Kokyo (501A Yonge, at Alexander, 416-962-6968) Complete dinners for $18 per person ($16), including all taxes, tip and a Japanese beer. Average main $10. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 10:30 pm, Friday 11 am to 11:30 pm, Saturday 12:30 to 11:30 pm, Sunday 2 to 10:30 pm. Licensed. Access: ramp at door, washrooms off narrow corridor. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The cardinal rule for minimalist cuisine is freshness. But it doesn't take a brain surgeon to taste when raw fish is manky.
It's the finer details that attest to a chef's skill. Kokyo's Green Dragon Roll ($7.95) is artistry on the plate, with a glistening avocado back and pickled ginger snout. But scales and insides fall out due to sloppy rolling.
Grilled squid with ginger sauce ($5.50) isn't chewy but tastes like it was marinated in the bitter smoke left after it was engulfed in flames.
The vegetable bento box ($8.95) includes crisp veggies with commercial-tasting teriyaki sauce; oil-logged limp spring rolls; average avocado and cucumber rolls; watery, bland miso soup; salad and tempura.
The beautiful thing about tempura done right is the strands of batter jutting elegantly from each piece. Here, the coating's more like a damp blanket over mushy veggies.
Two out of three samples of sushi à la carte, "fresh off the boat," can pass as such: sea urchin ($3.25) and BBQ eel ($2.25). Tuna belly, or toro ($2.25), however, is stringy and has me humming Whiter Shade Of Pale rather than a track from Deep Purple. As my lunch companion remarks, "More like fresh out of Lake Ontario."
A plate of gyoza ($3.50) saves the day. The dumplings are crisp and light on the outside, sweet scallion and tender juicy pork on the inside.
At least five other sushi restaurants are a five-minute walk from Kokyo, all shoved between fast-food joints, some cleaner than others, their decor on the gaudy side of North-Americanized Japanese culture.
But if Kokyo lags comparatively in charm, it makes up for it in patio. You can't beat sitting in the sunshine eating sushi while ogling the strip's constant gong show.