Kyo: Old Montreal Izakaya Promises Authentic Dishes and Sashimi Twists

  • 01 of 09

    Kyo: Old Montreal Izakaya Meets Sushi Bar

    Kyo is a Montreal izakaya, a Japanese pub and sushi bar.
    ••• Above: Kyo's version of okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/comfort food made with cuttlefish, shrimp, squid and topped with green onion, bonito flakes and Japanese mayo. It's one of my favorite dishes at the Old Montreal izakaya. Photo © Clint Lewis

    Kyo originally came onto the Montreal izakaya scene back in June 2013, when owners the Antonopoulos Group decided to breathe new life into the space, closing the previous restaurant AIX Cuisine du Terroir's doors and replacing its local market cuisine with Kyo's Japanese pub flavors.

    Staying true to Japanese roots, Kyo toes tradition with authentic izakaya fare like kakuni (braised pork) and tebasaki (Nagoya style chicken wings) while offering patrons menu items not quite so synonymous with Japanese pub food, like sashimi. When posed the question of what constitutes “real” izakaya food, Kyo manager and Nagoya native Keiko Ito explained that contrary to popular Western belief, sushi is considered “health food” in Japan, and as such is less likely to be featured in pubs and bars, if at all. Grilled and fried fare -comfort food- is more akin to what's served in Japanese izakayas.

     

    Izakaya Meets Sushi Bar

    But Kyo doesn't shy away from sashimi. In fact, its sushi bar features...MORE some of the freshest you'll find in Montreal. Chef Terence Ting is especially enamored with the virtues of sashimi, having been trained by a Japanese chef close to a decade ago. “Even though we're an izakaya, we still have a sushi bar,” says Ting, “and I would say our sushi is up to par with sushi restaurants, if not even better,” adding that he takes pride in his sashimi when I asked him what Japanese dish he never tires of preparing. “Sashimi is very simple,” he says, “and I believe the simpler a dish is, the harder it is to make it good. The less process that goes into it, the less mistakes you can [afford] to make.” When I asked Ting to explain what goes into sashimi, he explains, “the art is in the cut, the timing, the freshness of the fish, whether it's in season. And the preparation itself is very zen. Artistic. It's up to the chef to decide how they will present [a sashimi dish].” Having tried two of Ting's chef's choice sashimi bowls as a regular patron in the past, I can safely confirm that it's good stuff. And visually appealing. He positioned the finely cut fish in such a way that it was easy and almost inevitable to sample a different combination of flavors, depending on the bite.

     

    Crowd?

    Kyo is located in an accessible area in Old Montreal which pretty much guarantees a cross-section of both travelers and locals of all ages. Important note: a tourist trap, Kyo is not.

     

    Dress Code?

    There's no dress code per se. I've personally seen patrons dressed to the nines and yet others in jeans and casual shoes or sneakers. It's a mixed bag. I especially appreciate the grace with which staff conducts itself. I've spotted management treating tourists with fanny packs like royalty just as I've seen them cater to professionals in tailored suits with comparable respect.

     

    Food?

    Start with an order of ebi mayo, a tapas sized dish featuring a handful of tiger shrimp. The only way you could possibly NOT flip over these shrimp is if you hate shrimp.

    For yet more tried-and-tasted perfection, try the Gyutan. It's beef tongue. And it's wonderful. If you can't get around the fact that it's tongue, then go for the beef sashimi, but take a chance here. The tongue is tender, sliced thin and has a delectable umami quality to it courtesy of the yakiniku Korean BBQ sauce, a calculated balance of salty and sweet. Pair that with an order of grilled shitaake mushrooms for an extra burst of umami.

    If you can, find some room in there for an order of okonomiyaki. Kyo's version of the quintessential Japanese pancake is made with cuttlefish, shrimp and squid topped with green onions and an especially eggy Japanese mayo featuring a gentle kick of chili peppers.

    Top pick for dessert? The yuzu doughnuts served with condensed milk. The sweet gooey milk sauce tempers the citrus of the Japanese fruit.

     

    Sake?

    Kyo has one of the most extensive selections of sake in the city. And for the sake haters out there, I offer you the following challenge. Order a bottle of chilled Sayuri Nigori. It's an unfiltered, opaque variety with a milky sweetness to it and subtle hints of what I can best describe as a banana popsicle flavor. And if you're a bubbly fanatic, try a bottle of Geikkekan Zipang. It's a naturally carbonated sake, and like Sayuri Nigori, it's served cold and is a little sweet, but nothing over the top. Either bottle is in the $20 range and is small, roughly one third the size of a regular wine bottle.

     

    Prices? 

    You don't come to Kyo for a bargain. You come for the experience, the atmosphere and the service. Thus, prices are mid to high end. Keep in mind that while dishes range from roughly $6 to $18 each, they are generally tapas sized and meant to be shared. With alcohol, taxes and and tip, you could easily spend $80 to $100 per person.

     

    Kyo Business Hours

    Monday to Friday lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Wednesday dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday dinner 5 p.m. to midnight. Open 5 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations recommended but not required.

     

    Kyo Contact Info

    711 Côte de la Place d'Armes, corner of St. Jacques
    Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2X6
    Tel: (514) 282-2711
    MAP

     

    Note that prices, hours of operation, special events and menu items are subject to change without notice.

    Full disclosure: the Gyutan (beef tongue) and okonomyaki (seafood pancake) were sampled at two different media events free of charge. While other dishes mentioned above were also sampled at media events free of charge, they were also eaten as a regular paying patron for comparison. Sashimi was also consumed as a regular patron on random weekday evenings. Whether staff was aware of my identity and recognized me on those occasions, potentially treating me differently from other patrons, is not something I can confirm nor debunk. What is clear from my observations is staff was equally attentive to other patrons.

    This Kyo profile is for information purposes only. Any opinions expressed in this profile are independent, i.e., free of public relations and promotional bias, and serve to direct readers as honestly and as helpfully as possible. TripSavvy experts are subject to a strict ethics and full disclosure policy, a cornerstone of the network's credibility.

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  • 02 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

    Kyo is a Montreal izakaya, Japanese pub and sushi bar.
    ••• Above: Kyo chef Terence Ting. Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 03 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

    Kyo's ebi mayo. Kyo is a Montreal izakaya, Japanese pub and sushi bar.
    ••• Above: my absolute favorite dish at Kyo, the ebi mayo. The jumbo tiger shrimp are lightly fried and served with wasabi mayo. Share at your own risk. I can tell you right now you'll want a full order all to yourself. Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 04 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

    Inside Kyo, a Montreal izakaya and sushi bar located in Old Montreal
    ••• Above: inside Kyo, a Montreal izakaya and sushi bar located in Old Montreal. Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 05 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

    kyo-montreal-izakaya-sushi-bar-okonomiyaki.JPG
    ••• Above: Kyo's version of a Japanese favorite, okonomiyaki, a pancake that it in this case is made with cuttlefish, shrimp and squid topped with bonito flakes, green onion and Japanese mayo with a chili pepper kick. It's one of my favorite dishes at Kyo. Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 06 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

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    ••• Above: sashimi signed chef Terence Ting. Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 07 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

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    ••• Above: Kyo's signature yuzu doughnuts. Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 08 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

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    ••• Yours truly constructing a snake roll (spicey tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado) under the instruction of Kyo chef Terence Ting. Not too shabby for a first try, eh ;-). Photo © Clint Lewis
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  • 09 of 09

    Kyo: A Montreal Izakaya in Photos

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    ••• Above: yours truly enjoying a media night at Kyo tasting a glass of Japanese sochu, not to be confused with its better known Korean counterpart, soju. It's basically distilled alcohol not unlike vodka but with a lower alcohol percentage. Thirteen ounce half bottles start at $80 which can make up to 12 drinks. Full 26-ounce bottles start at $110. Each order of sochu at Kyo comes with servings of watermelon, grapes and cucummbers which are mottled into the drinks. My favorite was the cucumber variant. In my opinion, this drink works well in a food pairing context, more so than drinking it on its own as a standalone. Photo © Clint Lewis