Shiso Tree Café (Markham)

Location: Markham, Canada
Address: 3610 Steeles Avenue East (in the J-Town area)
Type of Meal: Dinner



Located in the J-Town complex, from Steeles the structure looks like any other office building. But, once you park you’ll start to discover the little water display, court yard sitting area and the wonderful smells wafting from restaurants in the area. One of these restaurants is Shiso Tree Café with the promises of Japanese style pasta to come.

A selection of pastas are available with typical options such as bolognese, arrabbiata or rosé. But, why would you come to a Japanese restaurant to eat something so quintessentially Italian? At Shiso Tree their claim to fame is the “wafu” (or Japanese style) selection where every dish sounds tempting.  Amongst our table of four, we ordered three to share. To clarify, the noodle is not Japanese, it is in fact spaghetti, but rather the sauces and accompanying ingredients is what gives the pasta Japanese flair.

Shiso clam vongoles ($15) was the one that would be the most “my style” – I love simple olive oil based seafood pasta and this did not disappoint. In this case, along with olive oil, white wine and garlic the sauce also had bacon, tomato and shiso. Sisho is a leafy herb (also known as parilla in Korean cuisine) and tastes like a cross between basil, mint and lime leaves. Of course plenty of fresh Manila clams also accompanied the spaghetti. Light and refreshing, from the shisho, this is a good summer dish. 


Okonomiyaki, at other restaurants, is generally a savoury pancake smothered with various sauces and containing pieces of seafood. At Shiso, the shrimp okonomiyaki ($14) arrives in pasta form with the typical ingredients you’d find in and on the pancake mixed into the spaghetti. The pasta was tossed with fragrant bacon, onions and garlic and then topped with tender sautéed shrimp, bonito flakes, mayonnaise and a tangy steak sauce. Compared to the other dishes I found this a bit bland despite all the sauces; the pasta needs to be cooked a bit more to allow it to soften and really soak up the sauces. But, all in all, still not a bad dish.


Surprisingly, my favourite dish of the night was the sukiyaki ($15). The shoyu broth spiked with beef jus was delightful and flavoured the spaghetti so well. Salty, sweet and aromatic, we even started dipping the garlic bread into the broth to have more of it! Topping the pasta were tender thin beef slices, plump mushrooms, toasted nori slivers, fresh green onions and shiso.  All pasta dishes also came with half a slice of garlic bread and a small salad dressed in a wafu dressing (a salty yet light vinaigrette).


Another dish worth trying is the nori fries ($6) a great start to munch on while waiting for the pasta. A fair amount of freshly made fries is tossed in wafu dressing and topped with slivers of dried crispy nori (seaweed). The result is a crispy fry that’s coated in a glistening salty & sweet sauce and emits an intoxicating seaweed aroma.


Prices are reasonable and the food arrives at a decent pace. Service was satisfactory but surprisingly not as friendly and upbeat as most Japanese establishments.  I appreciate the creativity in their creations and that pastas still arrive al dante. Overall, Shiso Tree Café is worth a return visit as there were so many other wafu pastas (including a daily specials black board) that sounded and could be equally delicious. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!


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