Showing posts with label tuna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tuna. Show all posts

Kaito Sushi Omakase (Toronto)


Chef Donghwi Jang opened Kaito Sushi Omakase after working at Tachi and seeing how patrons seem to enjoy the omakase experience even in time-crunched situations. It’s an experience that’s now commonly found in Toronto: a small group of diners (8 at Kaito) sit around the bar and a chef makes the sushi piece-by-piece so that it’s eaten optimally. Some substitutions can be made if there’s an allergy, otherwise, you leave it all in the chef’s hands, literally.

Unlike many places, at Kaito the atmosphere is more casual. Chef Jang encourages conversation so of all the experiences, it was one where we conversed with the chef and fellow guests the most. Maybe it has something to do with the fish being pre-sliced and sitting in piles on the board. There’s not that same hush that falls over the crowd as a sharp knife is yielded and you watch as a piece of well-trimmed fish is deftly cut into even slices.

In fact, Chef Jang doesn’t seem to cut at all, rather you’re watching him assemble the sushi. To be fair, it’s similar to Tachi. Tachi just hides it better with an elevated table, which keeps the fish hidden, and chefs complete finishing touches on the protein so it seems like they’re actually cutting before presenting. I get it, you need all this prep work to keep the meal down to an hour, otherwise it’d be difficult to get diners through twelve pieces in such a short time ($55 a person at the time of the post, will be $65 starting September 2019).


A meaty piece of hotate begins the meal, the scallop fresh and sparsely garnished so it starts off as a light bite.


I rather enjoyed the quick torch the chef used on the madai, which helps warm the sea bream slightly bringing out the fish and wasabi flavours. Yet, I’d suggest scoring the skin around the fish to make it easier to bite through as it tends to be chewy cut.


Interestingly, the fatty otoro makes an appearance early on in the meal - it’s usually that flashy piece that chefs generally leave to the latter half. At Kaito, they’re heavier on the soy glaze, but it works and you certainly taste the flavourful fish.


Chef Jang followed this with two stronger mackerels. The aji’s consistency was a little soft for my taste and had a very fishy finish … I definitely consumed a number of pickled daikon after tasting this one, Kaito’s version of the pickled ginger.


Meanwhile, the sawa tasted cleaner, the Spanish mackerel augmented with a decent portion of wasabi and soy sauce to help balance the strong fish.


When a diner asked why Chef Jang decided to branch out to start an omakase restaurant, he replied that he thinks omakase is trendy right now. It’s an interesting thought, is omakase the next ramen or udon? One would hope not. No offense to the noodle makers, but being a sushi chef requires a more skillful hand and I certainly wouldn’t want any Joe Shmoe to open up an omakase restaurant. After all, to leave my palette and stomach to a chef, I need to have some level of trust for the person.

He also noted that he wants to do things differently and be too traditional. Some pieces in the latter half of the meal showcased this perfectly. Firstly, the tuna marinated in soy sauce so that the fish almost gets a ceviche feel, it was a tasty piece.


To break up the avante garde sushi, a piece of seared katsuo is served, the bonito nicely warmed and topped with green onion. It was good but could use more of the garnish.


Quite frankly, I would have liked more of Chef Jang’s creative concoctions. The next piece he removes from a cloche that was sitting on the counter since the beginning of the meal. In it lies pieces of salmon that although looks like any other raw salmon is actually smoked so it gets that lovely rich flavour, but without the heat so the fish’s texture doesn’t change.


The ikura is a refreshing piece to follow, served very cold so the salmon roe almost acts like a salty palette cleanser. I enjoyed this this progression after the smoked salmon.


The warm anago was delicate and tender, but there was too much of the sweet sauce slathered on top that the eel became lost. As a rice and sauce bite, I guess it tasted fine.


Chef Jang should consider closing the meal with the sashimi roll, a piece of neutral white fish rolled with crispy Asian pear to add a juicy sweetness, fish roe for saltiness, and a slightly spicy gochujang sauce. It’s an interesting bite filled with different flavours and would have ended his inventive menu perfectly.


Instead, the meals finishes similar to Tachi, with a temaki hand roll filled with chopped tuna with plenty of green onion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a delicious piece, but switching this and the sashimi roll would have given a more impactful and memorable finish. After all, we’re not following tradition anyways!


Overall, the meal had some good pieces and others that could be improved. For the price ($55), it was a fair-valued omakase menu. Yet, despite the more comfortable environment (you actually get to sit at Kaito vs. the standing bar at Tachi) and the longer meal time (an hour instead of 30 minutes), what Kaito lacks service.

There were a couple of nitpicky things I noticed:
  • The prepping area around the bar wasn’t meticulously cleaned and wiped down as with other experiences. When there’s raw fish involved, I really would rather not see stray water and water spots around the counter.  
  • Something that perhaps doesn’t matter to everyone, but the wasabi is not the freshly grated version. For me, I’d rather pay an extra $5 to get a good quality condiment.
Moreover, the overall ordering and paying process is awkward. Instead of just listing all the specials at the beginning, Chef Jang announces somewhere during the third piece that they’re also offering uni for the night for an extra $18. It seems to put people on the spot and group think settles in as guests end up doing what the first outspoken person decides (none of us added this piece). 

Despite there being someone else at the restaurant during the ordering phase, Chef Jang cashes us out. Yet, instead of giving a printed receipt, he simply presents the paying terminal with the total already entered. After the first couple points out their total seems off (what he thought was tea was actually hot water), other patrons start asking for an itemized bill.

Lastly, the meal ends pretty abruptly, so you feel pressure to just pay and exit. This is despite half the restaurant being dedicated to a lounge area that’s supposed to be used post dinner so guests can enjoy tea and sweets. In fact, no one asks if we’d like dessert, which is listed on the menu… I just didn’t realize I’d have to order at the beginning. Instead, we paid and quickly trickled out so the group waiting outside could go in.

At Tachi, this hasty finish doesn’t matter as much given the restaurant is located in the General Assembly Hall - customers can easily get a dessert or drink from another vendor and settle into the communal seating area. When you’re located in a quiet area on St. Clair Avenue, it’s a bit of a letdown for people who want to make it a night.

In the end, the meal just isn’t as polished. So yes, perhaps omakase is gaining popularity, but it’s also an experience that requires a high level of hospitality and professionalism. As much as I enjoyed the imaginative new ideas for sushi that Chef Jang is creating, you can’t beat the warming cordiality of traditional Japanese dining.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1211 St. Clair Avenue West

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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Tachi (Toronto)


Hidden behind a screen to the left of Shari is a stand-up sushi bar that promises freshly made sushi served in less than thirty minutes. The 12-piece omakase menu ($55 per person) changes depending on ingredient availability and like their sister restaurant Shoushin, is served piece-by-piece with condiments pre-added to ensure the sushi is eaten at the ideal temperature and flavour.


Interestingly, the meal started with hotate, a piece that historically is lightly torched and served at the halfway point. At Tachi, the scallop is left unsinged. Light and refreshing, it worked well as the first bite.   


The chef then presented us with grouper (habuku) with seaweed sandwiched between the fish and rice, which added a nice depth of flavour. Maybe it was due to our early reservation, but Tachi’s rice is warmer than most resulting in a creamier texture, which is balanced by vinegar. Their rice was perfectly seasoned.


Popular pieces that grace many omakase menus followed. First, the seabream (madai) a soft and meaty lighter fish. Followed by kanpachi, the fleshy fish is slightly fuller flavoured but still has a fresh clean texture.


During the middle of the meal the three tunas with varying fatty levels arrived: the akami was vibrantly coloured and flavourful; the chutoro builds in richness; and the otoro, which was leaner than some other restaurants, but still deliciously melt-in-your mouth.


After the flavourful otoro, it can sometimes be hard to find pieces that are equally rich. The smoked bonito or katsuo was a lovely choice, bits of green onions adding a refreshing bite.


The chef pounded the octopus (tako) with the back of a knife, so the seafood was well scored, tender, and as soon as it hit the mouth, the octopus’ flavours erupted onto the tongue.


Having had great experiences with horse mackerel or aji at Shoushin, we had to add it to the meal ($7 supplement). Like Shoushin, it was just as delicious… they seriously know how to prepare this gamier fish well.


If a piece of sushi could be refreshing and thirst quenching, the juicy salmon roe (ikura) would be the poster child. For those who are squeamish about fishy tastes, rest assured, the juices are salty and clean.  


The sea water eel (anago) was soft and sweet from the sugary glaze. It was a good alternative to dessert as surprisingly Tachi does not end off with a piece of tamago.


Instead, the last piece was a tasty tuna hand roll (temaki) with green onion mixed into the fish for even more flavour.   


Even though the meal was done in 25 minutes, both chefs took the time to have a conversation with us, keeping the experience warm and friendly (when it could have turned into a robotic task of making and eating sushi). A stand-up sushi meal is definitely something to experience, just bring some cash (for tipping) and make reservations to score one of the limited eight spots. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 111 Richmond Street West

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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Tachi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Skippa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato