Address: 236 Adelaide Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner
Our visit to Yuzu No Hana was to further develop our taste buds in preparation for a future visit to Japan. We ordered to omakase menu to allow the chef to determine what is freshest and his best dishes in hopes of trying something we might have never ordered. Yuzu’s nine-course menu costs $80 a person and requires at least one-day notice for the restaurant to adequately prep the ingredients. If you’re allergic or truly detest something don’t worry, they do ask for these ahead of time and will adjust the menu accordingly.
The first course was an shooter made with a raw oyster and quail egg, flavoured with ponzu (a citrusy vinaigrette) and garnished with uni (sea urchin), tobiko (fish roe) and green onions. Downing it in one shot, the oyster was a tad briny for my taste. But when the tastes from the other ingredients, most notably the green onion, kicked in it really wasn’t too bad. The raw quail egg also needs some getting used to when the sliminess hits your tongue and raw yolk mixes into everything. Overall, these textures are not my favourite but the other guests at my table thoroughly enjoyed it.
A platter of appetizers arrived next and had a beautiful autumn spirit to the decor. Starting from the egg at the bottom right and going clockwise:
- A steamed duck egg arrived with a portion of uni on top. Rather than eat the it separately, I mixed it into the custardy egg so that it added a thicker creamier texture to everything with just a hint of brininess. Expecting the uni to be very fishy, as I’ve heard like some Japanese ingredients it’s an acquired taste, I was pleasantly surprised that it was pretty light and resembles tomalley (the greenish substance found in lobster) but thicker and slightly calmer tasting.
- An emptied persimmon (a fruit popular amongst Asian countries) was filled with a cold boiled shrimp and piece of whitefish covered with a puffed rice coating. Perhaps it’s because I tried this after the egg, but found both things bland. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the crispy whitefish, just wished it was salted a bit. Perhaps, since it was served in a persimmon, a slice of the actual fruit could have been provided to add a hint of sweetness.
- The small unassuming piece of lightly battered lotus root tempura was one of my favourite parts of the platter. Each hole in the lotus root was filled with tobiko so that the crunchiness was also mixed was some salty bursts of flavour.
- Yuzu dressed up the typical cold and sweet seaweed salad with shredded crab meat (real), pickled baby cucumber slices and a deskinned cherry tomato. Thankfully, the delicate crab meat was left on top, rather than mixed into the salad, so that I could actually enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab. The seaweed was the darker variety and seems more natural than the spearmint green ones that other restaurants sometimes serve.
- Lastly, adorning the plate, threaded on a pine needle were ginnan (ginkgo seeds/nuts). You may also know it as ginkgo biloba, a drug that supposedly helps with memory enhancement or the yellowish seeds found in congee or Chinese dessert broths. Personally, they’re not something I enjoy as they have a slightly bitter taste.
When the teapot first arrived and was placed in front of us, we were intrigued. Inside was a Japanese soup called dobin mushi (translates to teapot steamed) commonly served in the colder months. We were advised that unlike most soups, this is not boiled but rather infused and steeped to allow the ingredients let off their flavours. On the side is a small cup and you enjoy the soup by pouring out small portions of it into the cup and drinking it (much like tea).
The broth is a clear golden colour with a rich earthy seafood taste from the ingredients (matsutake mushroom, shrimp, whitefish and gingko nut). The server suggested drinking all the broth first and then opening up the lid and eating the ingredients. We of course obliged but really the star is the soup as the shrimp becomes powdery and matsutake mushrooms lack flavour. Only the piece of whitefish was delectable and still had a tender flakey texture.
Next, a beautifully presented plate of sashimi arrived. During our visit it was made up of fluke, yellow tail, horse mackerel and salmon with caviar. The fluke was a delicate tasting white fish with each slice adorned with a small piece of gold leaf (in the picture just barely visible from behind the large leaf); I quite like the lightness of the fish and the relatively non-fleshy texture. On the leaf were two thicker slices of yellowtail which has a unique harder consistency akin to a cross between fish and conch. The horse mackerel, beside the salmon rose, was decent and I’m glad this was thinner as it’s a stronger tasting fish that may be overpowering if the slices were larger.
Following is one of my favourite Japanese dishes – roasted miso glazed gindara (a.k.a. black cod or sablefish). The plump fish was marinated for two days in miso and merin then slow roasted until the meat flakes apart yet retains its juicy tenderness. Due to the marinating process, the fish was so well flavoured that the flavours permeated the meat rather than being slathered on through a sauce. Yuzu’s gindara is one of the best I’ve eaten and may have just overtook my top spot (previously held by Blowfish). A bright fuchsia green onion, coloured from pickling, sits on top adding décor and also acting as a palette cleanser.
A slice of panko crusted rack of lamb arrived next which is atypical of Japanese cuisine. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the lamb’s thin layer of fat mixed into the panko crumbs to form a robust crust. It’s just a shame that the lamb was so overdone that the meat was starting to get tough and slightly dry from a lack of juices. A chanterelle mushroom and braised mini daikon accompanied the meat (daikon needed some salt) with several edible flowers tossed on top to finish.
The last savoury course was five pieces of nigri sushi. My favourite piece was the tempura salt-water eel (first piece on the left) which was plump and tender with slivers of creamy avocado, the most modern of five. Salmon was presented two ways – one a leaner cut of king salmon while the other a fattier belly lightly blow torched and topped with pickled onion. Being a big fan of the heated fattier fishes, I loved the salmon belly and the smoky pickled taste.
Kampachi, a dense white fleshed fish like white tuna, was served chopped up and mixed with tobiko (?) on top of rice wrapped in egg. This is certainly inventive and a nice combination of the tamagoyaki (egg sushi) with fish. Lastly, more of the delicious delicate fluke was served. The rice itself wasn’t very memorable, unlike the amazing experience at Solo Sushi Ya, but what makes Yuzu’s nigri shine is the variety of flavours and textures used in the ingredients topping the sushi. If the restaurants could combine Solo’s rice with Yuzu’s toppings my ideal sushi would be created!
For dessert a square of sake cheesecake was presented. The cheese was smooth and light but the flavours still quite strong with hints of sake flooding through.
Our visit to Yuzu definitely fulfilled the purpose of trying new things; this was my first experience with the dobin mushi, uni, horse mackerel, kampachi and fluke. If any of the above sound delicious to you, I urge you to make reservations and go soon as menus change seasonally and these dishes may soon disappear. But, if you’re an adventurous person and are opened to trying new things then there’s no rush. Half the fun is sometimes not knowing what you’ll eat; after all, it’s through tasting menus that we may learn we like something we’ve never heard of.
Overall mark - 9 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!