After a particularly mundane Monday, I was keen to get out and try a new restaurant. I saw on Instagram that Gorilla Whale was opening to the public for the very first time. I’m not one for visiting a restaurant on its opening day, but I had a good feeling about this place.
The space is cool and casual, with lots of natural light streaming in through the windows. Gorilla Whale plays a rad, rock and roll playlist. We were treated to Duran Duran (Hungry like the Wolf), The Breeders (Cannonball), Blondie (Atomic Blonde), Vaughan Mason and Crew (Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll). For this post, let’s listen to “One Way or Another“ by Blondie.
L ordered a sleeve of Bright Young Things (Dandy Brewery, $5) and I tried the Gorilla Whale Ginger Beer ($6.50), a collaboration between Village Brewery and the restaurant. This is my type of drink! The rice lager was light, refreshing and sweet, like the kombucha I get at the Little French Market on 17th Ave. Except at Gorilla Monkey, the taste of ginger is more subtle. I would order this beer again.
We started off with Milk Bread with Togarashi (red pepper flakes) Bone Marrow Butter ($6). The bread was dry, light, and crumbly, a good vessel for the rich, salty butter. It was messy too. By the time we finished our crusty loaf, our table was covered in fine crumbs.
L and I shared one order of the chicken thighs ($6) and halloumi cheese skewers ($6). I was surprised how well the dipping sauce of egg yolk and “house tare” paired with the cheese and chicken. I was skeptical at first because the dipping sauce isn’t exactly a looker. I looked up the definition of house tare on the good old Internet but was unsuccessful in learning its meaning. Whatever it is, it tastes good and made our skewers pop with flavour.
The chunks of chicken thigh were juicy and nicely charred on the outside. The addition of chicken skin gave the meat an extra layer of flavour. The exterior of the halloumi cheese was like how toasted and caramelized a marshmallow gets over a campfire. When I return, I plan to order these skewers again, and I want to try the pork belly, shitake mushroom and oyster next.
Around this time, L knocked over his nearly full sleeve of beer. The liquid went right under the seat of our neighbor and splashed her arm. We both sat there in shocked silence for a few seconds. I even closed my eyes and then opened them, hoping it was just a dream. Then I was tempted to keep eating and pretend nothing happened. L apologized profusely and asked if he could pick up her tab to make up for the unwanted shower of Bright Young Things. She graciously declined. One of the owners came over and mopped up our table and brought over a new beer for L, even though he said he didn’t need/deserve it. There was a guy at the very front of the restaurant by the window that thought it was hilarious. He was laughing hysterically. Glad you enjoyed the show buddy. So happy we could amuse you.
L and I shared the Chicken Karaage Burger with greens ($16). The only thing Japanese about the burger was the karrage. This was a legit tasting karaage. The skin was brittle, light and crackled into tiny shards in my mouth. The chicken was seasoned and succulent. The bun and toppings were not Japanese’ish at all. The sharpness of the cheddar cheese, the still hot, crispy piece of bacon and tangy coleslaw worked well with the karaage. The salad was simple but fresh – micro greens dressed in a sweet vinaigrette.
Everyone in the restaurant was ordering ramen. I ordered the duck confit ramen ($16). The broth was quite salty. I couldn’t really taste anything but the broth. I think it was just my bowl because I saw everyone else drinking all the liquid from their bowls. The yolk and egg white was a tad too raw for me. I did enjoy the sprouted peanuts in my bowl, as the taste reminded me of fresh peas. The presentation was lovely.
I’m looking forward to returning to try more skewers and that awesome karrage burger. Gorilla Whale serves up Japanese’ish food, but they take their own liberties that I haven’t seen in other restaurants. If you don’t come here expecting the usual Japanese fusion or anything “authentic”, you will leave happy. Gorilla Whale is completely different from Carino Reserva, Redheads, Ke Charcoal, or Shokunin. I personally dig what Gorilla Whale is serving.
The value is excellent. For more food than we needed and two beers (well, three technically), the bill was only $65.00.