Korean/Kaiten/Kyozon

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Photo Credit: Kyozon Facebook page

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I've read some articles recently claiming that Crescent Street is no longer the happening place to be in Montreal. However, I disagree. Whether you love Asian-style cooking, dining out with friends, fancy dinners with your significant other, or a rocking time out Kyozon is the place to be.

The Restaurant

Open since Spetember 9th 2014, Kyozon is a two-storey Asian supper club that brings together appetizers, entrées, and platters from Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Japan. It's Japanese definition, meaning a "merging together of opposite things," Kyozon has three different menus and a mouth-watering cocktail list.

Foodies looking for a more traditional dining experience can select items from the à la carte menu. This option includes soups and salads, Chinese Dim Sum: small steamed or fried savory dumplings containing various fillings, fuku steamed buns, sushi platters, tempura, new-asian classics & creations, Kyozon house specials, and dessert. For couples on dates I would recommend ordering the half of full Crispy Five Spice Duck or the Miso Bronzed Black Cod in Hoba Leaf from the Kyozon house specials or choosing an individual entrée from the new-asian classics & creations and sharing. Don't like duck or fish? Try the Kaiten menu and remeber - sharing is caring!

Sushi lovers visiting for the first time should opt for the Kaiten menu. Similar to the Japanese definition of Kaiten, "turning to the heaven," this experience begins on the mezzanine of the restaurant. Here a square conveyor belt circles around both sides of the second floor making one turn to the right and then back to the left of the dining room tables. Individuals dining alone or in a pair can sit next to each other at the bar adjacent the conveyor's platform or face-to-face at high tables placed on the periphery of the restaurant. Parties of two to six can sit at long booths located parallel to the kaiten belt, so they won't miss out on the action and they can sit comfortably with their friends.

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Photo Credit: Kyozon Facebook page

How does it work? Simple: All kaiten plates are colour coded according to price. Plates start at $2 and rise, sparingly, to $3, $4.50, $6, and $7. Because I know sushi shops that charge much higher prices for small dishes I would say these plates are reasonably priced. Diners just have to remember that with each plate they take the price is charged to their bill. I find this system both transparent and efficient because it allows diners to keep track of their purchases as the plates are stacked at their table and keeps the waitress from stopping at the table to add totals incrementally.

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Photo Credit: Kyozon Facebook page

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My Dining Experience

For my first visit to Kyozon I knew I wanted to experience it all. With my foodie friend in toe we decided to begin our evening on a Saturday, 6pm, on the second floor of the restaurant. Because Kyozon opens at 5pm on Saturdays we were one of the first to arrive which meant we got first pick for seats. We told the hostess we wanted to try the Kaiten menu, so she brought us to at a long booth next to the conveyor belt. Our waitress quickly greeted us with the cocktail and dinner menus. She also explained to us what what the switch at the far end of our table was for. By flipping it this switch turned on a red light above our table which told her that we needed her help. A concept I found absolutely genius because it allowed the diners to enjoy their experience without constant interruptions from the staff and, conversely, the staff spent less time checking on tables that didnt require service, thereby focusing more attention of delivering drinks, cleaning tables, and preparing bills.

For drinks I started off with a classic lychee martini cocktail. The drink, for those who aren't familiar with this gem, is typically a mix of vodka, lychee liqueur, lychee juice, and a canned or fresh lychee garnish. Its taste is quite sweet, given the fruit juice and liqueur, but not overly so. Because it is shaken all the flavours are blended together harmoniously which makes sipping the martini all the more enjoyable. Even though I like to stay conservative with my drinking I couldn't help but try one of Kyozon's signature cocktails - Leche de Geisha. This beautiful creation is pure ecstacy for any woman's pallet. The Belvedere vodka didn't overpower the black tea and the berry purée was the fruity friend the orchid and roses longed for. Last but not least the rhubarb bitters provided the touch of tart that balanced it all. I truly fell hard for this masterpiece.

My friend, on the other hand, chose a very traditional drink. Sake, a Japanese alcoholic beverage, is made from fermented rice and served, hot or cold, in small ceramic shot glasses. Its alcohol content is between 15 and 20%, so people tend to sip on this drink rather than gulp it down. There are many different types and flavours of sake, but this particular version was brought to us warmed. Its steam carrying an earthy aroma was welcome on this cold rainy day and we enjoyed its bitter and slightly sour taste. All three drinks definitely opened up our appetites for what was next to come.

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Photo credit: Kyozon Facebook page

When we noticed that the Kaiten chef was still preparing his ingredients for the evening, we decided to order appetizers from the waitress. For me it was the Tom Kha seafood soup. Tom Kha is a Thai soup that combines coconut milk, fresh herbs, chili peppers, mushrooms, and chicken. However this Kyozon version blended the traditional elements and substituted the chicken for fresh shrimp and mussels. The starter was brought to me on a long rectangular ceramic plate and the bowl's contents were large enough for two people to enjoy. At once tangy, sweet, and spicy this soup was a wonderfuly warm comfort from the dreary March weather. Although it was a very pleasant experience for my taste buds many people find Tom Kha to be a little out of the ordinary because it marries warm milk, a sweet coconut flavour, with spicy peppers. Consider this a friendly warning to those less adventurous eaters.

My friend decided on the beef and san choy bau lettuce with crushed peanuts, soy bean sprouts, and lime wedges, an item from the new-asian classics menu. This concoction reminded me of another dish I'd tried at an authentic Chinese restaurant in town. It's meant to be eaten as an Asian taco where the minced beef is laid onto the lettuce and topped with the bean sprouts, peanuts, and showered with lime juice. The combination of the beef's sweet sauce with the sourness of the citrus fruit was the punch full of flavour my mouth craved. My cohort and I also loved the texture the peanuts added to the mix. Not only was the dish good to eat but also reasonaly priced considering we ate six between the two of us.

Finally came the moment we had both been waiting for. With the chef station ready the conveyor belt was turned on and we could finally begin feasting on the Kaiten. With each plate the chef prepared and sent out to the sky my stomach grumbled louder. While the first sushi plate made its way to our booth we took turns guessing what we'd discover under the hard plastic dome. We were thrilled when we saw two classic salmon sushis and were made even happied when we were able to break apart the fish and rice in two bite size portions. The same pleasure was felt when we tasted the red tuna and the barbeque eel sushi. As for the makis we ate four salmon, cucumber, and red roe, a few tuna rolls with both red fish on the inside and white fish on top, some classic californians, and a barbeque eel roll. My only qualm was there wasn't very many options to choose from on the conveyor belt. This was probably the result of us eating out early, the restaurant does close at 3am. Nevertheless everything we ate was fresh, scrumptious, and filling.

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Photo credit: Kyozon Facebook page

Of course a fancy dinner out wouldn't be fancy without dessert. It was easy for me to pick one out because there is only one in my mind that tops all the others, cheesecake. Seeing this white chocolate item on the Kyozon menu was odd at first because its history is rooted in greek and roman cultures, but the chef managed to bring it back to Asia by adding sweet ginger to the recipe. Unfortunately I waited almost 15 minutes for the cake in question. After all cutting a small piece of cake and sending it out on a plate shouldn't take longer than five minutes. Aside from the time delay I found the cake to be rich and smooth and I loved the fact that the kitchen added maple syrup drizzle over the top. The decandence levels were off the charts. A worthwhile option if you're looking to weigh it against others you've tried around town.

All in all I enjoyed myself at Kyozon. The low key, somewhat industrial, decor allowed me and my friend to focus on our meal. The staff were curteous and professional, checking in with us even when our service light was turned off. Because we reserved and showed up early the restaurant wasn't too packed or noisy. The prices also matched the quality of the food and I was happy to see that there were options for all wallet sizes. As for the drinks and food the top mentions of the evening were definitely the Leche de Geisha cocktail and the Kaiten. Seeing a conveyor belt filled with sushi was certainly a first for me, but it definitely won't be the last.

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Specials

Student $17 All-You-Can-Eat Kaiten Lunch and 15% off on drinks from 11:30am-5:30pm

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Photo Credit: Kyozon website

Thursdays 5 à 7 until 3am: $5 for beers and basic cocktails/mixed drinks & $7 for cocktails

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Photo Credit: Kyozon website


1- The Kyozon website

2- The Kyozon Facebook page

3- Definition of Kaiten from Encyclopedia.com

4- Here's a classic Lychee martini recipe

5- Learn all about Sake at Sake Social

6- Become a sushi sensei at Sushi PRO

7- The history of cheesecake from Wikipedia

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