Montreal – Kazu

While I was researching restaurants for my Montreal food trip back in December, I was surprised to find out about Kazu, a popular Japanese izakaya located on St-Catherine. I didn’t remember Japanese cuisine being popular from when I lived in the city during middle school. Back then though I hadn’t started taking my taste buds out yet, so maybe I was just oblivious. Either way I juggled my schedule to fit in a lunch at the restaurant.

Atmosphere: The restaurant itself is tiny, probably similar in size to Sansotei in Toronto, but more packed and rustic reminding me of ramen shops in Tokyo. The BF and I didn’t have to wait long because I planned to arrive just as lunch service began, which was a great decision because it was a cold day and a line up did form. There was less yelling, still present but toned down to allow for a conversation to be held comfortably. Customers ranged across a wide spectrum from university students and young families with small children to people my parents’ age. Colour papers with hand printed menu specials in a rainbow of marker colours covered the walls.

Service: Everyone was friendly and eager. A bit too eager clearing away plates that still had food and dishes arrived so quickly we had trouble fitting all the plates on our small square table. There were a lot of smiles though. Language wasn’t an issue and we ordered easily in English. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach and I wanted to order 4 dishes while the BF was worried it would be too much food. We asked our server for his opinion and he assured us it would be ok. It was more filling than I expected and we could’ve passed on one dish.

Food: Walking in I wasn’t sure what to expect especially for the ramen. We’re fairly spoiled with the quality of izakayas in Toronto now that they’ve begun to migrate east. For starters, we ordered the Traditional Salmon Sashimi and the Pork Cheek Pate. The salmon was more carpaccio style with sesame seeds, a vinaigrette and topped with a bundle of salad greens. The salmon slices were paper thin and not the biggest portion. For me, the stand out dish of the meal for the Pork Cheek Pate. I loved this dish. It was the perfect mix of modern presentation and traditional flavours. The tender pork cheek was served shredded to a paste, well seasoned and the wide plate rim was garnished with sauces. Each piece of toasted tortilla was soft and and warm. The three mountains of pork cheek made for at least 4 to 5 bites each, a perfect starter.

For entrees, the BF and I split the 48 hour pork bowl and a ramen bowl, served only at lunch. I liked the pork bowl but it wasn’t outstanding. The pork was tender, sweet, soy saucey, served on a bed of rice and garnished with slices of pickled ginger. It was a dish with familiar Asian flavours, similar to what I would make at home. The large bowl of ramen arrived with noodles and toppings submerged in the broth and garnished with a large square of seaweed. Dissecting the ramen into the three characteristics I look for to define a great bowl, Kazu hits two out of three. First, I liked their house made noodles. They were thick and had a great chewiness. Second is the broth. I couldn’t find any indication of what protein the broth was, not as milky as tonkotsu but probably pork based. The seasoning was there, but I enjoy a richer broth. Last is the toppings, which was where Kazu lost points. The pork belly was not charred, the fat not fully rendered and there wasn’t much bamboo or bean sprouts. Taking a look online at other bowls of ramen, it does seem like there’s an inconsistency to how the bowl is assembled. For me, this made the difference between a great bowl of ramen and just an OK one.

I’m glad I had a chance to check out the Kazu and look forward to visiting more Japanese restaurants in Montreal.

Montreal – Kazu
Montreal – Kazu
Montreal – Kazu
Kazu on Urbanspoon

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