After Hours: Kōjin Delivers Fiery Atmosphere to Toronto’s Financial District

By Jessica Huras

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With its glass-enclosed dining room featuring soaring high ceilings and views stretching up University Ave., Momofuku Kōjin offers exactly the kind of drama and elegance that makes us excited to return to dining out.

Set on the third floor of the Financial District space that also houses Momofuku Noodle Bar, Kōjin has been a much-loved spot for business dinners and after-work drinks since opening in 2018, thanks to its sophisticated aesthetic and exceptional Asian-influenced fare.

Recently reopened after a pandemic-related closure and with new chef de cuisine Eric Seto at the helm, the revamped Kōjin is looking to create a “less stuffy” ambience than its previous form, according to beverage manager Tara Spiteri.

“Right when you walk in, the room is really impressive and grand, but the service is down to earth and approachable,” she says. “We get a lot of Bay Street clientele who are dining and bringing guests with them.”

Spiteri says the restaurant’s cocktail program aims to strike a similar balance between inspiring and accessible. “We strive to respect tradition and keep our drinks approachable, but we like to do it with a bit of a twist,” she explains. “That could be adding an unexpected ingredient or an unexpected method or using ingredients that are also found in our kitchen.”

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Kōjin is named after the Japanese god of fire, the hearth, and the kitchen. Nodding to this namesake, a theme of dishes that have been grilled over charcoal or otherwise seared and charred over fire is weaved throughout the menu. The Frying Pan cocktail, which Spiteri says has been one of the restaurant’s most popular drinks since reopening, takes a cue from these fire-kissed flavours.

A riff on a Manhattan, the cocktail’s glass is smoked before being filled with a mix of house-smoked maple rye, Montenegro, and sweet vermouth. It’s spritzed with caramelized absinthe and finished with a skewered cherry. The result is a bold, whisky-forward cocktail that softens into a smooth finish.

The Frying Pan was developed by general manager Nik Benn, who – along with chef Seto – had worked in Noodle Bar for several years before recently moving upstairs to Kōjin. Spiteri says the cocktail’s name draws from the expression, “out of the frying pan into the fire.” “It speaks to them [Benn and Seto] just jumping in head-first on the third floor,” she explains.

Spiteri suggests pairing the Frying Pan with a dish that mirrors its smoky flavours. For diners in the mood for post-work drinks and light snacks, Spiteri recommends ordering the cocktail alongside the blistered shishitos, which are served with a spicy mayonnaise.

If you’re sticking around for dinner, the Frying Pan is a lovely match for the charcoal-grilled beef coulotte. “I love steak and whisky together,” says Spiteri. “You can order a whole bunch of things to share, which is usually how the chef recommends doing it. It’s a fun atmosphere.”

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