New Food Spot: Kinkaku Izakaya

by Andrew Coppolino  |  @WatRegionEats

Photo of Kinkaku Izakaya   

"An izakaya is a concept, not a menu" -- Leo Jin

Izakaya Dish

Kinkaku Izakaya co-owners Monica Guo and Leo Jin came to Kitchener via Niagara Region -- with a side trip for culinary training in Tokyo.

Monica, 29, and Leo, 37, sold their St. Catharines restaurant in 2011 and took a well-earned sabbatical which included embarking on a study of cookery in Japan. They returned to Canada in 2013 and opened their current Kitchener venture: a Japanese-style "izakaya," which, historically, was a bar that served a bit of food with drinks.

"An izakaya is a concept and not a menu. We opened Kinkaku as an authentic izakaya with a small-plates tasting menu," said Leo who has worked at Japanese restaurants and sushi bars in Toronto.

The couple, now Kitchener residents, determined that uptown Waterloo was too crowded for their business and Kitchener would be perfect for an izakaya. Though it is now an "all-you-can-eat" restaurant -- which Leo calls the popular Canadian model -- Kinkaku continues to prepare unique dishes.

"About 90 percent of our original izakaya menu is still served. It's just all you can eat now," explained Monica.

The restaurant draws heavily on the region's universities for its customer base, but Leo said they are eager to expand that base to include more downtown Kitchener residents and those working in the central business district.

With his Japanese culinary training, Leo loves to introduce new menu items, which for Monica, translates to seeing the customer's response in the restaurant's dining room.

"I like to see when people enjoy their meals and have a very good dish," she said. "I like to see that face."


Kinkaku Izakaya is located at 217 King St W  |  @KinkakuIzakaya  |  kinkakuizakaya.com




Inside Kinkaku Izakaya:

Photography by Dean Landry  |  @dvisionimaging 

Photo of Kinkaku owners

Photo inside Kinkaku Izakaya Restaurant

Photo of Kinkaku Izakaya Kitchen