Nomé Izakaya (Toronto)

When a coworker suggested meeting at Nomé Izakaya for a team get together, it was a brilliant recommendation. After all, in Japan, an izakaya is often the place where groups meet after work for small plates and rounds of drinks before heading home. It’s an environment that you can be loud and getting things to share is a must.

After sampling two of their salmon rolls, I found them so similar that it’s difficult to distinguish between. Both the apple salmon roll ($19.80) and the seared salmon roll ($20.80) are encased in the fish with cucumber, avocado, asparagus, and crab meat salad on the centre. Where the difference lies are a few ingredients: the apple salmon including julienned apple and onion, while the seared salmon features cream cheese, coleslaw, and a host of other condiments. Both were freshly made, stuffed with fillings, and potentially the seared salmon having a slight edge with the plethora of sauces used to add interest.

For those who are squeamish about raw fish, Nomé Izakaya’s extensive menu offers tons of cooked dishes. Their chicken wings ($14.80 for a lb) were a hit with a shatteringly crispy crust and juicy interior having been wet-brined in soy sauce-based marinade. They were flavourful enough naked, but a hit of the spicy honey garlic made it even better.

The Japa-burgers ($17.80 for 3; extra piece for $5.90) are akin to a smashed burger slider with tomato, lettuce, onion, barbeque sauce, and a garlic mayonnaise. Interestingly, they toast the bottom of the bun so it resists getting soggy – I like it crispier so this was perfect for me, but I can see those who like a super soft bun finding this to be a drag.

While the sliders were delicious, there wasn’t really anything “Japanese” about them. I would have liked a more pronounce sauce (perhaps subbing teriyaki for the barbeque) and more Japanese ingredients (slivers of toasted nori in lieu of the lettuce) to differentiate the burgers.  

Dive into the mac & cheese ($15.80) upon arrival as it’s so gooey and rich when it’s hot out of the oven. Diced bell pepper, onion, and bacon are mixed throughout to give it interest (shrimp and scallops are also available, we eliminated these to accommodate an allergy). I didn’t expect an izakaya to make such a stellar pasta, but this rivaled many Southern joints.

The bulgogi tacos ($18.80 for 3; extra piece for $5.90) were large and filling but missed the mark. Firstly, the beef was the ground variety rather than shaved, which detracts from the bulgogi feel of the dish. Moreover, the menu mentions a host of toppings - lettuce, onion, fresh jalapeño, kimchi, Japanese beni shoga, garlic mayonnaise, spicy salsa, and furikake – but really what stood out the most was just a lot of mayo. Being a heavier taco, it really could have benefited from kimchi (mine contained none) and a fresher element like green onion.

If anything, a crispy pork belly ($12.50) taco would be a tastier dish. On its own, the slices of deep-fried braised pork belly were melt-in-your-mouth good but would benefit from a crispier crust to give the dish more contrast. It’s served with a generous squeeze of seaweed paste, which looks amazing but doesn’t offer much flavour, along with fresh scallions. They’re tasty to munch on but a couple of slices wrapped in a soft tortilla with a mango slaw and a stronger condiment would be incredible.

While izakaya’s are about sharing, if you’re a hands-off-my-food type of person the aburi salmon donburi ($16.80) would be the ideal choice for a single person. The small bowl of sushi rice was topped with a generous portion of diced seared salmon, aburi sauce (a mayonnaise-based condiment), shredded salad greens, red onions, and a raw egg yolk. It was flavourful and works as a complete meal for one.

But truthfully, most of the fun about visiting an izakaya is going with a larger group and letting go of niceties and just allowing yourself to be boisterous. At an izakaya, sharing is caring. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 4848 Yonge Street

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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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