Joso's (Toronto)

It was my friend who described Joso’s dining area the best, “It’s is like Nonna’s house gone 18 plus!” At first, without focusing on details, every wall and ledge seems to display some sort of picture or figurine; much like the busy wall paper and family photos in Nonna’s home. It’s when we concentrated on each did it become evident each one contained some female or male anatomy in it.

Joso’s then wouldn’t be the ideal restaurant for children. But, it’s not a loss, as most children won’t have a hankering for spirally octopus tentacles and murky squid ink anyways.

Servers were diligent at determining which dishes need to be augmented to satisfy our table of five. So, many of the items pictured in this post are actually double or 1.5 orders. Following their recommendations is suggested as portion sizes, with the exception of the risottos, are small. However, for the best “value”, stick to round figures (i.e. either one, two or three) rather than “half” portions as for those Joso’s charges it as a main + appetizer, where the appetizer’s price is more than half the main.

The tendrils of grilled octopus ($39 a portion; two portions pictured) looked and smelt amazing but faltered on taste as a grittiness ruins the first bite. Once the layer of blackened skin along the suction less side is removed, the tentacle become more palatable as the oaky char and meatiness of the seafood shines through.

It went well with the arugula salad ($14 a portion; approx. a third of the salad pictured), as the good quality olive oil and lemon on the seafood mix in with the salad. And yes, normally dairy and seafood aren’t the best combinations but the stronger octopus could hold its own against the Grana Padano shavings.

One of Joso’s most ordered dish is likely the nero risotto ($58), a large silver platter filled with a deep black cuttlefish ink risotto. The menu notes it follows a secret Spralja family recipe inspired by the ancient Venetian recipes.

If you can get over the dark hue, your tongue will be rewarded with the ink’s salty ashy flavour mixed into the creamy grains of rice. Adding a squeeze of lemon will help mellow out the oceanic flavours and lightens the dish. Just be mindful of the ink’s staining properties, including on lips and teeth; not necessarily the best option for first dates.

But, it’s the Leonardo spaghettini ($15 for appetizer and $26 for main; 1.5 portions pictured) that will have me returning. Each strand of al dante pasta coated with the fragrant garlicky olive oil, white wine and lemon sauce. Peppered throughout were ample amounts of diced octopus and shrimp adding a taste for every bite.

Overall, the meal satisfied the seafood lover in me. The smell of cooking seafood is intoxicating and lures me in like the sirens of the sea. Well, except, it’s not exactly luring me to my death. But, if it’s over a plate of seafood pasta, there’s worse ways to go.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 202 Davenport Road

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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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