Showing posts with label saba. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saba. Show all posts

Sushi Yugen (Toronto)

Omakase is like the ramen craze from a decade ago. Every season I hear about another Japanese restaurant offering a chef’s menu – some at $100 or less, while others in the hundreds of dollars. It’s difficult to decipher which are good, the options seem endless.

I’ve heard of Sushi Yugen and their $98 main counter omakase and determined it’s a place that maybe I’d visit. It wasn’t until a friend who indulges in a lot of fine dining mentioned the restaurant, giving their chef’s table menu ($275/person) a high recommendation that I finally booked a reservation. And I was not disappointed.

The higher price point gets you into a more intimate room where Master Chef Kyohei Igarashi personally prepares the meal. Igarashi spent 15 years in Japan, learning the craft at high-end sushi and kaiseki places, before finally settling into a Michelin starred restaurant where he spent another seven years.

Indeed, the omakase menu showcases his background, starting off with six kaiseki dishes before the nine pieces of nigiri are presented. He comes out shyly, his accomplishments touted by a translator, and immediately launches into squaring off fish filets so the slices end up all evenly presented amongst the diners.

Our winter menu begins with a hot bowl of broth. Japanese turnip is cooked and then likely pulverized so it melts throughout the soup, causing it to thicken a bit. I would have thought the monk fish liver and leeks would be strong, but somehow the addition of yuzu mellows the ingredients and ties everything together.

Sushi Yugen serves a menu worthy of a Scandinavian spa as it goes from hot to a cold plunge. A bowl of fluke arrives in a beautiful ice dome doused in a special soy-based sauce and covered with black truffle shavings. The delicate white fish allows the truffle’s flavours to be prominently featured. The combination of meaty fish and the fungi’s earthiness is an interesting flavour profile that somehow works.

A bowl of soumen arrives adorn with edible flowers and thinly julienned Japanese ginger, sitting in a three-fish broth (bonito, tuna, sardine). Normally, the bowl of noodles has a deep savoury taste. Sushi Yugen’s still has that element, but the floral and ginger finish gives the silky noodles a bright burst… almost like that pop of basil on a gooey cheesy pizza.

Steaming sauce is brought to the table and quickly ladled into individual bowls to cook the seabream table side and create Yugen’s version of shabu shabu. While the rich soy-based broth was too tad salty to finish, it helped flavour the fish, which was just cooked through remaining flaky and tender. Make sure to use some of the yuzu chili paste, it’s such a great condiment that I want to use on everything.

Being Chinese, I’ve had my fair share of abalone, but having it fresh was a completely different experience. Chef Igarashi trims off the gills and liver, using them to create a thick rich sauce. Meanwhile, the meaty part of the sea creature was simply sliced and more tender and sweeter than my past experiences. We’re advised to leave some of the sauce in the bowl, at which point, Igarashi places some rice so we can mix it into the rich sauce and finish it off.

The uni rice bowl was like an over-the-top seafood risotto, the uni sushi rice adorned with chopped fatty tuna, ringed with briny fish roe, and then topped with caviar. Looking at it, you’d think it would be so rich and decadent, but surprisingly the vinegar in the rice cuts through it to make it lighter than you’d expect, while still having a powerful taste of the sea (in a good way) and a lovely creaminess.

After the last flavourful kaiseki dish, the nigiri begins, but not before a big pile of chopped ginger helps cleanse the palette. Cut into smaller pieces, I enjoyed the little bits that helped provide a refresher without being too much.

The nigiri starts with a piece of filefish (kawahagi) adorned with its liver. It’s meaty and creamy, but also lightened with the heavily vinegared rice that’s made with a combination of three vinegars.

I had the cleanest tasting scallop at Sushi Yugen, it’s sweet without an ounce of gumminess. When pressed, Chef Kyohei Igarashi did explain the three-step process he uses to ensure it’s so silky and fresh. I promised I wouldn’t give away his trade secrets, so you’ll have to ask him yourself.

The saba was flavourful with a pop of freshness, despite not being heavily loaded with green onion and ginger. Left neutral it was still delicious.

A trio of tuna arrives afterwards with the lean akami being marinated so it was flavourful, especially brushed with an extra bit of sauce.

Indeed, the fattier tunas were decadent. I was surprised by how soft and buttery the chutoro was already, to a level that made the otoro seem not as different.

A tray of hot charcoal arrives for the next piece. They are used to sear the top of the nodoguro saikyozuke, a black throat seaperch to crisp up the skin and emit an intoxicating aroma that reminds me of Japanese barbeque. The fish almost has a unagi (eel) consistency, delicate and soft, and very flavourful as it was already marinated in miso, but with a fresher finish.

The anago or conger eel was tasty, but it’s hard to follow the delicious seaperch. Nonetheless, the eel was hot and meaty and has that slight sweetness that’s synonymous with eel without being too sugary.

Yugen’s tamago was cake-like in consistency with an almost savoury finish. I only wish the piece was larger and served warm.

Our meal ends with another bowl of piping hot soup, this time the traditional miso consisting of a rich broth with finely chopped seaweed.

The dessert leans towards kaiseki preparations again. Instead of the typical musk melon, ice cream, or mochi, Yugen presents a beautifully prepared fruit jelly topped with white bean paste dusted with matcha powder and adorned with a salted Sakura flower. What a beautiful finish.

Summing up Igarashi’s menu, I’m impressed by how well he balances rich ingredients to create a dish that still has a freshness to it… I left satisfied but not feeling heavy. Armed with our remaining champagne, we’re invited to their “patio” in the lobby, where we could finish the drinks without being rushed to leave.

In Toronto we’re blessed to have so many omakase options. Sushi Yugen’s is top notch especially for its relatively reasonable price. When is it time to dine at Chef Igarashi’s counter again? I hope soon. 

Overall mark - 10 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 150 York 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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Project Fish (Toronto) for delivery

Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

Sushi isn’t really known to be comfort food - in fact, it’s what I turn to when I’m needing a ‘lighter meal’. Still, there is one type of sushi that I would consider to be comfort food and that’s when it’s prepared aburi-style: rice topped with protein and a generous layer of mayonnaise that is blasted with a blowtorch so that the mayo seeps into the protein. Usually, it’s finished off with one or two ingredients to give it that final flavour and garnish.

Comfort sushi is what you’ll find at Project Fish. Their oshi aburi served as a single order or part of a platter. At first glance, I wouldn’t have thought jalapenos would pair nicely with salmon, but in the salmon oshi ($14) it adds a bit of crunch and peppery bite that cuts through the otherwise rich fatty salmon. I could have done without the cracked black pepper, which adds a gritty hard texture and would suggest sumac, a spice that’s zesty but could melt into the background, as an alternative.

The small platter ($38) is a great option if you like variety.  There’s three pieces of the salmon oshi and that evening also included:

  • Saba oshi - cured mackerel simply adorned with miso aioli. It’s decent, but some pickled or fresh green scallion would have brought it to another level.
  • Basil shrimp oshi – while you can’t really taste the herb amongst the all the other ingredients, I did like the chopped black olives that complimented the sweet shrimp with a salty finish.
  • More aburi shrimp arrives in an unpressed form. Although it looks really like the oshi, Project Fish adds truffle oil into the mayo to create a decadent bite.
  • All the rich flavours are balanced off with simple salmon nigri, a spicy cooked fish roll that has quite the powerful kick of heat, and pieces of lightly sweetened tamago that could even double as dessert.

With 23 pieces of sushi and a small container of edamame, the small platter could almost feed two if you are not too hungry - add on another roll, appetizer, or oshi if you’d like a more fulsome meal. Plus, I love that fact that it comes in an environmentally friendly paper box instead of all that plastic that needs to be thrown away.

The Neo Tokyo roll ($18) tempted my husband but wasn’t a hit for me. I’m not sure why they added ‘Tokyo’ to the name … with the sweet and slightly spicy gochujang sauce slathered over it, I would have thought ‘Neo Seoul’ roll would have worked better. Or perhaps even ‘Neo Dallas’ roll as it seemed borne from an eclectic diverse neighbourhood from the American south: there’s the Korean gochujang sauce but also a spicy jalapeño relish, and possibly even habanero mixed with the tobiko so that you get a spicy kick.

There was just too much of surimi or fake crab meat salad and not enough other ingredients to round out the maki. The tempura bits should have added crunch but were soggy with all the condiments and I couldn’t taste any of the cucumber that was mentioned on the menu. Overall, it was just too saucy and soft for my taste.

Oh well, sometimes you can’t win them all. Luckily with our overzealous ordering there was so much food that I didn’t need the Neo Tokyo roll to leave me fully comforted and satisfied.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 16 Park Home Avenue
 Delivery: store delivery, Uber, Doordash, Skip the Dishes
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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!

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