Sipping Japanese whiskey in a vintage Tokyo mafia bar, décor exulting Jazzy, Art-Deco elegance and bravado of the era, listening to vinyl classics and indulging in the finest of Wagyu and Japanese seafood – That’s Kissa Toronto for you.

Situated in the heart of Toronto, Kissa, pronounced “key-sa”, derives from ‘kissaten’, Japanese-style speakeasy teahouses of the 1920s. But well, keeping up with the crowd energy of King West today, they’ve swapped the tea for some Roku and Yamakazi. “From an aural ambience crafted exclusively with the use of vinyl records to cocktails that echo legendary music albums to our fusion, Japanese-inspired menu – Kissa strives to deliver an experience that’s truly one-of-a-kind in Toronto. While so, Kissa possesses an alter-ego of being one of King Street West’s most happening party landmarks”, Dan Gunam, Co-Founder of Kissa on what makes his restaurant stand out on the block.

This double-decker retro Izakaya consists of ‘The Listening Bar’ on the lower floor, and ‘The Lounge’, upstairs – that’s where the flair of King West is really shown off. As you step in, you’re engulfed in Kissa’s velveteen-red glow, which leads you to the bar glimmering with crystal disco slung from the ceiling, mirrored walls, soothed by vinyl-only listening. A diverse collection of 2,500+ vinyl records is brought to life thanks to Sounds Better, who custom-built a vinyl-powered vintage sound system using old-school JBL speakers powered by Bryston Amps. This also uses a D&B sound system that’s plugged into a Master Sounds Radius 4V Analogue Rotary Mixer creating a sound that’s warm, rich, and buttery smooth.

Décor designed by Victoria Opacak from Ain Design and Damon Snider from Type D Living, its ambience is dark, intimate, and serene – borrowing its aesthetical sensibilities from early 20th-century mafia bars of Japan. This lush play of red velvet and suede makes it perfect for intimate dinners, against the roaring glitz of King West. Combine this with Jap-inspired cuisine and an elevated cocktail program – it’s bound to be an experience unlike any other.

“Kissa’s cocktail catalogue perfectly intersects its distinct vinyl suave and Japanese-influenced food menu. Each cocktail is titled after various hit albums through past decades that evoke the flavour profile. With a unique profile of Japanese ingredients, each cocktail is designed with sophistication while aligning with the room’s fun, lively, and intimate atmosphere. These have been the key pillars in creating all of Kissa’s rotating selections” expressed Julien Fortier, Kissa’s Head Bartender, on the magic thought behind the bar menu.


Highlight of the night is what Kissa calls the Catch a Fire (1973), Mezcal-based, it packs a delightfully bittersweet punch thanks to the Aperol, Apricot liqueur, tiki bitters, and rubbed sage. Also, this drink comes with a special party trick that involves a torch – I’ll keep that as a surprise for you. The other drink that had my attention was the Back In Black (1980). Mysterious as midnight, it’s packed with a potent Johnnie Walker Black Label and brilliantly contrasted with orgeat and Madeira, spiced with cinnamon. Served hidden under a dome of cloudy smoke, it’s quite a dramatic show – 10/10 for that.

We started off our evening with two pescatarian delights – Oysters & Caviar and Hamachi. The presentation of both dishes was as stunning as they tasted. Oyster shells, placed on pebbles, were served with a citric-tangy pinch of dill-infused yuzu and delicate caviar. The Hamachi, one of my favourite dishes of the night consisted of slices of yellowtail based in coconut ponzu and topped with orange and jalapeno. The Shrimp Tempura quite impressed us too – the yuzu pepper aioli was the winning ingredient. For vegetarians, I’d recommend the Edamame Hummus, served with a garden of seasonal radish, Tokyo turnip, and heirloom carrots, based with scallion oil.

Next up, as a dish so good, I ordered it twice – Spicy Salmon Temaki. Wrapped in Nori, the grade-A Ōra King Salmon was complimented with pickled cucumbers and a gentle dash of scallions. Each serving features only a single, long Nori roll.

KISSA - WAGYU - JULY - 2023-2

It’s time for the house signature – A5 Japanese Wagyu Tenderloin. Dipped in yakiniku sauce, it consists of the finest degree of beef Japan has to offer – and at first bite itself, you’ll taste its brilliance. Perfectly tender, sweet, and savoury. Winning dish, undoubtedly. However, if you’d like this as a sandwich, there’s the Japanese A5 Wagyu Katsu Sando for you. The same, top-of-the-line A5 Wagyu served between Hokkaido milk bread and Katsu sauce. It’s a chunky bite of beef, let me warn you.

Micheal Paruboki, Kissa’s Director of Culinary, tells us, “The menu’s creative idea comes from a place of wanting each guest to feel a high level of comfort while exploring the unique textures and flavour profiles of every dish we serve. Contemporary, playful, distinctly Japanese – the menu is a ‘greatest hits’ collection of this trifecta”.

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed