazette back in March.