Exploring strip malls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants in search of the city's best international food

Monday, December 9, 2013

The ultimate Japanese comfort food

In an empty food court in the basement of a half-finished condo mall hides a gem of a restaurant. Kaiju, located at 384 Yonge Street in the newly built Aura condo, isn't easy to find. Look for a stairway half a block north of Gerrard, follow the corridor straight and then to the left and you'll find Kaiju, one of only two operating restaurants so far in this food court that is still under construction.

The two-month old restaurant is pan-Asian, featuring dishes from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, but the star of the show is the Japanese curry. Served as an accompaniment to a breaded, sliced pork or chicken cutlet, the curry is milder and sweeter than its Indian predecessor. Intensely thick, you have to eat the curry sauce when it's piping hot before it starts to turn into jelly. "It's made of fruits, vegetables and spices," explains owner Siak Khoon Chen. "We cook it for two days at a very low temperature."

South Asian food lovers will also be interested in the selection of dishes from Chen's home country of Malaysia. While the posted menu only has a few specialties listed such as the hefty fried sambal udon, a longer printed menu behind the counter offers Malaysian dishes such as hokkien mee, char keow tiau and nasi kampung (aka nasi goreng).

Kaiju (Japanese for 'monster') has a charm that is lacking in most food court establishments. Chen brings the food out to the customers' tables, and don't be surprised if he recognizes you and remembers your order from a brief visit a month or two prior.

The first converts to the restaurant are Ryerson and University of Toronto students living nearby. "I came down here one night and I got hooked," explains the Steven, a student originally from Glasgow who lives in a condo in the building. "It's the food quality and the friendliness."

Kaiju is located at 384 Yonge Street on the lower level; tel: 647 748 6338. Hours are Monday to Friday 11am to 8pm; Saturday 12 to 6. 

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