Last Updated on December 24, 2023 by Pamela MacNaughtan
I went to Torii Izakaya in Saint-Roch for Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago. Did you know they do brunch now? If you’re not familiar with Torii Izakaya, allow me to catch you up.
Location: Torii Izakaya sits in the neighbourhood of Saint-Roch. One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Québec City. It’s on rue Saint-Joseph Est, which is the main artery of this effervescent ‘hood. Close to one of my favourite cafés, Saint-Henri micro-torrèfacteur.
The vibe: The restaurant is a cozy black hole, of sorts. A place to get lost in conversation, over food inspired by Japanese and Québec flavours. The space is long and black and accented with florescent Japnese-inspired art by street artist, MC Grou. The music gives off a lively bistro vibe. Sit at a table near the windows, along the long bar, or in the back near the kitchen.
is torii izakaya really a japanese izakaya?
Well, yes and no. Alexanne Grenier, chef and co-owner, opened Torii Izakaya in July 2018, along with five partners. It’s inspired by the traditional izakayas found in Japan. In essence, an izakaya is a snack bar with simmered, salty and pickled snack foods, beer, and sake.
Japanese izakayas first made an appearance in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867) as a place to buy a bottle of sake, sit, relax, and drink before going home. Over time, savoury cold snacks were added to lure more customers. Then in the 1750s, simmered foods, such as yakitori, were added to the menu.
Québec knows a thing or two about snack bars, so in a way, the marriage between Japanese and Québec flavours at Torii Izakaya makes sense.
Sunday brunch is kind of new here. Technically, the team started their brunch concept during the pandemic, however, the constant opening and closing of restaurants made things a challenge. Now, with lockdowns behind us (hopefully for good), attache la tuque (Québécois for “get ready”)!
The menu: I love a brunch that is not over complicated. The menu at Torii is an eclectic mix of dishes and flavours. Karaage N’ Waffles is their take on fried chicken and waffles. The sweet potato waffles are topped with small pieces of Japanese fried chicken and spicy honey.
The eggs benedict include ikura ponzu, and hollandaise sauce with yuzu. The Okonomiyaki, traditionally a savoury Japanese pancake, is far sweeter. I ordered the omelette. It’s stuffed with old cheddar, grilled onion, and fried mushrooms. Kabayaki sauce squiggles over the folded omelette and the bonito flakes dance. My mouth rejoices after every bite. Each one an explosion of umami.
I also order a side of pork belly. I love pork belly when it’s perfectly cooked. It has a soft buttery texture and feels as though it will melt in your mouth. Achieving the right amount of softness in both the fat and the meat is a delicate balance. Torii Izakaya, on my last visit, was pretty close to perfect. The meat was only slightly overcooked, and I would order it again.
what about when they are not serving brunch?
The regular menu at Torii Izakaya features light snacks, dumplings, and steamed buns. Karaage chicken, and their take on fondue parmesan. Oysters, when in season, and other specialties appear on a large chalkboard on the wall near the bar.
If you’re planning on going to Torii Izakaya because you crave specific Japanese foods, don’t. I say this as someone who has spent a lot of time in Asia, and orders dishes I love from my travels. Usually, I’m disappointed. Dine at Torii Izakaya because you love good food and Japanese flavours. That’s why I’ll be going back.
women-owned • where: saint-roch • 771, rue saint-joseph est • 581-981-8674 • toriiizakaya.ca