There is a new sake bar in town and people in Toronto and the Kensington neighbourhood are buzzing around about it! Koi Koi is a Japanese sake bar, serving popular Japanese bar bites and a great assortment of exclusive sakes and wines.
After 25 years at the previously Graffiti's Bar and Grill, the owner Steve Mitchell was eager to leave the bar business but wanted to sell the business to a creative, Kensington local. Eventually, the previous owner sold the space to Linda Dang and Nancy Young (Sukoshi and North Poke).
The new owners wanted to preserve and salvage as much of the old space but it proved to be pretty difficult-- the only thing left is the roll-up garage door and the spirit of Graffiti's: live music!
Their indoor ambience is dark and gives off a Japanese night market vibe. There is a beautiful installation of pink Japanese cherry blossoms that envelop the ceiling above the tables as well as lamps made out of Hanafuda cards, which are Japanese playing cards used to play a game called "Koi Koi" (hence the name of the bar). There are also a few decks of these curious playing cards behind the bar, which you can ask to play with! It's a smart idea to google how to play beforehand.
Their walls are decorated with traditional red and black Kabuki masks imported straight from Japan:
The bar front is also quaint and looks traditionally Japanese, with bamboo wood decorated over the walls, with red lanterns and Japanese flags hanging overtop:
So what exactly is on the menu at this charming new sake bar? Koi Koi serves a variety of popular bar bites like crunchy chicken wings, yakitori skewers, matcha tiramisu, deep-fried katsu pork and curry croquettes with potato salad (a special dish admired by the Japanese).
Koi Koi also serves dishes like Hokkaido Ikura Don, made with hokkaido scallops, ikura, and butterfish on rice ($13). Another late night special is their traditional salmon ochazuke, where their house-special Ume tea is poured over a bowl of white rice and topped with teriyaki salmon ($10).
There is a frosted glass fridge at the back of the bar, for guest's storing sake. If guests buy a large bottle, they are welcome to come back within the month and finish it on their next visit! You can drink their exclusive sakes chilled or gently warmed, and they have different profiles such as earthy, aged, sweet, light and fragrant. Talk about well-rounded!
Their cocktails, sakes, and beers (Asahi, Sapporo, Hitachino, Kirin Ichiban) are all imported from Japan. For more drink details, visit their online drink menu.
Koi Koi is located at 170 Baldwin St. in Kensington Market in Toronto, they are open from 5 pm to late, every day. For more details, visit their website.
*the cherry blossoms in the cover image are for illustrative purposes only*