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

Daphne (Toronto)


Daphne occupies a great location and has a beautiful dining room, but their hosting operations needs improvement. They seem to seat people upon arrival, rather than pre-planning arrangements based on reservations, which is how we were sat beside the drafty door despite booking a month in advance.

The menu isn’t overly exciting but offers a safe selection so there will be options for all. A light spread of nibbles started our meal:

  • Olives ($8) – a variety of olives in a light citrus za’atar oil.
  • Bread and butter ($8) – a sizeable basket containing different breads like focaccia, sesame baguette, and whole wheat. They were all soft and fresh and went with nicely with the whipped cultured butter. It would have been even better if the bread was warmed.
  • Little gem salad ($20) – your typical salad that resembled a lightly dressed Ceasar. If it had more of the garlic parmesan dressing it would stand out better but did go with the other bites and kept things light.

If you want to visit Flavour Town, hop on the black truffle pizza ($36) train. While the price may take you aback, the pie does contain slices of the fungi, you’ll find them scattered amongst the thinly sliced potatoes. The soft puffy crust was a tad soggy in the centre, but it wasn’t surprising given the egg that oozes over the pie adding a lovely creaminess. The dish was delicious with the addition of taleggio cheese, potato crema, and herbs.

The duck mafalda ($35) was equally flavourful with the crimped pasta pulling in so much of the shredded duck and spicy sauce into its crevices. Although the dish isn’t the prettiest, I loved the powerful punch of the sauce, which has a pesto-feel but still the freshness of a red sauce.  

For those abstaining from red meat, the tuna ribeye ($65) offers a 16oz hunk of protein that’s great for sharing. We’re warned the chimichurri is spicy, so we asked for the condiment on the side. In reality, there’s not a lick of heat but was heavy on the citrus and was really needed to season the tuna, which otherwise is merely sitting in a muted truffle ponzu.

The fish paired well with the sunchokes ($16), the root vegetables well roasted and tossed with sunflower tahini, brown butter, and caramelized honey that created a tasty crust. These would even work well with the little gem salad.

I can see why the cauliflower ($32) is considered a main. An entire head of the vegetable arrives covered with sauces so there’s a heartiness even without protein. Elements like the basil herb sauce gave it a freshness while the roasted grapes some sweetness. Still, it’s a lot for one person so is best shared with a large group.

I would not save room for dessert. If I liked chocolate, the Daphne bar ($16) was tasty, like a tuxedo cake in bar form with its dark chocolate mousse and caramel wrapped in a soft chocolate ganache. Alas, chocolate and I have a difficult relationship.  

We had high hopes for the coconut cream pie ($17), but it resembled a white chocolate mousse rather than pie as the dessert lacked the salty crust element. The passionfruit gel was also too tropical and took away from richness I expected from a cream pie. If anything, it’s pretty to look at.

Strawberry shortcake ($18) is usually one of my favourite desserts, but Daphne’s was terrible… give me a supermarket version any day. The makrut lime cream was overpowering giving the cake a lemongrass flavour and the black sesame adding an earthy nuttiness that didn’t compliment the strawberries.

Daphne will likely draw a corporate crowd with its well-situated Financial District location, safe menu, and opulence without being too fussy. But if you’re celebrating a special occasion, this isn’t the restaurant - it lacks the pre-planning and warm hospitality you’d want for that event.

In a nutshell... 
  • Must order: truffle pizza, duck mafalda
  • Just skip: desserts

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 67 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!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:




MS|SM (Toronto)


MSSM isn’t your traditional omakase restaurant. As you ascend the steps from Yorkville, the energy level of the restaurant matches the neighbourhood. At least three people yell out shari as you enter, which means ‘sushi rice’ in Japanese. There’s music pumping and in lieu of the typical wooden sushi bar the dining room contains white graffitied walls and pink neon lights. We aren’t in Tokyo anymore Toto.

Also, unlike typical omakase spots, the sushi bar is HUGE. It can easily accommodate twenty people with five chef stations laid out so that each are preparing food for about four customers. Despite the sheer number of patrons, there’s something intimate about being nestled in a group around one chef, in an instant he put me at ease with questions and jokes… conversations are encouraged here.

What also makes them different is the price point - $98 per person instead of the $200+ that you’ll usually pay. Chef Masaki Saito realized not everyone could afford (or get a reservation) to his two Michelin star restaurant, hence opened MSSM as a means of allowing more people to get to experience the art of omakase.

Traditions be damned, MSSM starts off their menu with a hand roll. Filled with finely chopped tuna and pickled radish wrapped with shiso leaf and freshly toasted nori, it’s an interesting and hearty way to start off.  

The following bonito with apple onion sauce was too pungent for my liking with so many leeks, ginger, and chives. Perhaps if it’s accompanied with something creamy, like a sesame sauce, it would help balance out the dish.

MSSM also uses a sense of showmanship, presenting trays of the seafood that would form the ten pieces we were about to sample before slicing and preparing. Once ready, a bucket of rice is whisked out and periodically changed to ensure it’s at the optimal temperature. Indeed, the rice is nice and warm but could use more vinegar.

To start, the stripe bass (shima Suzuki), a clean and light tasting fish that is often used to warm up the palette. It’s immediately followed by salmon (zuke sake) that’s been marinated for a couple of hours in a “mother sauce” that gets cooked, added to, and reused… not unlike a sourdough starter. What a flavourful piece topped with a finely chopped green onion paste.

MSSM’s scallop (hotate) tastes clean especially when finished with drop of lime juice. I love that it’s not overly gummy so that you could chew the seafood and take in the scallop’s sweetness. A sprinkle of sea salt may bring out the flavours even more.

A hand torch crisps up the skin of the sea bream (madai) while also bringing out the fish’s oils and flavours. With a light dusting of salt, a bit of chili radish paste, and a drop of lime, it’s a nice bite that gives out heat and a slight smokiness.

In fact, I really appreciated the garnishes used on the nigiri. The bit of chopped yuzu peel on the blue fin tuna (akami) gave the fish a freshness that awoken the otherwise meaty fish. Our chef explains that they chop the garnishes by hand as they found using a food processor adds a bitterness to the items. Yes, that is one of the many tasks that keeps them busy before dinner service.

What really intrigued me was the chawanmushi sushi. I’m a big fan of the steamed egg and couldn’t understand how they were going to morph it into sushi. What first arrives is the typical dish – steam egg steamed with bonito and kelp stock. It didn’t look like much, and we’re told to just have a taste of it – good but not overly exciting.

The chef than takes it back and adds sushi rice, Dungeness crab sauce, yuzu peel paste, and wasabi before re-presenting the chawanmushi in front of us. Once it’s all well mixed together, it becomes this incredible eggy seafood risotto that is one of my favourite bites of the dinner.

After the high comes a small low, a spot prawn (botan ebi) with lime. While I’m glad it wasn’t too gummy, I still don’t like the texture of the raw shrimp … not one of my favourite bites.

It’s unclear whether torching the bluefin tuna belly (toro) makes it better. Sure, I liked that the fish oils were starting to liquify, but I found the piece a tad chewy – not necessarily from the fish, but perhaps from the spring onion inside. While still a nice piece, it just didn’t the pow of flavour that normally comes from a fatty tuna.

Give me dashimaki instead of tamago any day. At MSSM, the egg omelette is warm and savory with a moistness that keeps the layers light and fluffy. All hail the dashimaki!

The hand torch makes one last appearance with the sea eel (anago). After being liberally heated, some lime and yuzu peel is added to the slightly sweet, delicate, and tender eel. What a wonderful final bite.

So, what makes MSSM’s omakase experience different, other than the price? It certainly relies on volume. The five chefs are preparing the omakase at a decent clip and soon after they are done the miso soup arrives. The broth is made with fish bones instead of a strong dashi so there’s a mellowness to the soup. It’s adorned with Japanese chili powder and spring onions, giving it a spicier finish than traditional versions.

Dessert consisted of house made strawberry daifuku. Certainly not as incredible as the version I had at Kappo Sato, but still a good rendition of chewy mochi encapsulating sweet azuki paste and a juicy strawberry.

As a warning, don’t arrive too early for your reservation. As MSSM relies on volume, the seatings are close together and they may not be ready if you show up more than five minutes early. Luckily, Yorkville is a great place to walk around, so we kept ourselves entertained for ten minutes with ease.

Given some of the chefs and staff have worked together at Tachi, there’s a natural ease in the operations despite our opening week visit. I love the comradery and casualness between the staff, which makes us laugh and feel comfortable speaking to the strangers sharing the table around us. After all, it’s not every day you hear the sous chef joke that the chef is her “work husband” instead of curtly replying “yes, chef”.

Not taking themselves seriously and laughs is what MSSM is about. When I asked what the name stood for, our chef cheekily replies - Masaiki Saito Sexy Man. It’s unclear if this is real or he’s joking, but after seeing their sake pot, I thought there could be some truth to the name. And yes, call me a child, but if you serve me sake in that vessel with two round cups, you must expect a photo like this. Take it easy and just enjoy the shari!

Overall mark - 9.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 154 Cumberland Street, 2nd floor
 Website: https://ms-sm.ca/


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:




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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:




Sushi Masaki Saito (Toronto)


Getting into Sushi Masaki Saito is probably the most frustrating part of the experience. Opened five days a week, the restaurant does two seatings nightly – up to five diners starting at 6pm and up to seven people at 8:30pm. Despite the odd number availability, trying to book for a table of three is impossible, and I had to eventually give up.

So, how did I get my reservation? It took weeks of signing onto Tock on Tuesdays at exactly 11am and searching a table for three (fail) and then quickly switching to a table for two (ding ding ding) before finally securing a reservation after several attempts. Reservations open one month in advance and the Tuesday time frame was when the Friday seatings were released. Good luck and may your patience be with you.

Arriving in front of 88 Avenue Road, a flight of stairs led us to their doorway past a set of navy drapes. As soon as I pushed through the cloth, smiling faces greeted me, beckoning me to come up to the warmth of the dining room. Before we were seated, they led us into a sitting area where we could peruse their sake menu while the chefs finished setting up and we waited for the other guests to arrive.

At $680 per person, dining at Masaki Saito is a special occasion affair where you’re paying a premium for these elements:

  • Their fish is flown in from Japan twice a week on a direct flight for maximum freshness. It’s interesting a direct flight is required given so much of their ingredients are aged before consumption. Presumably, having the fish aged in kelp or hung is very different than sitting packed in ice.
  • Rice, being the cornerstone of sushi, is equally if not more important. Saito buys award winning rice from the Nikka prefecture from a supplier that exclusively sells to them in Canada. You can taste the difference: the rice is sticky but also fluffy so that you can feel each grain as you bite through it.  Mixed with a blend of five red vinegars, the rice takes on a brown hue that’s unlike other sushi I’ve sampled.
  • Condiments are also made in-house, their ginger takes a week to develop and uses bamboo ginger so that it’s really crisp, fresh, and not overly pungent. Even the wasabi is enhanced by having the chef chop to the group wasabi root to make a really smooth paste.
  • You’re paying for the décor, including the sushi counter made from 200-year old Hinoki wood imported from Japan. Sadly, their roof collapsed during COVID, so parts of the bar are damaged, but it still has a lovely, reclaimed wood look. Their wood cabinetry was also made by craftsmen in Japan to make you feel like you’re dining in Edo.
  • Rest assured, despite being over a 2-hour dinner, you’ll be comfortable on the oversized plush bar stools. The design of the sushi bar is well thought out with an under-counter shelf to store purses and a raised marble ledge that acts as a footrest. You don’t even need to reach for the dishes as Chef Saito places them down, a server quickly whisks it from the bar and transfers it in front of you.
  • Ultimately, you’re paying for Masaki Saito who is there the whole time, preparing and serving the courses. No step is below him from grinding the wasabi to mixing the vinegar into the sushi rice (a technique that’s taken him ten years to perfect).

Seven appetizers began the meal before the first nigiri made an appearance. Octopus was slowly simmered allowing the outer layer of the tentacle to become gelatinous, almost like pork belly, while the centre remained meaty and tender. Simmered in a roasted green tea, it’s already flavourful but with a dollop of spicy yuzu it morphed into a vibrant bite. With two pieces, I’d recommend having one solo and another with the spice.

The potential gumminess of the raw Botan ebi was minimized by marinating the sweet shrimp in a fermented rice sauce allowing the seafood to soak in flavours and mellow. At Masaki Saito, there’s certainly no shortage of uni, the first topped the shrimp and created a chewy creamy bite with a refreshing finish from the citrusy sisho flowers.

Even though Chef Saito removed the skin off the saba and the mackerel was seared and paired with grated daikon, I still found it tasted fishier than I’d like. Hello taste buds! Let me grab a sip of sake to chase that away.

Another fantastic uni combo followed paired with deep-fried tile fish and its scales. The meatiness of the fish, crunchiness of the scales, and silkiness of the sea urchin was an amazing combination and one of my favourite bites of the evening. We’re told to eat it in one bite… do yourself a favour and give it a minute to cool down as it’s incredibly hot and I would have scorched my tongue if it weren’t for the cold relief of the uni.

Chef Saito derives inspiration from various Japanese cuisine including shabu shabu, which inspired the luscious sesame sauce he coats slices of wild yellowtail into so that the delicate fish was swathed in a fragrant paste made from three types of sesame, soy, and chili oil.

Soaked in the rich sesame, the yellowtail has a tuna-like finish, and the starter feels like eating salad with the fish topped with fine slivers of ginger, green onion and sisho leaf. Be sure to smell the dish before eating. It’s so aromatic and consequently also why the restaurant recommends not wearing strong perfumes to dinner.

Cue the dreaded shirako, a blubbery fish sperm sack I’ve tried in Japan that’s haunted me. They jokingly describe it as a roasted marshmallow… good luck convincing a kid to put this into a smore! Roasted over glowing hot Japanese oak, the milt roe is simply topped with cool caviar.

The shirako is soft and creamy, akin to a silken tofu, and thankfully didn’t have the gross bitter fishiness I experienced in Japan. While this still isn’t my favourite piece, it was nonetheless a good bite and I loved that it brought out Chef Saito’s cheekiness as he described his thought process of pairing the sperm with eggs.

And the last appetizer was a bowl of pickled Japanese cabbage with orange zest, a nice palette cleanser between the shirako and sushi.

We’re advised that Chef Saito prefers to serve his sushi hand-to-hand so that the rice remains at the optimal body temperature and diners can put it directly into their mouth with the fish side down. Consequently, this is why I’m missing some sushi photos and the ones that are shown aren’t the greatest quality … I indulged hand-to-hand prior to sneaking a photo of my neighbour’s bite.

A golden eye snapper that’s aged for a scant four days (compared to some of the other seafood that follows) begins the sushi procession. Having been aged in kelp, the seaweed gives the fish another level of umami creating a lovely taste that lingered on the tongue.

After the first piece, we’re advised that Chef Saito can customize the bites to our tastes, whether we want more or less rice or wasabi. Indeed, this level of precision is certainly a factor that likely helped Sushi Masaki Saito earn a second star.

Another dish that was a miss for me was the ark shell clam. Perhaps it was because I was already traumatized after a staff member told me it was alive as the chef scored it - realizing a living creature was suffering was certainly something I didn’t need to hear. It also doesn’t look the greatest spread out on the cutting board… it looks awfully like it could be part of a women’s anatomy. Ultimately, it just didn’t taste good: the clam needed a stronger glaze or condiment to cover the gaminess of the seafood. In the end, if the clam was dropped from the menu, it wouldn’t be missed.

Chef Saito then takes the skirt of the ark shell clam and creates a maki wrapping it with spices and sisho leaf. Having been marinated and well rinsed, the gaminess of the clam was subdued. Still, the crunchy texture of the mollusk is still an acquired taste.

Luckily, it was followed by a stronger hay-seared Spanish mackerel, which had a lovely meaty smokiness. Unlike the prior mackerel, this was not fishy, despite only being garnished with a rich soy sauce.

As soon the blubbery bits of fish liver were presented, I knew we were in for a treat. Chef Saito sandwiched the liver between a slice a file fish and rice to create an incredible texture combination: as you bite through the fish’s soft flesh, you’re greeted with the silky liver filling.

We’re told not many chefs create this sushi as it takes skill to ensure it all holds together. I love how they are using different parts of the fish, perhaps topping this with a couple of crunchy fish scales would make for an even more fulsome presentation.

Next, a seven-day dry aged toro was served and the blue fin tuna was of course an explosion of flavour. At Saito, theirs was less greasy and the flavour lingered longer on the tongue.

If you like stir-fried ginger and onion lobster, the following needle fish has a flavour reminiscent of the dish thanks to the finely chopped scallion paste topping the fish and the ginger paste inside. It’s a bit surprising these stronger flavours were used on the needle fish, which seems like a more neutral fish. While delicious, this should have been paired with the ark shell clam to mask its gaminess better.

The meaty piece of lightly grilled sea perch would be great on its own. But then, it’s hardly luxurious. Chef Saito amped up the luxe factor by serving the fish on top of whipped uni sushi rice - the combination of sea urchin, spices, and rice created a decadent over-the-top risotto. Dried four-year old fish eggs topped the perch creating a plethora of flavours and textures that made me wish I could sample each separately. It should be eaten all together, the chef says, so I listened and devoured it in two incredible bites.

A pale fish that looked like needle fish followed, except it was actually slow poached sea eel. Chef Saito slathered a thick molasses-like sauce on top and added hint of spice with Sandro pepper. The unagi was unlike others I’ve had; it melted into the rice and tongue flooding my mouth with a sweet umami essence.

On the left of the sushi bar, you’ll notice a trio of brand name chests on display. Chef Saito pulled out the LV one and joked it’s his tuna chest (the others house caviar and truffle as well as a rare whisky). Within the tuna chest, we were treated to a toro and pickled daikon paste. Nori was toasted piece-by-piece and presented to Chef Saito who quickly added rice, spices, and the tuna paste before handed it to me, so the seaweed was still hot and crispy. Yum!

As the tomago arrived, I got ready for the meal to end. And while we had sampled so much, like all great meals, I was still yearning for more. Saito’s egg cake was mixed with Japanese mountain potato and sweet shrimp so while there was a sweetness to the tomago, it also had a rich savouriness.

After the sushi, Chef Saito thanked us and left to clean up before the second seating. There’s a bit of confusion as we thought it was time to settle the bill. No, not quite yet. A bowl of miso soup arrives, made with different types of miso and a broth developed with several fish.

Of course, Saito doesn’t simply boil the broth the day of, it was cooked over seven days to concentrate the flavours. In the end, the miso soup was rich but not overly salty and while I did need to stir the miso into the broth, it also didn’t separate much either. As a finish, pieces of finely chopped seaweed and scallions were added to make the soup more substantial.

Surprisingly, dessert was not a slice of musk melon - this is reserved for birthdays and anniversaries - but rather an actual sweet treat. The matcha blancmange consisted of a silky coconut milk base, topped with smooth thickened matcha and a single red bean that’s oh so creamy. A heavenly way to end the meal.

The meal was exquisite and being in such close proximity to Chef Saito we were able to converse with him. He’s certainly happy with the Michelin recognition but is quick to point out the earning the accolade was a group effort. Still, he will not rest of his laurels and knows he will continue to develop and improve his craft. The life of a true chef.

Note to diners: Tipping isn’t the easiest affair as the pay terminal doesn’t have a % calculation option and you need to add back the prepaid portion when doing your own calculation. Hopefully, Sushi Masaki Saito will eventually just charge the entire meal experience up front on Tock with taxes and gratuities (a practice many other restaurants follow). That way, guests only need to settle the drinks on the day of, making it an easier calculation for all. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 88 Avenue Road


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: