Asian fusion co-exists at Kyozon

Try downtown’s newest trendy eat-and-drinkerie

Last Wednesday, Crescent St. christened it’s newest addition. Kyozon, the newly opened Asian-fusion resto-bar, gets its name from the Japanese word for co-existence. This is exactly the mentality behind the new establishment, which offers up a smorgasbord of Asian-esque dishes and specialty cocktails.

On opening night Kyozon was the place to be, as they welcomed about a thousand guests to sample their cocktails and cuisine. Looking around, the large space seemed full to the brim with media types and regular frequenters of the Montreal club scene.

Kyozon currently occupies the space that was once Montreal’s Hard Rock Cafe, having swapped rock n’ roll relics for distressed wood banquettes, a sushi conveyer belt and worked metal siding. The vibe inside the space is industrial-chic, with an open-concept floor space where the bar is surrounded by concentric rectangular angles of the dining tables and overhang of the second-floor mezzanine.

From the top floor you can look down and get a bird’s eye view of the action at the bar, as the mixologists concoct their poisons.

Press photo courtesy of Kyozon.

On tap for opening night was the Shojo Sour — an emerald green elixir made with Bombay Sapphire gin, Midori, fresh lime, egg white and a splash of sesame oil. The drink was sweet and fruity, and the egg white added a frothy texture. The sesame presented itself as a vague aroma that was more detectable by smell than by taste, though it brought an interesting element to the flavour profile and cut the cocktail’s overwhelming candy-quality.

Their other specialty cocktails all draw inspiration from classic Asian ingredients. Amongst others are the Shiso Tonica, made with their homemade shiso, sencha tonic and shiso leaves; the Leche de Geisha, which recalls Chinese herbal infusions and is made with black tea, orchids and roses; and the Gifuso Chiso, featuring rice milk, red bean foam, candied prunes and Hakutsuru sake. My mouth watered just reading the list.

Their bar menu also boasts a nice array of wines, beers and sakes, as well as classic cocktails.

Wrapping around the interior rails of the second floor is the Kaiten sushi conveyor belt — a concept popularized in Japan as an inexpensive novelty dining option. Pairs of sushi rolls float around the periphery of the dining space under little plastic domes for patrons to grab as they wish.

The sushi that I sampled tasted fresh, though the rolls themselves lacked innovation. The overall quality was only slightly better than what you would get from Sushi Shop or the like. Then again, it was opening night, and their Kaiten menus are advertised as a sort of variation on an all-you-can eat deal, which often means sacrificing quality for value. The prices vary depending on the colour of the plate you grab from the belt (i.e. a pink plate is $2.50 and a blue plate is $7). Also on the Kaiten menu are “new Asian” hot plates, like spicy edamame, crispy duck and watermelon salad, and green papaya and mango salad — all hovering around the $5 price range.

A more traditional dinner service is also on the menu, with à la carte items like cumin-scented lamb chops and tofu chili. I tried the salmon teriyaki, which was being passed around for the guests on opening night, along with their salted calamari and popcorn shrimp. All were good, if slightly predictable. I expected more pizazz from such a seemingly trendy fusion restaurant.

The one dish that did pleasantly surprise me was a dessert of skewered pineapple and marshmallows, drizzled with a wasabi puree. The sweetness of the candy and fruit cut the spice of the wasabi, and the pineapple gave it a tangy punch.

Hopefully Kyozon’s newness, novelty concept and trendy atmosphere will attract a younger, hipper crowd than the usual sleazy businessmen and tourists that descend upon Crescent. Overall, Kyozon has a lot of potential.

Kyozon is located at 1458 Crescent St, and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays, and until 3 a.m. on weekends.

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