Power Lunch: Momofuku Kojin
Where a clean Japanese aesthetic meets a mean, Argentinian-style wood grill.
Written by Christina Gonzales
Image of flatbread spread by Andrew Bezek
Location: 190 University Ave, Toronto, ON M5H 0A3
Must-try eats: The corn flatbread spread with the grass-fed butter and spiced honey is hands-down the best thing on the menu.
Libations: The standout cocktail is the Caipirinha (cachaça, burnt lime, pineapple, lemongrass), refreshing and subtly smoky.
Where to sit so you’re in-and-out in 60 minutes: At the chef’s bar overlooking the kitchen.
With sleek auburn banquette seating, black steel chairs and a bronze marble bar, Momofuku Kojin mixes Japanese design aesthetic with a floor-to-ceiling view of Toronto’s financial district. Rebranded and revamped from Daisho to Kojin, with the talented Chef Paula Navarrete at the helm, everything about the new restaurant centres around Navarrete’s barbeque. She pays homage to her South American roots this way; all of the barbeque is cooked on an Argentinian-style wood grill. And that’s the jist of the restaurant; that’s the entire vibe. Sure, clean design. Sure, there’s the high ceilings and brilliant natural light. But let’s be real: do you want meat cooked the old way? Then come here.
Start with the corn flatbread with grass-fed butter and spiced honey. (The only way to do it is to smother a mix of both the butter and honey atop the griddled cakes and watch it all melt.) The cornmeal and hominy grits are roughly ground, which makes the flatbread interesting in texture—and filling. One could sustain themself on these. But if you’re reading this, you’re probably game for more. In that case, we have to point to the sausage on a bun, or butcher’s steak. Here, you opt for the barbeque, full stop. And with the barbeque have side of tita’s mash (tita means auntie in Spanish), which is an unreal concoction of the finest cheesy mash you’ll ever taste at any Shangri-la. Hey, if you wanted something light, you should’ve headed to a sushi joint.
Fight smoke with smoke, and order drinks off the menu that compliment the barbeque-themed lunch. The lightest, tangiest option? The Caipirinha, which has cachaça, burnt lime, pineapple, and lemongrass. The burnt lime provides enough smoky flavour without burdening your meal. For something heavier, we’d suggest the Dress Flannel (aged rum, smoked maple, grapefruit bitters). And then there’s always sake. The Nama Nama is dry, light pairing, and good for a group if there are any sake newbies at the table.