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Food

Kazu: Honest, Soulful, Delicious

Posted by Mandy / August 4, 2010

kazu montreal tofu For weeks I had been hearing nothing but enthusiastic praise for Kazu, the new izakaya-style Japanese restaurant at St-Mathieu and Ste-Catherine. Not thinking too much about it, I absentmindedly put Kazu on my list of places to check out. However, when I kept seeing line-ups stretching down the street to get into this restaurant, I knew I had to see what all the hype was.

And I have to tell you, there is reason for the hype. Such satisfactory dining experiences - satisfactory in every aspect - are rare.

I arrived on a Monday evening at around six o'clock with four other people, one of them being a sashimi-loving five year-old. Early Monday nights are definitely not prime dining time, yet Kazu was completely packed. I was initially shocked with the tiny size of the place: only a few small tables with several people crammed around every corner, and a totally full bar in front of an open-concept kitchen. Thinking back to it, we were incredibly lucky to get a table. As soon as we walked in, a long line-up formed behind us, and we managed to snag the last available table and cram ourselves in.

It was difficult to know where to start. We quickly decided to order several dishes and share everything. Many of Kazu's specialty dishes are tacked up on the wall and a super friendly enthusiastic waitress helped us with more recommendations. We ended up sampling most of the menu.

kazu montreal homemade tofu We started off with Kazu's famous homemade tofu. First impressions: we were completely blown away. The tofu had a silky soft texture, and you could taste the fresh soybeans. It was perfectly seasoned with a unique blend of bright flavours, and the little pat of wasabi on the side made the perfect condiment.

kazu montreal pork cheeks Next up, the pork cheeks, one of Kazu's specials posted on the wall. Wow. Made kind of like a rillette but with the perfect combination of Asian flavours, and served with grilled tortilla chips, each bite demonstrated flawless technique and seasoning.

kazu montreal sou We asked our waitress for soup and she came back with this vegetable, chicken and tofu dish. The broth was homey and full of flavour, and, get this - the chicken was grilled before being put in the soup making the subtle charred flavour run throughout the entire soup. Now that is dedication.

kazu montreal chilean sea bass Kazu's menu is full of small, appetizer-size dishes, but they also offered a Chilean sea bass that could act as a main course. On a bed of Japanese sushi rice, the sea bass was perfectly cooked and buttery, and the whole dish was topped with sesame and other Asian-style vinaigrettes.

kazu montreal shrimp pancake Another must-have at Kazu is the shrimp pancake. It's a juicy shrimp patty on a bun, topped with puffed rice, with a side of an Asian tartar sauce. Modern Asian fusion.

kazu montreal gyoza Of course, we had to give the gyozas a try. I loved seeing our pork gyozas joined together with strip of crepe, an obvious sign of homemade freshness. This classic dish was also upped by throwing in fresh shallots and scallions into the sauce to add an extra layer of dimension.

Other honourable mentions from Kazu's menu are their tuna and salmon bowl (a bowl of rice with tuna and salmon tartare topped with greens and crispy noodles), their salad with kimchi essence, and their chicken tortilla dish.

As we ate, we watched hoards of eager eaters stand out in the rain as they waited for a table, hoping to get in before Kazu closed at 9:30 (yes, this is a regular thing!). We asked our waitress if Kazu was always this busy. She smiled shyly and replied, "It depends, but usually, yes, the restaurant is always like this."

For dessert, we ordered homemade ice cream in coffee and sake flavours.
kazu montreal ice cream kazu montreal ice cream The ice creams, served in the cup corresponding to their flavours, was a unique touch. You actually should do the sake ice cream as a shot!

Even with delicious food, one thing about Kazu that stood out: despite the apparent craziness going on in the dining room, the quality and speed of the service never faltered. Wait staff still came to clear our table with smiles, check on how we were finding the food and if we needed anything, and dishes came flying out of the kitchen. This is something even many fine dining restaurants are unable to maintain when there is a huge rush.

(An obscene amount of) food and drinks for four adults and one child? Our bill came to under $140.

Kazu is unpretentious, honest, and authentic. The line-ups out the door and the over-enthusiastic word-of-mouth references, combined with the fact that Kazu has not yet even advertised speaks for itself. The food is delicious, full of personality, and prepared with absolute precision. Service is friendly, accommodating, and efficient. Even with a never-ending, demanding dining room to feed, the quality never dropped. And the price - for what you get, eating at Kazu is a steal. Get there early and get a seat!

Discussion

6 Comments

Amie / August 4, 2010 at 01:20 pm
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I'd heard so much about this place but the pictures really sell it. Thanks for the photo tour of the menu!
Amanda Durepos / August 4, 2010 at 06:07 pm
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How true is it that delicious food will speak for itself! The staff seems to recognize this... at the end of your meal, the chef very confidently proclaims, "see you tomorrow!"
Penni / January 25, 2017 at 10:48 pm
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WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for Kazu
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