Who would have thought a restaurant barely the size of a bedroom would serve impressive food? With its handwritten menu thumbtacked to the wall, most people would walk by without giving Kazu a chance. A hole-in-the-wall authentic Japanese restaurant that opened in 2011, Kazu may not have the best outward appearance, but the food surely delights.
Kazu’s sign is easy to miss, as it blends in along the main strip of downtown Montreal, but the long lines extending daily from its door pique the interest of passersby.
Inside, the service is quick, efficient, and friendly, meeting the high customer demand. Mistakes may occasionally occur due to the distracting environment, but the hosts always try their best to ensure the best experience. Unlike other eateries, they apologize if, for example, they forget your drinks.
From the bar, you can observe the chefs as they quickly turn out delicious food. One highlight of the menu is the shrimp burger—a homemade shrimp patty served on a lightly toasted bun with spicy mayonnaise, crisp lettuce, and a thin rice patty that provides a much-needed crunch. This lightened-up burger is the perfect fusion, serving an American classic with a Japanese flavour profile.
Another highlight is the 48-hour pork bowl, which serves juicy, tender pork atop onions and a generous bed of rice. The fresh ginger adorning this dish further enhances the deep pork essence developed through slow simmering.
Kazu is well-known for having some of the best ramen in all of Montreal, but this crave-worthy dish is served only at lunch (Monday, Wednesday to Friday, and Sunday) from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Their claim to fame lives up to the hype, as the delicious broth isn’t overly salty like many other ramen houses, and the noodles provide a perfect textural contrast to the soft egg and edamame bean toppings. Since this seemingly simple dish is actually quite difficult to make, Kazu’s ramen is an impressive reflection of the the chefs’ understanding of Japanese cuisine, and is further enhanced with a few homemade seaweed chips for more umami.
Kazu is also vegetarian-friendly, since the chefs make their own homemade tofu. They take pride in serving well-cooked vegetables in a creative fashion, such as their eggplant dip and rice balls.
If you’re a more adventurous eater, you can venture to try pork neck and cheek, tuna belly, or kimchi. Originally a Korean delicacy, kimchi is a spiced, fermented cabbage that provides the ideal juxtaposition between piquancy and a slightly sweet quality to soothe and tantalize the tongue as you eat. For dessert, there are homemade soft ice creams in flavours that include wasabi and black sesame.
To experience the delights inside Kazu, however, you must have patience. Complaints regarding the wait times—which can reach upwards of half an hour—are common. For the busy student, there is a way around this issue. The eager eater can call ahead to place an order for pick up (unfortunately, Kazu still doesn’t offer a delivery service). Something else to note is that prices at the cash-only restaurant tend to be slightly higher than average because the chefs insist on sourcing only quality ingredients.
Nonetheless, Kazu does not disappoint with its boldly-flavoured Japanese dishes that excite all palates.
1862 Saint Catherine Street West (514) 937-2333
Mon., Wed.-Fri., Sun: 12:00-3:00 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Sat: 5:30-9:30 p.m.