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Japango

Googs Aug 29, 2006 03:54 PM

So hubby & I are going to cheat on John Lee and try Japango. We love Omi, but after all the raves about this place we felt we should give it a try. Any rec's for what to have or can we trust them to omakase as expertly as John Lee does?

  1. p
    Pincus May 20, 2008 09:14 AM

    All this controversy makes me eager to go check this place out for myself. A true Chowhound...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pincus
      c
      CaptSushi Aug 20, 2008 01:51 PM

      Id like to say altho im new around here im not new to fine cuisine, greasy spoons and everything in between, as well i love to cook. I also love to eat out and JAPANGO is mine and many other people i know. fav sushi spot, I am not just saying that because i have my own set of chopsticks there either ;P This place is truly incredible when done CORRECTLY.
      My visit there consists of ordering a little as possible off the menu.
      Japango roll, pizza are both very tasty on the menu.
      But as i stated its all about off the menu.
      I have never done the omakese there, altho my parents who are also chopstick weilders get it on occasion and love it. The key to this place is its Fish and its intamcy (towards you and the chef) take advantage of both.
      With being as vague as possible in terms of what i get there ;) thats my suggestion.

      As far as the once beloved Omi, i would say some of the fish at Japango is even better than what was once at Omi, BUT more importantly, the fish is much more challenging, Kampachi was something that John-Lee never got into, this is just one of a 4-6 examples i can think of off the top of my head.

    2. t
      torontofoodiegirl May 18, 2008 11:44 AM

      I've had good meals at Japango before, but my most recent experience was quite awful. I got take-out and opted for spicy salmon maki, dynamite maki and seaweed salad. The salad had an odd flavour that I couldn't put my finger on, and I couldn't bring myself to finish it. However, the maki was the major disappointment. It was absolutely drowning in mayo (so overpowering that it left the sushi quite flavourless) and, I kid you not, was actually sitting in a puddle of grease. I appreciate that neither dynamite nor spicy maki are the healthiest sushi options, but I've never encountered anything quite like this before, even at much less expensive sushi joints.

      Since it's convenient for me and has been good before, I'm willing to give Japango another chance, but I sure hope that they get their act together.

      16 Replies
      1. re: torontofoodiegirl
        t
        theel May 19, 2008 07:57 AM

        I have been hearing about the steady decline of Japango for the last year or so. I truly hope it is not so because it was my favorite in the downtown area. My first experience 3 years ago was absolutely amazing. $60 omakase that was 13 dishes over 9 courses and every one was fantastic. Both the kitchen and bar produced amazing food. I have always rated Japango over Kaji personally but that appears to require re-evaluation. I live north of the city and no longer work downtown so my visits are infrequent, however my last 2 visits were indeed a little disappointing in comparison to my very first. I think the seasons had something to do with it (winter vs. summer) but the overall consensus on this board seems to be a steady decline in quality. Can someone familiar with Japango's former yumminess give a recent review?

        1. re: theel
          skylineR33 May 19, 2008 08:05 AM

          I am not quite sure why different season has to do with the quality of Japanese food ?? Any example ?

          1. re: skylineR33
            Googs May 19, 2008 10:02 AM

            Amaebi, halibut, etc. all have an appropriate season. No decent Japanese resto would serve raw shrimp in the dead of winter.

            1. re: Googs
              skylineR33 May 19, 2008 10:25 AM

              What ? I do have some very nice Amaebi in Japan in winter. You can find great quality of amaebi, hirame even in winter ! And there are also fish that is specifically good in winter like kan buri. Of course there are fish that are specially good in summer too.

              1. re: skylineR33
                Googs May 19, 2008 10:35 AM

                In Toronto, skyline, not Japan. I'm not aware of how season affects quality & availability in Japan. Here at home, I've never known a sushi chef I liked that served amaebi or soft shell crab, for example, out of season. As you say, some things are good in the winter and some in summer.

                I believe your real question is how can season affect the quality of a restaurant. The answer is it shouldn't if chef knows what he's doing. I'm pretty sure you know that though since you hit the good places.

                1. re: Googs
                  skylineR33 May 19, 2008 10:49 AM

                  There is restaurant that source fish from Japan FYI.

                  Yes, my point is season has nothing to do with quality of Japanese food with restaurant like Japango, and I am pretty sure chefs in Japango know basic stuff in fish selection in different season. I think this is what is important. So the decline of quality in Japango (if one experience) should have nothing to do with season.

                  1. re: Googs
                    b
                    bluedog May 19, 2008 01:52 PM

                    You can't win googs :)

                    1. re: bluedog
                      Googs May 19, 2008 03:23 PM

                      I believe he & I were agreeing, but okey dokey. Perhaps you could give theel some guidance on this topic.

                      1. re: Googs
                        b
                        bluedog May 19, 2008 05:09 PM

                        I guess you were. Anyhow, I'm always a little nervous wading into an asian topic with sR33, but....

                        Japanese cuisine is highly highly seasonal, maybe one of the most seasonal I've ever encountered. A good chef is aware not only of what's in season and when, but what is traditional to serve and when. For example, eel is traditionally served at the height of summer (late July) and if I recall there is even an eel day. Doesn't stop it from being served year 'round, but traditionally served in summer.

                        If a japanese place in toronto is exhibiting seasonal quality issues could be because a. the chef is not that good and/or b. he/she wants to be traditional but can't get the ingredients he/she needs (or alternatively poor quality ingredients). This underlines googs point about availability in Toronto vs japan (and please let's just assume that most places are not sourcing ingredients from Japan: I know hashimoto does and probably sushi kaji, but I doubt Japango is in this category based on price points). Anyhow, I am also sure that the original Japango chef knows all this, so perhaps the chef has changed, or maybe his heart isn't in it anymore.

                        In any event, Japango used to be a go to place for lunch for me when I worked d/t, and sorry to hear quality is deteriorating.

                        1. re: bluedog
                          skylineR33 May 19, 2008 07:27 PM

                          Hi bluedog and Googs, I think we are all on the same page on this. Japango does source some of the fish from Japan as I had some of them in there like the Tai from Japan. I have not noticed that chef has changed in Japango. Quality there is still pretty good for me although I have not tried the omakase for a long while.

                          1. re: skylineR33
                            t
                            theel May 20, 2008 05:23 AM

                            I was not implying that the quality of the food or the chef changes with the season. I guess I should have been a little clearer. The variety of really good fish appears to be more limited for most 'japanese' restaurants during the winter (my observation, I could well be wrong) and the price of bringing in these varieties affects the price of the menu. Granted this should have no effect on omakase as we should be prepared to pay for premium products if we order omakase but we live in the real world and most restaurants don't want to surprise you with at $150/pp bill when you are expecting $70-80. Neither do they want to serve you 3 dishes when you order a $70 omakase menu because items are expensive to bring in. Blah blah blah, I have found that the variety of fish used at most japanese restaurants, including japango, to be limited during the winter months and so the omakase menus become a little less exciting (at least for me). Having said all that, I have posted in the past that Japango was for the last few years my absolute favorite place in the GTA, over top of Kaji, Nami, and Solo (although now that Solo's kitchen has improved and I live much closer to it my fondness for the Newmarket gem is growing). Japango has been the only place to serve me a sushi platter with 6 different kinds of snapper from around the world. The first place that served me bonito as a fish and not a flake. I also did not really enjoy cooked salmon (I love it raw, loxed and smoked), raw oysters or uni until I had them at japango. Even the uni I was served at Kaji was less delicious. So end of day, I am sad that Japango seems to be sliding down hill and I will make a trek this summer to give it one more taste to see for myself.

                            1. re: theel
                              skylineR33 May 20, 2008 12:36 PM

                              I hope you are just exaggerating when you said "$150/pp bill when you are expecting $70-80" that the cost of the fish is double in winter when compared to summer ! ... Anyway, I have not noticed that myself, if that's the case (good quality fish is limited in Winter), then that will probably apply to other restaurants as well, not just Japanese restaurant. Also from below, as T Long points out, sources can be multiple locations. Most sushi/sashimi in Toronto, even those that are found in top scale restaurant, are not uncommon and served or can be sourced year 'round.

                              I do experience lack of sushi choice in some restaurant because of severve weather in either the source or Toronto, that results in transportation delay, etc, like the seasonal pacific typhoon in some of the source, but that does not limit to winter.

                            2. re: skylineR33
                              b
                              bluedog May 20, 2008 08:02 AM

                              I agree skylineR33. I didn't know they source fish from Japan. Do you know if they do it themselves or do they use another supplier (like the fishmonger in JapanTown for example?).

                              1. re: bluedog
                                T Long May 20, 2008 11:12 AM

                                This may not be that uncommon. I had a chat with the sushi chef at Michi Cafe a few weeks ago as I admired him cleaning and dressing a yellowtail. He said it had just arrived from Japan....apparently he sources from multiple locations depending on the fish species, wherever he can get the quality that he feels he needs. I'm guessing that this is the case with many of the better Sushi establishments and that there are wholesalers in the Toronto area that will middleman the required logistics.

                                1. re: T Long
                                  b
                                  bluedog May 20, 2008 11:28 AM

                                  I guess that makes sense. I had hashimoto's $$$$ extravaganza in mind when I wrote this.

                    2. re: skylineR33
                      g
                      gijoeanne May 21, 2008 05:10 PM

                      I would like to add that I've been served amaebi at Kaji's in December. And at my favourite sushi restaurant (Japanese-owned for sure - I've frequented there with a bunch of Japanese doctors) in Vancouver too.

            2. r
              rjp123 May 14, 2008 11:42 AM

              Well, I'm heading there tonight and will report back.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rjp123
                grandgourmand May 14, 2008 11:45 AM

                I hope the news is good. I have a sentimental spot for Japango. I was their second customer a few years back and it was my first good meal in TO. Have not been in a couple years.

                1. re: grandgourmand
                  2
                  2 cents May 15, 2008 11:23 AM

                  I had dinner at Japango a couple of weeks back, on a friend's very favourable recommendation. My impression? Meh. For $70, the omakase lacks value (one of the dishes was a sad little salad w/ greens, smoked salmon and crumbled tofu), but some of the dishes were tasty - the grilled fish was well-cooked, and the persimmon-scallop-miso dish was delicious. In the end, though, we found the omakase not that filling, so we ordered more on top of it (including the butterfish). The butterfish was okay, but not worth $14 (even with the chilli oil on top). Dinner for 2, with a bottle of sake, including tip and tax - $250. The bottom line - I've had better for less, and in more comfortable digs too (man that place is cramped).

              2. r
                rjp123 May 11, 2008 09:02 PM

                Any update on the situation with Japango?

                I have a birthday dinner to plan for Wednesday and I'm looking to do omakase at a downtown Sushi restaurant.

                1. Food Tourist Jan 16, 2008 06:56 PM

                  I am tempted to start a new thread titled, "Japango - WTF?!"

                  Went tonight and it was really disappointing - my deluxe sashimi platter ($29) contained mostly salmon (5 pcs), tuna, fluke, butterfish (3 pcs), one piece of surf clam...you get the picture. I felt like a second-class citizen.

                  At least the oyster shooter actually contained uni and was a full mouthful this time!

                  Also enjoyed the Sayuri unfiltered sake in the pretty pink floral bottle.

                  I'd like to announce that tonight was my final visit to Japango. I won't miss the uncomfortable seating.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Food Tourist
                    skylineR33 Jan 16, 2008 08:24 PM

                    In my opinion, Japango is only good for lunch, the chirashi is only $12.95 with many pieces of fishes (fresh). Chicken Yakitori is also nice.

                    1. re: Food Tourist
                      TOfoodie Jan 17, 2008 12:34 PM

                      For some reason, I think there has been a change in chef....will check and update. This was a favorite of mine too and I was there in November and was not impressed either.....booo!

                      1. re: TOfoodie
                        pinstripeprincess Jan 17, 2008 01:10 PM

                        i noticed a new guy there the last time i went but this was many months ago.

                        even so, the past couple of visits i made (summer/fall) showed a promise of demise. bruce was manning the sushi bar but the cuts of fish were thin and fell apart easily. the variety was poor and a marked increase in price (which few people seem to be noting here) has made me search for something either more reasonable or of better quality. omi was a bright light but they closed too quickly after i realized the folly of my ways.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess
                          a
                          acd123 Jan 18, 2008 04:09 AM

                          Tell me in ain't so. We've loved Japango, our go-to Japanese place. Last time we were there, however, it was not as good as our previous experiences. As an example, we ordered the spinach with dressing as one of our apetizers. We got two little balls of spinach which were still frozen in the middle. Moreover, the promised dressing was absent. A frozen ball of spinach??? We laughed at how stupid this dish was.

                          And our sushi plate was just okay. Nothing special at all. Again, I have had great experiences there, especially with the omakase. Maybe Japango is ONLY good for omakase; perhaps they only serve the best stuff when it is ordered.

                          We'll give in another chance or two, and I hope they get it together.

                          1. re: acd123
                            Food Tourist Jan 18, 2008 09:08 PM

                            I would imagine that their $70 omakase lacks greatly in value, especially if their $29 sashimi deluxe doesn't live up to its previous standards. I have a cynical feeling that the omakase is also a cash grab even if you are rewarded with the "best".

                            Do people who have their own chopsticks (behind the bar) get better food? Please report back.

                    2. a
                      artificialard Feb 16, 2007 11:07 PM

                      I've never tried omasake before and look forward to trying it at Japango - I understand that the price obviously varies but can someone give me an idea of how much it costs?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: artificialard
                        pinstripeprincess Feb 17, 2007 06:26 PM

                        i don't know if we came to a consensus, but i think lunch can be $55-60 and dinner ranges from $75-95 all depending on if you ask for something special, what they have available or... other mystery reasons.

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352260

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess
                          z
                          zoohort2 Feb 18, 2007 02:24 PM

                          My omakase dinner was $65 a few months ago....but I didn't ask for anything special. By the way.....it was AMAZING!!!!!

                          1. re: zoohort2
                            m
                            mickeyj Feb 19, 2007 03:56 AM

                            My date and I paid $85 for two this past Friday -- we asked for only sushi and sashimi (no cooked food) -- we were served 3 "courses"/platters -- the first of sashimi, and then the other 2 of nigiri sushi. Absolutely delicious. Among the catch of the day was a sea perch and a lightly seared amberjack.

                          2. re: pinstripeprincess
                            oohlala Feb 19, 2007 07:54 AM

                            Do we need to call in and reserve for the omasake for lunch?

                        2. Googs Sep 2, 2006 06:41 PM

                          Better you than me, my dear. Glad to see you had a good time. You got a few more dishes than we did you lucky thing.

                          One thing I will add is that when we arrived we asked for wine. We were told they only thing they had was a half bottle of the expected Yellow Tail. Hubby & I had both just come off two of the most miserable days you can imagine and were looking forward to relaxing with great sushi and each other. We were prepared to hop in a cab and head off to Omi when we were told they would run out and get more wine. Well we were simply knocked out by this generous act. As you know, phylao, we stayed and we're glad we did. Did we drink them out of house & home, yes. Did we have a good time (such friendly patrons yourself included) you betcha. It may not take Omi's place in our hearts, but the next time we're hungry at the foodless Eaton Centre we will definitely return. Thanks to all who helped.

                          1. p
                            phylao Sep 2, 2006 04:01 AM

                            Googs,

                            we were sitting next to you tonite :) it is supposed to be my hubby's birthday dinner so i tried not to let him see the bill :)

                            anyway, we had omakase as well.

                            first dish was a salad with mango, red peppers, orange peppers, red snapper sashimi, some fish roe (the red one, i have no idea what the name is), cucumber, all veggies are thinly sliced; with a lemon/olive oil dressing. The chef said it has wasabi but I cannot taste it at all?

                            second dish was black cod with miso dressing (was told by the waitress), with raddish sprouts. It was very good, the sauce is more like terriyaki (quite sweet I think).

                            3rd dish was oyster shoot. How come there was no uni??? there's two type, one is some kind of spicy sauce (the texture is a bit like really fine salsa but it's spicy), and the other one, is REALLY good, ponzu jelly. however the ponzu taste was not very stand out when I eat the oyster together with the ponzu. Hubby had a little bit of ponzu jelly left so I just make sure it's ponzu jelly...the oyster is really fresh though.

                            4th dish was sashimi. There are 6 types of fish....sardine, fluke, butterfish, salmon, hamachi, and black snapper from japan. Except for the fluke and sardine, the rest of the fish are slightly 'burned' by a blow torch. (sorry if I did not use correct word) I really like the taste of the butter fish and the black snapper! the sardine was the one i like the least :)

                            5th dish was igiri sushi. it also comes with 2 super tiny life crab!!! the waitress asked what do we want with it, i didn't dare to try to eat it fresh, so i asked her to have it deepfried. Think about it again, I should have asked to cook it as tempura! it should taste better because there is not much taste to the crab itself. and it's tiny. the other sashimi was salmon, hamachi, toro (i don't like the toro, it has some unchewable white thing), some type of smoke fish, and one more fish that I don't remember.

                            next is a sushi roll, with avocado, hamachi, some type of white fish (i didn't remember what it is), crem cheese, red fish roe, and it was wrapped with some type of leaves (i have no idea what is that leaf!). and there's some sauce that we can dip instead of using soy sauce, it's mayo/spicy sauce/red fish roe. it is not bad, but my hubby didn't really like it.

                            last and the highlight of the night, is a avocado/red fish roe/scallop handroll, wrapped with deep fried cod!!! the deep fried cod is green in colod, taste like shrimp chips, and it's REALLY GOOD!!! We love it very much!! I will definitely be back just for this roll.

                            and we also had ice-cream as dessert. I had black sesame icecream and hubby had green tea ice cream. The black sesame icecream is totally different from black sesame icecream i had elsewhere. it is a BLACK icecream, whereas other places is grey in color. I think it's really rich in taste, kind of like the chinese black sesame sweet soup. I like it a lot.

                            Overall it was good, we will be back for sure, maybe not for omakase though.

                            sorry for the long post!

                            1. dinin and dishin Aug 31, 2006 01:43 AM

                              On my first trip to Japango, I went with one of my favourite foodies. She spied a picture on the menu of something that looked interesting. It wasn't listed, just a small photo. It turned out to be a type of tuna tartar and it was amazing. If you can find the photo and get past the language barrier with the servers (which we found quite easy) this is definitely worth a try and perfect for sharing.

                              enjoy!!

                              1. d
                                dial Aug 31, 2006 01:18 AM

                                Wonderful little restaurant. great sushi. butterfish is to die for. although little, never had to wait too long which probably reflects its location.

                                1. Teep Aug 30, 2006 01:22 AM

                                  Actually I have read on alt.food.sushi that sake is not ideal for sushi, as sake is made from rice, and sushi has rice, so it's like having toast with your sandwich. Beer and tea are more appropriate. Of course it's fine with sashimi. (Doesn't make total sense to me either!)

                                  BTW, have you seen this hilarious send off of sushi eating in Japan. Note - everything in the video is a joke! or at least exaggerate ten times normal behaviour!

                                  http://www.jumpingpixels.com/sushibeh...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Teep
                                    o
                                    oishi Aug 30, 2006 01:49 AM

                                    First of all THAT video is SO funny...maa maa maa...oh toh toh. HA HA HA!

                                    Second, I want to have chopsticks at Japango!

                                    1. re: oishi
                                      TOfoodie Aug 30, 2006 05:55 PM

                                      Like I mentioned above, if the owner sees that you have a true love and committment to Japango, you too will have the honour of your own chopsticks with your name on it.

                                      As for the wine, they have a nice selection of plum wines there. I've never had anything other than Japanese beer, sake or plum wine, so I can't help you there.

                                  2. Googs Aug 29, 2006 09:49 PM

                                    I will definitely send your regards TOFoodie. Thanks to you & all.

                                    One more question: How's the wine list? Is it Yellow Tail territory or more creative than that? I know sake is more appropriate, but hubby & I are wine lovers.

                                    1. Teep Aug 29, 2006 06:03 PM

                                      I wonder if it's OK to have Omakase for one, while my campanion orders from the menu?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Teep
                                        TOfoodie Aug 29, 2006 06:17 PM

                                        That should be fine. But it's always more enjoyable to share the dining experience with others that share your love of food...

                                        1. re: TOfoodie
                                          Teep Aug 29, 2006 06:24 PM

                                          Unfortunately my "campanion" (duh) does not share my love of raw fish...

                                          1. re: Teep
                                            TOfoodie Aug 29, 2006 06:39 PM

                                            You should still be fine :o) Enjoy yourself....
                                            Also note that the resto seats about 20...tight..it's a tiny place

                                            1. re: TOfoodie
                                              c
                                              Cheech5001 Aug 29, 2006 06:59 PM

                                              I too have my own chopsticks hanging on the wall, and I echo TOfoodies comments..you will love Japango. Bruce makes a tuna tartar that is just great!

                                      2. TOfoodie Aug 29, 2006 04:20 PM

                                        Oh-ma-gaud! I love this place so much, my hubby and I have our own set of chopsticks there. As you will see, lined up on the back of the sushi bar are these wooden boxes that hold chopsticks for regular customers. Bruce the owner told us that in order to receive this honour, it's not so much the number of times a person goes there, but more the committment...I am committed for sure! I do reco the omakase, but I have to also reco the oyster shooter. We have one each time we are there :o)

                                        Please tell Bruce and Osamu that Cleo and Jay say hi and we'll see them this week!

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: TOfoodie
                                          Food Tourist Aug 30, 2006 07:55 PM

                                          Oh my gosh, I have been looking for Japanese-style oyster shooters ever since I had phenomenal ones at Ezard's in Melbourne years ago! Could you please describe the taste?

                                          1. re: peppermint pate
                                            TOfoodie Aug 30, 2006 08:16 PM

                                            such a beautiful mix of flavours. In one gulp you take a raw quail egg, raw oyster, sea urchin, ponzu, tobiko and green onion. As you slowly mix the flavours in our mounth at times you'll taste the sweetness of the egg yolk, then the grassiness of the oyster, followed by the creamy sweetness of the sea urchin, at some point the sweet turns a touch salty, usually it's the ponzu, but maybe it's the oyster depending where it's from...but to top it all off once and a while as you're swishing and slowly chewing, you'll feel a pop here and there as the tobiko gets into play....ahhhh, my mouth is watering....
                                            I usually have the shooter at the end of my meal just to top it off. Yes, I am decadent!

                                            1. re: TOfoodie
                                              p
                                              peppermint pate Aug 30, 2006 08:30 PM

                                              Oh my, I am drooling on my keyboard...:)

                                              1. re: TOfoodie
                                                Food Tourist Aug 30, 2006 08:30 PM

                                                What a heavenly description! I'm going to go there for sure in the next few days! It sounds totally different to the oyster shooter at Ezard which only contained an oyster, mirin, and some other sauces/spices which I wish I could duplicate at home. But the Japango one sounds incredible! How much does it cost?

                                                1. re: Food Tourist
                                                  Food Tourist Feb 15, 2007 06:34 AM

                                                  Enjoyed an excellent Valentine's Day meal at Japango, complete with $7 oyster-uni-quail egg shooters, and a fabulous $26 deluxe sashimi platter along with delicious spicy scallop rolls, unagi-avocado rolls, and salmon-avocado rolls. They seem to love blowtorching certain fish, which suits most except the salmon. We had a last-minute reservation at 5:30 and the place was half-full all evening despite being fully-booked (the snow must have enticed people to stay home and cuddle). I found the table/chair set up quite cramped (I had no place to put my knees and people had to bump my chair to get by) but it's definitely a Chow destination. My companion liked it much better than Hiro in terms of value for money. We were full for $88 including tip.

                                                  1. re: Food Tourist
                                                    Food Tourist Nov 17, 2007 06:24 AM

                                                    Had an excellent sashimi deluxe (price is now $29) a couple of Friday evenings ago. Although several pieces are lightly seared, and some pieces are quite small, it still hit the spot. However, the $7 oyster-quail egg shooter was significantly smaller and appeared to be missing the uni. I was so disappointed. On the bright side, my eggplant-hating friend actually enjoyed my eggplant dish. I spent about $50. I would return again. Driving to Kumai is just too far some days.

                                                2. re: TOfoodie
                                                  TOfoodie Aug 30, 2006 08:42 PM

                                                  I can't remember but it's probably $10 each and no way is over $15 each. My little write up has made me want one, so maybe I'll make my way there after work ....

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