Showing posts with label chawanmushi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chawanmushi. Show all posts

Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto Restaurant (Toronto)

Tucked in the Japanese Cultural Centre, walking into Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto transports you to another country. Given their limited seating, their doors may be locked, so give the posted number a call and in no time, someone will greet you at the entrance and lead you through the orange torii gates into the dining room.

There’s so much to take in that the first ten minutes is like sensory overload. Take a deep breath and get ready for the meal; Hashimoto only serves three tables an evening, there’s plenty of time to explore after dinner. So, settle into your private dining room and decompress for the meal to come.   

Hashimoto describes kaiseki as “much of an art form as a style of food preparation” and this is certainly accurate. Each dish was beautiful and like a gift waiting to be unwrapped; a sense of excitement settled over me as I lifted the dome from many of the courses.

The eight-course meal ($350 per person) began with an onjyaku-zen (amuse bouche) consisting of three hearty soups designed to warm-up the stomach. Hashimoto’s saikyo miso soup wasn’t overly salty but rather rich in umami made with white miso, topped with a braised carrot, and a pea-sized amount of mustard to add an expected spice against the broth. Meanwhile, the nutty flavour that burst through the cube of goma (sesame) tofu was incredible, almost bordering bitter if it weren’t balanced out by the thick savoury soup. If anything, I could have done without wasabi on the tofu as the sesame taste was already so pungent.

Of all three bowls, my favourite was also the simplest and what Hashimoto calls “seasoned rice”. It’s like a thick congee studded with cubes of sweet soft squash and topped with slivers of salty dried kelp (?). The bowl was lovely and comforting and had us wanting another taste of it to end the meal.

Paper thin slices of tennen madai (line caught sea bream) was featured in the sashimi course, so delicate that it’s like eating flower petals made of fish. Around the plate were three agar jellies flavoured with ginger, carrot, and seaweed, as well as a washer-sized daikon filled with thinly julienned pickled vegetables. It’s a much lighter dish following the onjyaku-zen and really showcases the knife skills of Chef Masaki Hashimoto.

Diners are asked to refrain from wearing strong scents to ensure they’re able to enjoy the sensory experience of the food. The yuzu aroma that escapes from the owan-mono was so refreshing, although at first whiff, it leaves me wondering if a citrusy soup is something I’d enjoy.

Hashimoto didn’t disappoint, balancing the yuzu in a savoury consommé and pairing it with a host of rich flavours: a silky chawanmushi (egg custard), a thick chewy rice cake, and a soft braised daikon. The slice of amadai (tile fish) was cooked perfectly and I loved that the fish’s scales were deep fried to form a crunchy garnish on top.

The yaki-mono (grilled course) featured a host of ingredients that were in-season during the autumn in Japan. Generally, I only have persimmons raw, yet somehow the fruit tastes so good baked, releasing more of its sweet flavours with chewy pieces of mochi included to soak up some of its juices. The fruit was so inventive that the grilled shima-aji (stripe jack) almost seemed secondary; I found the fish a tad overcooked and in need of a stronger glaze to make it stand out.

To finish the yaki-mono a host of seasonal produce were used as palette cleansers including crisp lotus root, a gooseberry topped with egg yolk (surprisingly, it works), mountain yam, and a lovely mountain peach that’s almost tastes like a cross between a plum and strawberry.

The Spice Girl’s song, When Two Becomes One, is what comes to mind when I think of the taki-awase course. The dish begins with ingredients being stewed separately – in this case, cubes of octopus, vegetables, squash, and daikon – and are then steam together to blend the flavours and aromas without causing the ingredients to become overcooked. After simmering for four hours, the octopus was so tender that if our server didn’t tell us what the protein was, I would have thought we were eating brisket.

Following the softer steamed dish was the shii-zakana (signature course), which provided a textural contrast with different crispy elements:

  • Medallions of the most incredible chicken teriyaki encapsulating a soft walnut and wrapped in a thin crispy skin. I could munch on rounds of these in lieu of chicken wings.
  • A ball of flavourful mashed Japanese potatoes filled with wagyu beef cubes and rolled into crispy rice grains creating something that rivals arancini with its crunchy and soft elements. Of course, in this case, instead of the traditional ground beef and peas, it’s filled with rich wagyu. Oh boy.
  • Even the garnish of popped wheat was edible; a bit fibrous when I took a bite of the entire stalk, but once we started picking out the individual grains from the husk, became almost like a nutty popcorn.

Guilt washed over me as I took my first bite of Chef Hashimoto’s hand carved radish crane… it must have taken so much time to carve its delicate neck and legs! It was the last thing consumed so that I could appreciate its beauty before finally dipping it into the carrot sauce and devouring the refreshing décor.

The last savoury course brought a bowl of sticky rice topped with slices of A5 Hyogo wagyu, the prized beef from the Kobe region. While it was delicious, I do wish the beef was left thicker and cut into cubes so that more of the fatty rich flavours would be locked in and flow onto the tongue.

A bowl of noodles and soup is always a delight. In this case, a cha (tea) soba served in a fragrant dashi broth that was good to the last drop. What a lovely way to end and cleanse the palette before dessert.

Like many Japanese desserts, the mizu-mono was a fruit plate prominently featuring the expensive Shizuoka musk melon. A sizeable melon is upwards of $200 a fruit and commands the premium as supposedly they are raised to only have one melon per plant to ensure all the flavours are concentrated into one fruit and there being less of a chance of the melon having blemishes.

Indeed, every time I’ve had a slice it’s the sweetest melon ever and tastes like a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew. What also makes it different is the texture: when you have a normal melon it tends to be very soft and sweet in the centre, then gets hard and flavourless as you approach the find. The musk melon tends to have a more uniform sweetness and tenderness throughout.

It’s strange when I’m excited to try fruit, at Hashimoto they also provided a white strawberry encapsulated in a light jelly and topped with condensed milk. Truthfully, it just tasted like a lighter Ontario strawberry that you can purchase at a farmer’s market when it’s in season… I don’t think I would pay the ~$40 for a pint. It was my first experience having a shine muscat, which was like a sweeter and juicier globe grape without seeds. Set in gelatin and adorned with a gold leaf it’s crazy to think that a bunch of these grapes can be upwards of $100.

Aside from the fruit, we were treated to a leaf of uber-rich matcha pudding and a dollop of sweet azuki beans topped with a crispy candy. My recommendation is that Chef Hashimoto switches out the rock sugar with pop rocks to really give the diners a surprise.

With an extensive sake menu, if you’re not familiar with the Japanese spirit, they have a “sommelier” to help you choose one based on your preferences for other alcohol. Letting her know that we like a dry crisp wine, she recommended the Okunomatsu Junmai Ginjo Genshu Arabashiri that was offered in a half bottle on weekends ($55), which does have a less sweet finish.

For those who are abstaining from alcohol, they also offer pots of fragrant tea ($9 a person) or water served from a kimono clad Swell bottle ($7 a person).

Incredible surroundings and beautiful unique dishes aside, what makes dining at Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto an unforgettable experience is their service. With only three tables nightly, we were in good hands – just like in Japan, the hospitality rises to another level.

It evens ends warmly with our server offering to take a picture of us, which they email to us later that evening along with pictures of the dishes sampled. It’s a simple and sweet gesture that sets the restaurant apart, from the moment you enter and after you return home, dining at Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto is a true sensory experience. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 6 Garamond Court


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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Aoyama (Toronto)


In a small plaza sits two storefronts – Aoyama and Aoyama VIP. Enter to the one on the left and if you’ve made reservations, chances are you’ll be escorted back outside and into the VIP one. Yes, it’s a bit strange that they’re not connected, but when you want to expand and the opportunity arises (albeit not directly beside your existing restaurant), you need to seize the availability.

Just ordering your meal can take time if you’ve never visited. There’s a leather bound menu that already has numerous options, but then you’ll also want to sift through several laminated loose pages, and there’s even a wooden board with drawn images that gets circulated with other a la carte items.


Indeed, the cheeky wooden board drew us in to try some of their hand rolls ($3 for spicy tuna and $3.50 for spicy salmon). Having been spoiled by ones that chefs insist on handing you and having you eat right away, I did find the seaweed chewy and a bit tough to bite through. However, for the price, these are great, a pretty generous portion of fish wrapped in seaweed, although the spicy mayo needs to be spicier.


During the weekend, Aoyama offers a “sushi set upgraded weekend special” ($125) that comes with a more sushi and luxurious appetizers, compared to their regular option. To begin, there’s a sharing platter of small eats containing chawanmushi (a savoury egg custard), lobster tempura, yakitori skewers, other small nibbles, and a pot of seafood consommé.   


Normally, chawanmushi is served hot. At Aoyama, it’s cold so ends up being denser and almost the consistency of a savoury flan. The temperature and jellied soup takes some getting used to, but it tasted good, the dashi (?) flavours seeping through. Finishing it with a teacup of the umami-filled seafood consommé is a nice combination.

Plump pieces of lobster tempura is dressed with the all-colour-no-heat spicy mayo. Nonetheless, the lobster was cooked nicely, it just needed a bit of salt or something else to dip it into. Surrounding the dish were pods of dry edamame and tempura burdock root that was cold but tasty to nibble on.

What makes yakitori skewers delicious is when they’re hot off the grill and you can smell and taste the smoky caramelized glaze. In the platter, the chicken and scallion yakitori were cold (having been brought over from the other store) so the chicken became hard and the sauce congealed and lumpy. Really, Aoyama should consider replacing these with a starter that doesn’t need to be hot.

Something to consider when you make a reservation: what is important about the meal for you? Is it hot food or a comfortable sitting environment? While the VIP room is spacious and has an ambiance of a brightly lit piano lounge, there isn’t a kitchen so food is transported over in a non-insulated metal container arriving lukewarm to cold. To get the best of both worlds, you’ll want to order cold items when sitting in the VIP area.

Luckily, the huge plate of sushi that’s part of the set menu can withstand the frigid journey. That evening, it contained two types of tuna, the fattier toro and the regular blue fin variety; sweet soft pieces of unagi (barbequed eel); surprisingly clean pieces of aji (horse mackerel) that’s further topped with tons of ginger and green onions; tried and true kampachi,  salmon, and salmon maki; a decent take on tamago (egg) that had the flavours but not the lovely layers; as well as generous portions of hotate (Hokkaido scallop), ebi (raw shrimp), and uni (sea urchin).


In terms of the sushi rice, something I’ve really started to learn to enjoy, it had a great consistency but needs more vinegar and could benefit from being warmer. The rice is an important element to get right given it’s such an integral part of sushi.

Since the set meal lacked vegetables, an order of the wakame salad ($6), ice berg lettuce tossed in a creamy sesame dressing and topped with a sweet seaweed salad, was welcomed and helped add that freshness we were craving.


Off the a la carte menu, the seafood zousui ($18), a Japanese-style congee, was beckoning during the cold winter night. Pieces of shrimp, salmon, crab, a fair-sized scallop and various mushrooms gave the dish a lovely sweet seafood essence.


The rice sits at the bottom of a clear seafood broth, rather than being boiled for hours so that the grains combine with the soup, so you’re able to taste just the soup and then also have it with the soft rice. Indeed, the broth is king and despite being tepid had a warming property to it. If there was more seasoning and the seafood was added near the end of the process (so it doesn’t become rubbery) it’d be even better.

A bowl of tempura udon ($13) also seemed like a good choice. While the broth is rather run-of-the-mill, it was at least hotter than all the other dishes and the noodles chewy and springy. Something about ending the meal with a hot bowl of soup really suits me.


The VIP room was so comfortable that after two hours we still wanted to stay. A round of desserts helped extend the experience a little longer.


Deciding on the black sesame mochi ice cream ($4.30), it arrived two to an order. The small ping pong sized mochi needed a few minutes to rest as at the beginning it was tough to cut through. A thin chewy layer of glutinous rice flour pastry encapsulates plenty of ice cream. While it was pretty, the dessert lacked sesame flavour and tasted more like vanilla ice cream. For real black sesame ice cream you’ll want to stick with the ice cream with red bean paste ($4.50) combination.


Once the store between Aoyama and Aoyama VIP vacates, they can finally combine everything into one continuous restaurant. At that point, patrons finally won’t need to decide between quality of food or atmosphere. Until then, choose carefully.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2766 Victoria Park Avenue

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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CLOSED: Skippa (Toronto)



How do I know a meal is going to be one of my top picks? It’s a twinge of sadness I feel at the end: signifying the experience is over and I’m uncertain when it’ll happen again. Oh yes, Ian and Kati Robinson’s Skippa is that good. It’s where you go for upscale sushi for under $100 (taxes and gratuities included) and the chef isn’t scary like Jiro.


In fact, Skippa’s vibe is laid back – an open kitchen so you can see what Ian and team are doing, Kati at the pass calling out orders. There’s no military responses of “yes Chef!”, instead the kitchen working as a well-oiled machine, Ian going around to answer questions and have a taste of broth when he’s not busy creating the sushi piece-by-piece.


Right after ordering, a slice of lotus root filled with wasabi infused egg yolk is presented. For something seemingly simple, it’s surprisingly flavourful and perfect for those who liked deviled eggs.


Before getting into the omakase portion of the meal, we couldn’t help but tuck into a couple of appetizers. A freshly made chawanmushi ($7) where the egg is silky and studded with shredded chicken and sliced mushrooms. While the custard was comforting and savoury, it’d be even better if the broth ratio was lowered as the custard broke apart so much that it was difficult to scoop using the small thick wooden spoons.


With two grilled fish specials, we had to try one. The grilled sawara (Spanish mackerel) collar ($5) was fantastic, cooked beautifully with a simple sprinkling of salt. We’re told to add a squeeze of lemon and smear of radish to taste; the citrus was great but I ended up scraping off the too bitter radish. For those who are afraid of bones, there will be a few you need to pick out, but the tender flavourful collar meat is well worth it.


If you’re just getting into “artisanal” sushi, Skippa is a great place to try it. Their omakase ($42) is a manageable seven pieces or you can always order by the piece (prices included below) to make your own menu. Like other upscale restaurants, the sushi is served separately arriving at the optimal hand-warmed temperature. Ian requests us to use our hands; a wet towel is provided to wipe your fingers to remove any rice or sauce residue.  

If you’re not overly hungry, the omakase dinner already includes two smaller starters – a cube of nutty soft sesame tofu with freshly grated wasabi and a sweet broth; and a spoon of soba where the noodle is overdone but the rich kombu broth delicious.  


A taste of sashimi follows, a clean and meaty grouper where I appreciate they include a leaner and fattier cut so you can taste the flavour nuances. Their house made soy sauce pairs nicely given it’s slightly thicker (so coats onto the meat better) and has a slightly sweet finish.


“Each dish is served as it is ready and in no order.” Skippa's menu warns the diner. Indeed, the sushi bounces between lighter and stronger fishes and not necessarily in the order written on the menu. We start with the kinmedai ($4), a goldeneye seabream, which is a light and neutral fish. Aside from the soy, the piece allows you to focus on the sushi rice, wonderfully warm and the optimal sticky consistency, but could use more vinegar.


Chef Ian previously worked at Sushi Kaji, and you can see Chef Kaji’s influences in the Western toppings used on the sushi. The piece of madai ($4.25) reminded me most of Kaji, who also uses lemon, olive oil, and salt a lot as garnishes. At Skippa, the salt is not as powerful and ends with an almost sweet flavour.


Our second sawara ($4.50) takes the Spanish mackerel and smokes it with Japanese hay. It’s very light so the essence lingers in the background and if anything, the most prominent tastes is the kick of radish from the dollop on top. Unlike with the grilled fish starter, the smaller portion of radish works better and nicely rounds out the cool fish.


The sayori ($4.75) is such a beautiful piece of sushi, with the glint of silver skin against the crystal white fish. Also known as half beek, the fish is mild and perfect for introducing someone to raw fish without going the maki route.


I was a little disappointed the maguro ($4) on the menu didn’t arrive. However, the aji or horse mackerel it was replaced with was wonderfully executed, cleaned well so there was no hint of fishiness. Adorned with garlic, instead of the customary green onion, it worked.


Luckily, the tuna did make an appearance in the temaki ($6) handroll. Unlike the other pieces of sushi, these were whisked to each person (rather than by table) and we’re encouraged to eat it right away before the toasted seaweed, sourced from Japan’s Tsukiji Market, got soggy. Undeniably, it was crispy and the flavourful tuna mixed with a spicy sauce so you didn’t even need the soy sauce.


In terms of the use of soy, with each piece Ian either tells you to dip or not. The one flaw of needing to dip is the garnishes make it challenging to fully flip over the sushi so you’re dipping the fish rather than the rice (the preferred method to ensure not too much soy is soaked into the rice). I guess it goes with Skippa’s laid back vibe, but personally think if a chef’s going to be particular about whether sushi gets soy, he should just paint it on for the diner to make sure the optimal amount is on each piece.   

Before the final piece of tamago, we added on the wagyu ($9), the well marbled beef lightly seared so the oil mixes with the sweet glaze and covers the tongue in a rich sauce. Absolutely delicious!  


The final tamago ($2) wasn’t the best interpretation. Perhaps it was due to the thick angular chunk the sweet egg was cut into, but it was too dense and lacks aroma since it doesn’t include the seared portion of the egg on top.


While it’s out of character, I didn’t read any reviews prior to going to Skippa, just a brief “first look” type of article. Therefore, when I heard our dessert options were ice cream and sorbet, I turned it down. It wasn’t until I glanced over at the group beside us and saw them gushing over the ice cream that I flagged down our waitress in a last-ditch effort get the dessert within our two-hour seating window.

Skippa’s roasted green tea ice cream ($5.50) is made in-house and while I’d prefer it harder, the ice cream was very creamy and has the nuttiness of sesame that goes so well with green tea. It’s good, you’ll want it.    


After all that, two hours flew by in no time and our dinner was over. Yes, I felt that twinge of sadness that a delicious meal came to an end, but since Skippa is affordable, it’s also not a once-a-year-only place. I’m already excited to return in the summer. Maybe the space outside will turn into a patio, but I’ll be back at the sushi bar, amid all the action. 
Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 379 Harbord 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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Skippa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


CLOSED: Yunaghi (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 538 Manning Avenue
Type of Meal: Dinner






Yunaghi serves a wonderful kaiseki inspired menu, offering a collection of dishes with different tastes, textures and temperatures. Each dish is a small presentation of artfully arranged ingredients with vibrant colours and carefully placed garnishes. Having read many kaiseki articles before going to Japan, we tried on various occasions to try it but ended up disappointed as the restaurant was closed, we ran out of time or I fell ill. I only had but a small abbreviated taste of it when we lunched at Hishinuma.

So it was bittersweet when I heard about Yunaghi. In Japan, a traditional kaiseki meal can easily run upwards of $200 a person. But, I was in luck as Yunaghi’s inspired version is only $68 for 7-courses or $80 for the longer 9-course option. During our visit, they were even running a promotion where we received the 9-courses for $68. Trust me, even without the deal, you’ll want to go with the 9-course meal as to miss any of the dishes would be disappointing. Plus, they’re not large so you won’t be stuffed afterwards.

To clarify, Yunaghi’s menu doesn’t follow the traditional series of dishes. Their cuisine is influenced by French ingredients and practices. Items such as foam, pouring sauces (in this case soup) tableside and the desserts are certainly where French elements stood out.

Up first was the sakizuke dish, a small bite to fire up the palate. A slice of hamachi “warm” sashimi, with warm in quotations as it becomes that way once the dashi tea is poured over top. Wrapped inside the delicate fish is a thick sesame sauce giving it an unexpected creamy twist. Delicate masago arare (rice pearls), black sesame seeds and chives are sprinkled on top finishing off the dish.


Afterwards the hussun appetizer platter, a stunning dish filled with tons of little bites – each different and offering a new taste.
  • A small piece of shrimp encased in a ponzu jelly. The tart saltiness of the jelly was refreshing but sadly none of the shrimp’s sweetness stood out, likely on account of it being cold.
  • The saba (mackerel) sushi was tightly wrapped with a smear of wasabi. Mackerel is a stronger tasting fish and I would have liked a thicker glaze on top to balance it out more. Above that was a skewer of cold tender octopus and the flavourful mustard cured cucumber stealing the show. Beside this was a smooth chicken miso pâté wrapped in crunchy lotus root – a great combination of textures.
  • The black sesame tofu was delicious with the silken tofu filled with sesame flavour. Sitting in some sweet soya sauce with a hint of wasabi on top I only wished this was larger.
  • My favourite was the onsen quail egg, where you get a hint of the French sous-vide technique as the egg is slowly heated so that it’s cooked through without being runny. Eggs are so exquisite  prepared like this as you really get to experience the yolk’s smooth creamy texture. On top was some refreshing chive purée, what I believe is steamed gingko nuts and drops of truffle oil.



Following was another lidded dish, which creates suspense as you’re not quite sure what’s inside. In this case, a duck confit dumpling perched on a fennel egg tofu topped with chives, dashi and duck consommé. I love the moment you lift the lid off - while you take in the beauty, you also get a whiff of the duck and truffle oil. The dumpling reminded me of a more flavourful shu mai found at dim sum. The tofu an interesting texture from the addition of the crunchy fennel. After eating everything please pick up the bowl and finish off the lovely fragrant consommé!


The shira-ae, a nicer name for mashed tofu salad, features vegetables with a dressing made from tofu purée. That night the seasonal vegetables consisted of beets poached in a light vinegar so they had an ever so slightly sour taste against its natural sweetness. Crisp peas were great for scooping up the white bacon powder and cheesy grana padano tofu paste on the bottom. On top were sweet almond glass chips, refreshing orange zest and dots of squid ink. I enjoyed the shout-out to Canada with some beets carved to resemble the maple leaf, which we currently find littered on the ground.


Another favourite is the chawanmushi, a delicious savoury steamed egg.  At Yunaghi theirs is infused with squid ink (a popular ingredient) and topped with a variety of mushrooms. There was something added to the mushrooms that tasted like orange peel which I personally would have liked left out. But, the egg itself was silky and comforting.


The fish dish was lovely seared sake and salt cured halibut(?). Around the plate were lotus root, house made ricotta (so light and smooth), wasabi infused sour cream (a little out of place on this dish) and green garlic emulsion.  Every element of the plate was so artfully placed, even the small broccoli like floret on top of the fish.


Following was an upscale take on chicken ramen.  A piece of super tender roasted chicken topped with a shichimi foam. On the side some ibonoito somen noodles, which we were advised by our waitress is a special occasion noodle that’s prized in Japan. With only two spoonfuls of it served I made sure to enjoy every bite of it. Around the plate were also braised leeks, green onions and scallion purée.


It was through this dish our table got a sense that Chef Tetsuya Shimizu wanted each dish presented at its optimal state. As the waitress was holding the soup and explaining it to us, the chef came out and encouraged her to pour it on to ensure everything stayed hot. We lucked out and got to meet and speak to him.

To end the gohan (rice course) of Japanese glutinous rice. Its texture was interesting; although it’s sticky, each grain was still so distinctly formed and creamy. Accompanying it were marinated honey mushrooms, karashi cured celery and dots of chilli ume.


Dessert was the only course where we had to make a decision. Naturally my husband and I got one of each so we could try both. My first choice was the butter milk pannacotta. On top a slightly savoury yuzu miso whipped cream, followed by paillete feuilletine (crunchy cocoa flakes), ending with the rich pannacotta cream layer. It was a salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth parfait.


The chocolate orange mousse would be more appropriately described as a gelatin than mousse.  Most of it consisted of a thick milk chocolate layer, but on top a soy milk then orange layer. The flavours worked well together and my husband thoroughly enjoyed it. Around the plate were pieces of almond brittle, stewed candied oranges and delicious house made marshmallows (the popcorn like clusters). The Chef also added a savoury element to this as well by topping each cube with some unexpected chili flakes.


Indeed, Yunaghi’s atmosphere won’t remind you of a ryokan having taken over the minimalistic space of Ici Bistro. But, the service was reminiscent of Japan where individuals are more than just friendly and attentive – you get the feeling that they truly want to make sure you’re enjoying yourself and appreciate what you’re eating.

For example, my friend recently had to stop eating gluten and dairy products for a short period. As I wasn’t accustomed to these dietary restrictions, no warning was given to the restaurant when I made the reservation.  But, it wasn’t a problem for Yunaghi and they accommodatingly adjusted her dishes (sometimes removing ingredients and at other times substituting them) so that she got the same experience as us.

As a warning, don’t visit starving as you may leave unsatisfied. Each course is small so if you’re looking for hearty portion sizes Yunaghi is not for you. Personally, the meal was not about how much food consumed but rather the overall experience. As each dish arrived I couldn’t wait to see how it’d be presented. It’s the epitome of eating with your eyes first … studying the ingredients and taking in beautiful presentation. It reminds you to be mindful about your food and the chef’s craft in making it. For that, I thank Chef Tetsuya Shimizu for coming to Toronto from Tokyo – my taste buds certainly appreciate your journey.


Overall mark - 9 out of 10


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
  • - 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!

Yunaghi on Urbanspoon