Showing posts with label passion fruit mousse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label passion fruit mousse. Show all posts

CLOSED: Shibui Robata Bar (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 230 Adelaide Street West
Type of Meal: Dinner

Shibui Robata Bar shares space with Copacabana – it’s on the bottom while Copa’s just above. Upon entering, the welcome desk was abuzz with a model-like midriff baring hostess who seems like she’d be working for a nightclub than a restaurant. Yet, upon descending the stairs and entering Shibui, the atmosphere changes. Although still much loungier than your typical izakaya, with its round booths and glowing artwork on the walls, the vibe at the bottom starts to calm down.

Of course, breaking into the sake could have also helped the situation. For Summerlicious, Shibui offers a four-glass sake tasting for $20. It’s not a pairing, as you’re given them all together and only have to drink the pink one first. It provides a variety of tastes from sweet plum, crisp & dry, bitter and sparkling. My favourite was “Mio” the sparkling one – with the happy face smiling back at me and drinking it right after the extremely bitter Genshu, it ended the tasting off on a high.

My friend had recommended we visit Shibui for their Summerlicious menu and I’m so glad she did. For $25 we were astounded by the amount of food received and had a great experience! With all the delicious choices we broke off into pairs and shared each course. I highly recommend sharing as there’s plenty to go around and some dishes are rich so you’ll appreciate the variety.

To start, a helping of the Chilean sea bass dumplings and crispy rice with tuna. The dumplings contained a good helping of black pepper spiced fish in a delicate wrapper. It was light and a good start. The accompanying sesame vinegar dipping sauce (?) was subtle and hard to distinguish so neither added nor took away from gyozas.

The crispy rice with tuna is like a cross between sushi pizza and pressed sushi. Chopped tuna is mixed with spicy mayo then garnished with a fried garlic chip and sliver of jalapeno packing tons of flavours. We chose wisely starting with the dumplings first or may have found them bland after eating the flavourful crispy rice. The combination of creamy tuna, soft warm rice and crispy base was delicious and definitely worth ordering.

Next, we each received an eight-piece maki roll (four orders pictured below). As they brought out these dishes heads turn and eyes light up when you realize YOU GET THE ENTIRE ORDER!

The Shibui salmon maki, pictured first, seemed like a classic spicy salmon roll based on the menu’s description. Indeed, the ingredients are typical consisting of salmon, spicy mayo and tempura flakes. However, their execution is what differs. Rather than mixing the tempura bits into the spicy salmon (causing it to get mushy) or sprinkling it on top (so that it’s the first thing to hit the tongue) Shibui puts it beside the salmon in the middle of the roll. The outcome is that as you bite through the roll you get distinct textures and flavours rather than one mushy clump. The salmon maki was a table favourite.

The pirikara ebi maki looks amazing with the battered shrimp skewered onto purple pickled plum (?) rice. And has promise to taste good with the crispy asparagus and julienned cucumber inside. Together each item stands on its own but also compliments well (the heaviness of the fried shrimp with the freshness of the maki). However, the downfall was that the over battered shrimp was cold and also caused the spicy mayo to congeal.

Of course, I understand the stresses of serving so many diners during Summerlicious – when you’re pumping out this much food certain items need to be prepped ahead of time. Unfortunately, the pirikara ebi maki was a bad choice to include on a Summerlicious offering as it really detracted from an otherwise delicious meal.

Finally, onto Shibui’s claim to fame - robatayaki style cooking. With their open concept kitchen you’re able to see the chefs at work as they move skewers across various levels further from or closer to the hot coals. In the beginning, I expected the food to taste like yakatori but because the skewers are cooked further away from the direct heat it stayed juicier, fresher and crispier.

The pork belly was one of the moistest I’ve ever had. Literally when you pick it up and squeeze oily juices drip off of it. Covered with shichimi pepper there’s some heat to the pork and a welcomed change from the sweet and salty concoctions. But, these are still heavy and one skewer is enough – even my pork belly loving friend agrees. So, you should definitely share! The sesame and teriyaki asparagus on the side was good, crispy yet cooked through.


If you’ve read previous posts you’ll know I love miso marinated black cod. I pretty much try it everywhere and couldn’t pass up sampling it at Shibui. Although it wasn’t the best I’ve had (Yuzu No Hana and Blowfish still hold these titles) it was still delicious - flaky, tender and well flavoured. The side of corn glazed with yuzu butter was fine. But, I actually found the middle garnishes more intriguing with the zucchini topped with sesame oil pickled carrots and the pickled daikon flower – all devoured despite the abundance of food already consumed.

To end, we shared amongst the table the passion fruit mousse (extremely sweet but one friend really liked it), mango gelato (creamy and devoid of the dreaded fake mango taste) and petit gateau (a rich dense dark chocolate cake). Honestly, none of these wowed me, but I don't have a sweet tooth so it really has to be good for me to want more. My fellow diners enjoyed them and all were polished off by the end.

From the savings calculated below, you’ll get a sense that Shibui’s Summerlicious menu is a great deal. Certainly, it’s one of the highest calculated savings I’ve had as a Licious dinner. So, based on the numbers – this is a steal! I highly suggest you make a reservation and try it now as Shibui’s normal prices can be a bit steep. But, if you can’t make it out by July 20th, have no fear, as they do offer a fixed price lunch with many of the same items for $20.

Let’s be clear, Shibui isn’t a traditional Japanese restaurant; their dishes have been modified for the North American palette. But, we need a bit of each. Slap more spicy mayo on those rolls I say because the Shibui salmon maki was just as great as a plain piece of fresh salmon any day. 

Is Summerlicious worth it?

As a special feature to the Summerlicious blogs, I will attempt to calculate the savings being offered (based on my meal selection).

Summerlicious - $25

Regular menu - $60 - crispy rice with tuna ($14), pirikara ebi maki ($12), grilled black cod ($22), grilled asparagus ($7) and petit gateau* ($5)

Savings - $35 or 58%

* The dessert isn't part of their regular menu; the price based on a wild guess

    Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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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!