Showing posts with label black cod. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black cod. Show all posts

The Sushi Bar Revisited in 2022 (Toronto)

If you could get any vanity license plate for your car, what would it say? The owner of Sushi Bar would use “Dr Sushi” as indicated by the plates hung on the wall, it’s a whimsical touch I hadn’t noticed in the past, along with pictures of family and friends that provide a glimpse into their private lives.

The wall is also where they post their specials including black cod sushi and lobster maki. The black cod sushi ($10 for 2 pieces) is an interesting take on the fish, the nigiri torched tableside so the fish’s fat begins to melt forming slight layers in the cod. Being a denser fish, it does need a fair amount of flavour and while the sweet soy was a start, it needed something else for interest. After the experience, I’m still on the fence of whether a nigiri is the best use of this prized fish.

My preference is still for the baked miso marinated black cod ($15) where the fish is hot and flaky and infused with a slightly sweet umami flavour. The palm-sized portion is just enough for sharing amongst two people.

Sushi Bar’s other a-la-carte nigiri is just as good with large pieces of barbeque eel on the unagi and a thick slice of ruby red tuna on the maguro (both $7 for 2 pieces).

Displaying the lobster on top of the lobster roll ($18) was a great idea as it becomes the first thing you taste, and diners can see the full tail in its glory. However, it was already overcooked and blowtorching it at the table made it even more dry and chewy. Ideally, they should undercook it to begin, and the torching will help heat and finish off the doneness at the table. It’s a dish with promise and the thin cucumber lantern a great idea for a beautiful garnish.

Starting every meal is a bowl of rice crackers that arrives with drinks, a pre-pandemic tradition that I’m glad has been kept, providing something to snack on as we peruse the menu. A new addition is an amuse bouche of seafood, squid, and seaweed salads, enough for a bite each to enjoy while the rest of the meal arrives.

As the temperature drops, the complimentary starter is sometimes a rich hot bowl of miso soup with cubes of tofu and seaweed flakes. A welcomed respite after a cool walk to the restaurant.

With a variety of maki available, the black dragon ($17) was an interesting take on the fancier dynamite roll. In this case, sweet-glazed barbeque eel, tempura bits, fish roe, and green onion wrapped around the shrimp tempura. It’s a colourful creation offering a variety of textures and flavours and it’s ideal that the pieces aren’t overly large so that they are enjoyed in one bite.

The red dragon ($17) is just as good, substituting the barbeque eel for salmon instead. If you’re in the mood for shrimp tempura ($8 for 3 pieces), I’d recommend having it in maki-form as the fried shrimp by itself is underwhelming, the batter too thick and the temperature tepid at best.

Upsold to the tuna tartare roll ($10), we should have stuck with the tried-and-true spicy tuna ($8). In the tartare, the tuna too pulverized and the filling including dreaded tempura bits that causes the roll to become gummy. It also needs more heat to be considered spicy tuna.

Despite their name, Sushi Bar also makes a variety of non-sushi dishes. You get a hefty portion of hamachi kama ($19) with the full portion, a meaty cut of the fish’s jaw. A thicker cut, there were parts of the fish that could have been done a touch less but being a bone-in piece, it can be hard to gauge. Nevertheless, the skin was crispy and the fish hot and delicious. Served with a radish ponzu soy sauce, a bit more salt sprinkled onto the fish would help it pop.

Since our past visits, my husband and I noticed an improvement at Sushi Bar: the maki seemingly contains less rice and are cut to the perfect bite-sized pieces and more emphasis is placed on plating the izakaya-type dishes.

There’s also a host of regulars, stopping by the open kitchen to speak to everyone before departing the restaurant. This creates a cozy neighbourhood-feel to Sushi Bar that matches the photos adorning the walls. As Mr. Rogers sang, “A beautiful day for a neighbour. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”

Overall mark - 7 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3365 Yonge Street


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Pluvio (Ucluelet)


Pluvio is in Ucluelet, an eerily calm town about a 20-minute drive from Tofino, and had we not used GPS to find the restaurant, we might have driven by the quiet street the inn and restaurant was located on. In fact, we were able to park right out front despite securing a prime dinner reservation. A win for Ukee!

With a choice of a five-course chef’s menu and three-course prix fixe, we opted for the select your own three-course option ($88) because sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of choice. The meal started with three crispy one bite wonders: a puffed cracker with a smoked fish (?) creamy topping, a delicate lattice leaf chip and refreshing chive dip, and little nests filled with a delicious meaty filling that had me wondering if anyone would notice if I swiped another one from the open kitchen near us. 


After being talked down by my friends, I focused instead of the wine and conversation and soon the first course arrived. Before getting into the dishes, we noticed that food tends to be overly seasoned in BC. Perhaps it’s due to their proximity to salt water, but we found that 80% of the things served were a little saltier than we’d like. And this was true for Pluvio’s dishes, so if you prefer things a little less seasoned, I’d suggest letting them know while ordering.

The cubes of torched sablefish were wonderfully prepared but overpowered by the strong pickled radish and poached apples that surrounded the black cod. Still, the colours did make for an artistic creation adorned with crispy butterflies and translucent fruit flowers. It’s a dish that is best eaten with the eyes. 


If the sablefish was a dish signifying spring, the polenta would pay homage to the cooler months. A surf and turf moat made from side stripe shrimp and lamb sausage surrounded the creamy luscious polenta. The strips of sausage being removed from the casing, flattened, and grilled almost had a steak-like quality to it and made for an interesting protein. Everything worked well together, especially when combined with the dollop of mint purée. 


Smartly, Pluvio serves their bread after the first course to discourage guests from filling up before the mains. Perhaps they should sandwich the bread before dessert as I still couldn’t contain my excitement and dug into the fresh crusty country bread and corn bread. Why oh why is it so difficult to keep away from the carbs?! 


Luckily, I still had room for the hefty piece of confit halibut swimming in a creamy corn and toasted yeast beurre blanc that provided a light but decadent sauce against the meaty fish. The sauce was also great for dipping the crispy chips, which shielded the skinless poached cherry tomatoes. With the halibut, I added three grilled scallops ($12) because as the menu describes, everything is better with scallops, especially when they are cooked wonderfully. 


Pluvio’s desserts are described as “forest”, “field”, and “sea”.  Neither were spectacular and if I could choose, I would have simply wanted the green spruce sponge cake from the forest served with a side of the cold lemon semifreddo of the field. 


In general, I’d stick with the land desserts as the “sea” was way too citrusy from the sea buckthorn caramel and the hard pieces of sponge too sweet when paired with the chocolate crémeux. In fact, if I could have a do over, I’d stick with the cheese plate as you can’t really go wrong with cheese (except if you’re lactose intolerant, I guess). 


Pluvio presents a “search” for your own chocolate truffle box to end, which may stump a baby but made us feel like geniuses. It was a sweet gesture, but after the filling meal the large truffles were too rich. 


Maybe a search for a fruit jelly would work better? Or they could have hidden another one of those meaty nests that were found in the earlier snacks … for me, that would have been such an amazing surprise to find.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Ucluelet, Canada
 Address: 1714 Peninsula Road


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Shoushin (Toronto)



Take it from a person who hated sushi as a teenager: quality ingredients and eating from the hands of a well-trained chef makes a HUGE difference. Having been introduced to “Japanese” cuisine in places like Memories of Japan or AYCE restaurants, I couldn’t understand why people enjoyed the spongy fleshy fish. But, it’s similar to expecting someone to like Mexican food after feeding them Taco Bell (no offense, the fries supreme is great, but the tacos? Not so much.)

Hence, when a Chef names a restaurant after the pursuit of craft, Shoushin translates to a Chinese phase signifying ‘a craftsman’s heart’, you know to expect a high caliber. Undeniably, my new found appreciation for the raw dishes have been cultivated after eating the real thing. Dining from the hands of a craftsman isn’t cheap, but just like having a fantastic steak, a good sushi meal should be reserved for special occasions.

Like other high-end sushi restaurants, Shoushin’s offers only omakase menus that changes based on ingredient availability and the chef’s whim. As a diner, you simply pick a price point ($80, $130, $160 or $250) and inform them about food allergies.

Wanting to try their sashimi, we opted for the Yuri ($130) menu. Consisting of two appetizers, sashimi, soup, sushi and dessert, it allowed us to sample a bit of everything.

The first appetizer, a tomato pod, showcased the artful plating that synonymous with Japanese cuisine. After the tomato’s juicy pulp is hollowed out, it’s used to make chilled agar-gar jelly noodles (a gelatin derived from algae). Topping the slick noodles were succulent pieces of East Coast Canadian crab; a dollop of tomalley added an extra richness. Completing the dish were cold asparagus and ponzu jelly, which made it a refreshing summer starter.

As the grating board was revealed and the wasabi root prepared, the anticipation started to build. We’re warned that the prized condiment shouldn’t be mixed into the soy sauce, instead you add a bit to the fish and then dip into the soy separately.


The sashimi was equally beautifully plated and with two slices of everything (except for the octopus), could be shared (Shoushin allows diners to choose different menus). Luckily, everything tasted as great as it looked (from left to right):

  • With bits of a chopped herb (could be shiso) topping the fluke (hirame) it was light and refreshing, slowly easing my taste buds into the meal.
  • The amberjack (kanpachi), while still delicate, had an almost creamy finish that’s really different from past experiences.
  • Although I couldn’t catch the Japanese name of the smaller fish, I could have sworn it was described as “chicken fish” in English. If it were, I could see how the name was derived as the fish’s skin had the chewy springy texture of a cold boiled chicken.
  • What a shame that there was such a small cube of the octopus. The tentacle was so flavourful and tender that I immediately wanted another taste.

Following the sashimi was a hot appetizer: a lovely sesame encrusted miso marinated black cod – just as flavorful and moist as the typical grilled version, but with a nutty crunch from the sesame coating. On the side, a pyramid of crown daisy vegetables, shredded carrots, and shiitake slivers mixed with tofu paste. I could have done without the side of vegetables as there’s a unique taste to the chrysanthemum greens that I’ve never acquired (also known as tung ho, it’s also frequently found in hot pot restaurants).


Before the sushi, a rich bowl of hot miso soup was presented. Earthier than the typical salty broth, it went nicely with Shoushin’s take on agedashi, which was was mixed with a glutinous flour so that the tofu had a chewy nutty bite.


Lastly, ten pieces of individually prepared sushi to finish off the meal – you will not leave hungry. Before getting into the heavenly ending, I must commend Shoushin on their overall client experience: their service attentive and friendly, but also incorporating small touches to ensure everyone is comfortable. For example, diners are presented with a thick wet napkin to wipe their fingers on after picking up the sushi, if they feel uneasy using their chopsticks to get the sushi from the counter (even I had to resort to picking up the red snapper).

The first bite of the intertwined slices of Japanese seabass (Suzuki) showcases Shoushin’s rice at its finest – warm, vinegary and a creamy consistency.


Although still good, the golden eye snapper (kinmedai) marinated in kelp would be even better if the skin was removed as I found it made the sushi chewy.


Chef Lin was quick to clarify that the next piece, butterfish (ibodai), was the real deal and not the manufactured escolar found in budget restaurants. Intrigued to try the real thing, I forgot to take a picture, but found that it was not buttery, rather having a light mellow finish. If anything, the striped jack (shima aji) should be renamed butterfish as it simply melted and was absolutely delicious for such an unassuming looking fish.


Shoushin’s tunas are out of this world in terms of creaminess: the lean cut (akami maguro) was velvety and flavourful; the medium (chutoro maguro) was equally luscious.


By the time the fatty tuna (otoro maguro) arrived, I was expecting butter heaven. Interestingly, the otoro was scraped into a paste and topped with sesame seeds, but was served a tad too cold so the fish’s oiliness and rich taste was rather muted.


The most surprising piece had to be the mackerel (aji). Despite not having a single green onion adorning the normally fishy sushi, Shoushin’s aji was clean and mild tasting, while still incorporating the meaty texture. It’s easy to make tuna taste good, but to heighten the mackerel to that level was astounding. Like his mentor, Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara from Zen, Chef Jackie Lin keeps his sushi simple and instead relies on the quality of the ingredients to shine through.


After having the Argentina shrimp (ebi), it seemed the sushi’s natural sweetness would have been a nice transition into dessert. So, it was a bit unexpected that the following hand roll would incorporate such a strong smoked tuna. Yet, it all worked and Lin’s perfectionist side was highlighted again as he encouraged us to eat it right away before the ultra-crispy nori became tough.


The customary sweet omelette (tamago) signaled the end of the sushi. Dense and incorporating a strong eggy aroma, I loved that you could see the layers of egg white and yolk to give it interest.


Normally, the desserts at upscale sushi restaurants are forgettable … assuming anything is even served. At Shoushin they have the customary ice cream – a house made roasted green tea version that’s okay but too icy. The matcha pudding, on the other hand, is fantastic with the smooth crème caramel like base, topped with sweet red bean paste, a chewy glutinous rice ball, apricot and an extremely strong matcha sauce. The dessert was delicious and different, a very satisfying end to the meal.


Although each menu can be accompanied with sake pairings, we found it’d be too much. Instead, the sake flight ($18) was the perfect amount – just enough to sip and try with the different foods.  


Overall, the dinner at Shoushin was impressive. Having already accomplished so much for a young chef, Chef Lin continues to strive to for perfection. When my husband commented on how delicious the rice was, our waitress passed along the compliment to Lin. His immediate reaction, without a smile, “It could be better” and went on to explain how the rice in Japan is aged for a year.


Make sure to get a seat at the sushi bar, it’s a wonderful opportunity to see the chefs at work and speak to Lin who divides his attention amongst everyone. Despite his serious nature, he even cracks jokes - after I commended the clean tasting aji, he kidded that he cleans it more than himself … immediately the entire bar erupts with laughter. What a surprising delight: having started as a stern fancy meal, it leaves me with a homey feeling and a full belly.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3328 Yonge Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: