Showing posts with label tamago. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tamago. Show all posts

Shunoko (Toronto)


Shunoko reminds me of Shoushin, before it was awarded a Michelin star and their tasting menus now start at $330. The restaurant quietly opened in the spring and was relatively unknown unless you’ve visited their previous location at Yonge and St. Clair. It’s helmed by Chef Jun Kim whose father and uncle both owned sushi restaurants in Korea.

While Shunoko offers an a la carte menu, it’s their omakase that drew my interest. The promise of twelve pieces of sushi, four “tastings”, and a dessert for only $100 seemed too good to be true. I arrived with lowered expectations and was blown away by the experience.

Best yet, there’s also a $30 wine pairing that’s an appealing contrast to the traditional sake pairings. Chef Jun notes that he likes wine, especially natural ones, and prefers its subtle flavours when paired with sushi. He likes to just crack open bottles with friends, while eating sushi, and see what works. Up first, a flute of light dry cava from Barcelona, a classic wine to pair with fish.

The meal started with a cube of cold tofu topped with spot prawn and ikura (salmon fish roe). I’ve never been a fan of the texture of raw shrimp. Shunoko’s was still a bit gummy, although less so than some establishments, but could be even better if it was quickly poached. The combination of briny ikura and soy was also a tad salty, working well with plain tofu but detracts from the shrimp’s sweetness.

Luckily, the following sea bream with ginger dressing was a hit. The sauce reminds me of the concoction used on salads, excepts less vinegary and having a thicker purée consistency. It goes so nicely with the slices of meaty fish, giving it a warm feeling, even though the dish was served cool – you must taste it to understand. The bits of chives rounded it off so nicely.

The first nigiri of the night was fluke wrapped around sisho leaf and topped with a piece of its fin. A lovely fresh start with a bit of interest from the chewy fin piece.

It’s followed by the chicken grunt, which is the strangest tasting fish I’ve ever had. While it looks like it comes from the sea, it has the taste of chicken, especially the chewiness of its skin. There’s a gaminess to the protein that’s mellowed a bit by the chives but could use something stronger like chopped scallions and ginger. While not my favourite bite, it’s nevertheless interesting to try.

Chef Jun simply tops the sea bream with rock salt, which while simplistic changes the taste of the classic fish. It’s savoury and neutral so that you can also enjoy the warm creamy rice, that has a lovely soft consistency but could use a splash more vinegar.

The amber jack was nice and meaty and had a light spicy essence from the pepper leaf topping it. But what made this piece shine was the French cider pairing. The cider must be aged in barrels giving it an olive scent. Yet, when you drink it, there’s a mellow sweetness that finishes off so smoothly, not like the overly fruity and bubbly canned cider you’d find at the LCBO.

One of our favourite pieces of the night was the yellow tail finished with ponzu and chives. It’s perfect for the warm whether, so refreshing and bright.

If Chef Jun didn’t tell me the next piece was striped jack, I’d almost think it’s horse mackerel as there’s such a meatiness to the fish. All while still having a clean neutral finish.

It’s at this point in the meal that the restaurant seemed to be in full swing, the four tables for two and the approximate nine chairs around the sushi bar were almost at capacity. Given Shunoko offers an a la carte and two omakase menus, it’s quite the feat to juggle.

From what we could tell, Chef Jun concentrates on the omakase experience while the other sushi chef focuses on the rest. The sous chef also fills in as the sommelier, explaining what we’re drinking and how many courses it should last.

The biggest flop for me of the evening was the scallop with truffle oil. Oh, truffle oil, such a powerful seasoning that can work with neutral fatty items but overpowers the scallop until it almost tastes bitter. At least it was paired with a gewürztraminer, the wine’s slight sweetness helps to counteract some of the bitterness. It was a lovely version of the German wine, ending with a buttery finish.

Shunoko’s horse mackerel was so refreshingly clean that it’s a testament to Chef Jun’s expertise. He knows how to prepare and neutralize a cut that can sometimes be so overly fishy.

The following Portuguese sardine was a tad gamier, but when paired with onion helped to ensure any fishiness was offset. Surprisingly, the fish was delicate, perhaps it’s because I’m normally familiar with the packed canned variety. This was paired with a French sparkling rosé, a lovely summery wine to finish the tasting.

Oddly, it was the blue fin tuna that had a gaminess, for what is normally a crowd-pleasing piece. I’m wondering if the chef mistakenly called the cherry salmon, which was listed on the board, tuna instead as this really didn’t taste that much like blue fin to us. If it were salmon, it would make more sense, like a concentrated slice of the fish.

I thoroughly enjoyed the bonito that had such a different creamy finish than most establishments. The lightly smoked fish was topped with ponzu and daikon for a bit of freshness.

Another “first taste” of fish for me of the night (aside from the chicken grunt) was the phantom fish. Despite looking like a traditional white fish, it’s rich in taste – almost like a mackerel and bonito morphed into one – so was aptly adorned with shallot to give it a punch. It’s a fascinating fish as it emits a taste that reminded me of the ocean. Let me know if you try this and feel the same.

Finally, something that actually tastes like blue fin tuna, this piece consisting of the belly cut with more chopped tuna on top! Finished with a light floral shisho flower and rock salt, this was another favourite of the evening.

Shunoko’s miso soup must be made with a fish bone broth as there it’s creamy, rich, and has a slight oiliness. Whatever it’s made with, it’s delicious and hearty, even containing some crispy napa cabbage.

Usually, when the soup is served, the meal finishes and turns to dessert. At this point, Chef Jun comes over to ask if we’d still have room for a hand roll. While I was getting full, how do you turn down another taste? He ended up presenting us with a hefty roll filled with sea bream (?), marinated mushrooms, and sisho leaf so there were so many flavours wrapped into one crispy shell.

Imagine our surprise, when the nigiri procession continued with the last piece – a tamago taco. If you’re worried about leaving the restaurant hungry (I’ll admit, my husband and I usually get something from McDonalds after some omakase meals), it won’t happen here. Shunoko’s tamago was three slices wrapped around rice. It was slightly too cold for my taste, but with its sweetness perhaps its meant to be enjoyed like a custard dessert.

Only, we were presented with actual dessert: a rich coconutty taro ice cream. It’s so creamy and delicious that I thought they would have made it in-house, but we’re advised it’s purchased from a third-party. Boy, would I like to get my hands on a take-home pint. There’s a lovely, toasted taste to the ice cream, perhaps it mixes in crispy coconut chips?

If the above sounds like too hefty a meal, Shunoko offers a “Nigiri 10” menu, which consists of ten pieces of sushi (essentially ten of the pieces that is part of their omakase menu), tamago, and miso soup for less ($67 during our dinner). Best yet, this menu doesn’t require pre-ordering with reservations, so if you find yourself walking by Shunoko and have a hankering for good sushi, you can walk-in and enjoy. 

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3220 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!


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Shoushin (Toronto) Revisited in 2022

Shoushin has really matured since my last visit - granted this last visit was in 2017, a time frame approaching five years. We had plans to go back in 2019, but we all know why that didn’t happen. It’s a restaurant that is more sure of itself: there’s only two menus to choose from with the omakase at $300 or a more personalized experience, the obsession perfection, priced at $450+ depending on the selection. Their staff are more knowledgeable - about the restaurant, alcohol selection, and the ingredients used – and operates with a synchronized precision that would make Henry Ford happy.

Right after the menus are whisked away, a hot hand towel arrives, followed by cold drinks, and an amuse bouche - a bite of spinach boiled in kelp broth and topped with dried rich tuna flakes. For the winter, the kelp broth seemed to be a cornerstone of their appetizers, a comforting staple like chicken soup.

This is followed by another warming dish, a piece of smoked king fish sitting in a puréed daikon broth. The accompanying cutlery was difficult to use. Although pretty to look at, the wooden spoon combined with a shallow dish made reaching the broth difficult (unless you pick up the vessel and drink from it). From what I manage to get into the spoon, the savoury silky soup went well with the lightly scented meaty fish. The fish was described as quickly deep fried, but there wasn’t a crunchy element, which if they could have managed a bit of crispiness would have made the dish even more interesting.

Sashimi arrives next, served over three dishes to ensure we enjoyed each one as intended:

  • To begin, pieces of aged lean tuna and big reef squid. The tuna was extremely tender… not an ounce of sinew and such a mellow light “sweet” bite. The fish’s texture contrasted by the gummy squid that has a slightly chewy sticky consistency that reminded me of having tendon.  
  • I couldn’t really taste the “marination in kelp” that was used to describe the following tile fish. Frankly, maybe I could have done without the marination if that’s what made it fibrous, not really a blow-your-mind type of bite that needed to be showcased solo.
  • Unlike the firefly squid, which is so special and rarely found on Toronto menus. We’re told that these little creatures are currently in season as they migrate to shallow waters in Toyama Bay and are caught at night when they glow (hence their name). At Shoushin, they are cleaned and blanched with ginger to preserve their natural flavours, a slightly sweet essence and a different experience from the traditional calamari or cuttlefish. Sometimes served alongside drinking in an izakaya in Japan, they certainly have an elevated place on Shoushin’s menu.

My favourite dish of the night was the fatty tuna simmered in plum broth. The rich savouriness of the fish balanced nicely with the slightly sweet tartness of the fruit, sort of like having pork chops with apple sauce. It’s fragrant, flavourful, and warming, something I could have had an entire steak of surely.

And before the sushi, a cup of miso soup made with red and aged miso, which was so light on the salt that I wouldn’t be surprised was not seasoned at all. Nonetheless, it’s surprisingly flavourful with an umami acidic property to it. The finely chopped shallots were an interesting choice, maybe for the slightly crunchy texture, but a bit overpowering given the under seasoned soup.

Not surprisingly, the ingredients showcased in their nigri sushi is seasonal. During this visit, I learnt that in the winter we can expect more fish, while in warmer months is when shellfish are also featured into the menu. With that in mind, we’re started off with the stripe jack, the light fish really helping to highlight the lovely, vinegared rice used at Shoushin. I like that the grains are cooked less so you can feel their smooth texture against the tongue.   

Needlefish and yellowtail marinated in soy followed, both lighter yet different as the ‘meatiness’ of the fish all varied with the needlefish being the heaviest of the bunch.

The obligatory bluefin tuna trio ranging from the lean akami to the fatty otoro was featured next. I’m still marveled by how tender I find the lean tuna, only to then taste the fattiness of the otoro and have your mind warp for a second. Oh, if only bluefin tuna wasn’t endangered.  

Mackerel arrives next – not the aji variety – this one stronger (something I could definitely taste with the slight fishiness) and pickled to help combat the more pungent fish.

While this may sound off putting to some, the trigger fish served with its own liver is genius. It’s such an interesting bite that’s unlike the rest, a creamy juiciness that’s so surprising for what looks like a piece of mild white fish. Of course, trigger fish is not a candy, but if it were it’d be like a Fruit Gusher.  

Only to be followed by the even juicer ikura – so maybe scratch my last comment, this would be the Fruit Gusher of the fish world – that was so lovely and refreshing.

And to wrap up the nigiri, a piece of uni that is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s SO sweet and silky that it could even pass as custard, we’re told that Shoushin uses sea urchin that doesn’t contain preservatives – really all restaurants should go organic if that’s how it will taste.

Their chopped fatty tuna handroll incorporates white leek versus the traditional green onion. It’s a nice change as the leek is mellower and when it’s mixed into the pulverized tuna the hand roll has such a delicate creamy centre.

Lastly, Shoushin’s tamago that’s made with egg and shrimp paste. Truth be told, the taste doesn’t change that much, but the intoxicating aroma is so wonderful. Just hold it to your nose and take a whiff before you enjoy.

For dessert, we opted for both offerings, the crème brûlée incorporated a bit of squash that gave it a lovely earthy finish. It’s way more interesting than the icy matcha with red bean. Although, the ice cream is ideal for those who don’t like sweet desserts or diabetics as syrup arrives on the side so you can customize its sweetness.

This attention to detail is what I notice most about Shoushin’s growth: like how the chef angles the nigiri differently depending on if you’re left or right-handed; or the servers whisking away our tea at regular intervals and replacing it with a steaming hot cup.

What hasn’t changed is their comfortable hospitality - the sushi chefs welcoming conversation, despite busily preparing dinner. They are the first to speak to us, putting me at ease to start asking more about what we’re eating… something they probably regretted later. I love seeing this growth and progression and can’t wait to see what Chef Lin has in store for us next. Hopefully, I don’t have to wait another five years.

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: