Toshi Ryoriten (Richmond Hill)

Do you remember your last meal at a restaurant before being quarantined? Mine was an exquisitely long two-hour omakase affair ($90 a person for the Toshi course) in celebration of my father’s birthday. Over a bottle of chilled light sake, we sampled, drank, and conversed … beside each other. All while we dined in front of a chef who handled the ingredients without a mask or gloves. Wow, how things can change in a blink of an eye.

Toshi Ryoriten isn’t afraid to start boldly: right out of the gate we’re served a sashimi of two tunas and shima aji (?). Usually, there’s a build up of dishes until the tunas are presented - I didn’t mind this procession, having a rich taste of fish within the first bites. They were all a great temperature and thickness, the way you want sashimi to be. I just wish someone described the dish to us, instead of just having the sushi chef drop it down and walk away.

Dinner then switches to hot eats, a cube of tofu incorporating seaweed and slivers of crunchy lotus root. Fresh from the fryer, it’s hot and the tofu’s edges are remarkably crispy against the silken centre and the thickened sauce adds flavours without making it soggy. If they made this into a tofu steak, I could eat this instead of sirloin any day.

Clean and crisp uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon fish roe) generously tops a sphere of warm rice and makes for a big flavourful bite that’s creamy and leaves an oceany umami essence to the tongue.

The grilled yellowtail looked better than it tasted; sadly, the lean fish was overcooked. And after the amazing egg tofu, the crispy rice “biscuit” was surprisingly dull and bland. The best part of the dish was the blanched spinach, at least it’s cold and refreshing. 

After all the starters, the nigiri experience begins – eleven pieces of bite-sized sushi made at a well-scheduled pace. With about 3-5 minutes between each piece, it’s enough time to admire (and photograph) and converse, without feeling like an overdrawn affair. 

The medai (seabream) was a nice start. Meaty but light, the fish reset the palette for the rest of the meal.
Toshi’s ika (squid) was a tad dry from the blowtorch, so it ended up being sticky as I chewed the sushi. While not necessarily terrible, it’s also texture that’s rather unexpected. Perhaps it just needed a stronger glaze on top, the quick brush of soy sauce was not nearly enough. 

The kanpachi (amber jack) was incredibly good. I just couldn’t make out what the black bits were on top – it’s salty but doesn’t have that crunchiness of volcano salt. Once again, a bit more direction and conversation from the chef would be nice.  

I love when raw salmon is warmed. At Toshi, the salmon is seared slightly developing a mild smokiness and the heat melts the fat. The akaebi (sweet shrimp) was a nice follower, but like the ika could use a bit more seasoning.

While the shima aji (skipper jack) looked like a lot of the earlier white fishes, the texture is surprisingly “crispy” for a fish and a nice contrast against the other softer consistencies. 

Hopefully, you’re not a light eater, as Toshi saves the most decadent pieces to end. Of course, there’s the otoro (fatty tuna), the fish world’s equivalent of high fat butter, with its flavourful oil that oozes and coats the tongue. 

After a sip of sake, a liberally toasted hotate (scallop) adds a lovely sweet contrast. This followed by an even sweeter unagi (sea eel), which like some of the torched counterparts was a bit overdone. 

I hate that I really enjoyed the foie gras - it’s not an ingredient I support for ethical reasons. Scoring the fatty duck liver helps create these grooves that holds onto the oils; and for once the long lick from the blowtorch really helps to add a lovely smokiness without overcooking the ingredient. If you think otoro is rich, this piece brings it to a whole other level. 

To end, you’re offered a hand roll or maki. I end traditionally with the hand-held form that incorporates bits of tuna and green onion. The seaweed needs to be toasted more as it was a bit chewy to get through. In hindsight, the maki form may be a better choice. 

The best decision was to add on a chawanmushi ($9.50) and suggest it be served right after the nigri procession. While it doesn’t have that intoxicating aroma that escapes as the lid is lifted, the egg custard is piping hot and a lovely silky consistency. Other ingredients make their way into the steamed egg: mushroom and spinach stems on top and hearty cubes of shrimp and chicken on the bottom. 

As part of the regular Toshi course menu, the small bowl of soba with dashi broth ends the savoury items. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of tempura bits in soup, but these were added at the last minute, so it doesn’t arrive as a soggy mess. And mixed with the green scallions, everything works, down to the last hot drop.

Instead of the typical ice cream, Toshi serves tofu cheesecake for dessert. It’s surprisingly creamy and dense for tofu but lacks any discernable flavour. At least the whipped cream imparted some sweetness.

If you’ll be seated at the sushi bar, make sure to request to be sat on the right-hand side of the bar. Relegated to the left corner, we were essentially ignored by the chef who only speaks to the four people directly in front of him. 

And while it’s nice to see the chefs’ technique, Toshi ruins the experience by leaving a huge platter of fish to be broken down right by the sink on the left. Halfway through the meal, it’s finally put away, but makes for an unpleasant backdrop for those who have it in their eyeline. In terms of the environment and the chefs’ hospitality, this was one of the worst omakase experiences I’ve had.

Still, looking back on the dinner, I’ll only have fond memories. Dinner at Toshi Ryoriten was an unhurried relaxing public affair I can’t wait to eventually enjoy again. As a last pre-COVID meal, this was a great ending.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 1380 Major Mackenzie Drive East

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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!

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