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Oct 12, 2006 09:34 PM

Hiro Sushi - a laughable, embarrassing experience

A couple colleagues of mine were craving good sushi - we work dwtn and it was suggested to me, that fellow chow's had been recommending Hiro Sushi on King, east of Jarvis. I told my one colleague that I had not heard of Hiro Sushi, and that since I took clients often to Takesushi on Front, and that it was consistently fresh and delicious, reasonably priced, close to our office (it was raining last night) and the service was flawless, that we go there. I was overruled and together the three of us ventured off to Hiro Sushi (walking in the rain no less!).

Thus the story begins. We were walking along King and not knowing the number of Hiro Sushi, I stopped thinking we had found it and went in to this very cool place. It was busy, dark and very 'hip'. We were told that dinner was not served until 6 but that we could sit and have a drink.. how cool. We sat, ordered a drink and were served by very fashionable folk. A menu appeared and the top said 'Kultura'.. opps.. we were in the wrong place! Oh well, we'd all heard of Kultura and thought what the heck.. we are here, let's stay. But alas, sushi was on the minds of two and we finished our drinks all in agreement to return to this very neat Kultura for dinner and drinks in the near future.

Moving right along, we ended up next door at our original destination, Hiro Sushi. We walked in and there was a unique odour. Not sure what it was, but the place felt like a college students room in a basement of an old house. It was an 'odd' place indeed. Dark. Dreary. Dated. The friendly waitress/hostess sat us down and the place was rather dead.. two other tables and one person at the sushi bar. We were then reading over the menus and offered a drink. I ordered Pellegrino, and my collegues green tea and water. The green tea arrived, and the water never surfaced. The Pellegrino bottle was child sized and 3 bucks no less. We looked in semi shock at the menu prices and thought, wow, this must be good sushi. Or at least, it had better be. My buddies ordered $30 each plates of chef's assorted sushi. We had tempura ($15) and Tempura Figs ($9). I had a salad ($6) and Miso ($3). We also were charged ($3) for an extra very small bowl of ginger. (yes, we were charged for this.. hillarious). Allow me to continue. The tempura arrived - it was completely tasteless/flavourless. The portion was ridiculously small ($15!!!) and there were 3 shrimps, a couple of vegetables and much disappointment. There was NO soy sauce on the table, nor did any arrive until asked. Whatever we dunked the tasteless tempura into, it too was watery and had absolutley NO flavour. The miso soup then arrived, cold. Yes, cold. I have never had miso soup served cold. I was hungry and drank my miso juice. Two miniature pieces of seaweed and two chicklet gum size pieces of tofu.. yum (not). Move on to my salad, a portion of 'old' and very 'tired' lettuce.. mixed greens from a bag, unwashed and the size of the bottom of a tea cup.. a round, tiny hump of nothingness. Dressing was edible, but again, a complete disappointment. The water still has not arrived, no tea refills and one english speaking (and rather attractive) waitress who appeared to be running the show on her own. I had ordered california rolls and as I had said previously, my colleagues the $30 chef mixed creation. The creation's arrived. $30 bucks each.. that's a lot of dough. Appeared before them was a regular sized dinner plate, they said the fish seemed fresh (how can one eat / serve sushi that isn't extraordinarly fresh?? (I guess no smell is good) and there was no ginger, and no wasabi to be found. No soya sauce either. We asked for soya and wasabi and ginger. They all arrived in again, miniature quantities. They both dug in and said that the fish was ok, but that it was extremely, almost uncomfortably 'hot'. Why was the sushi so 'hot' I wondered? They continued to eat and then, realized that each piece of rice below the sushi was covered in wasabi!! How strange.. I have never heard nor seen this before. Many people despise wasabi (me included) and we thought this to be very odd. They ate their respective $30 dollar plates in visibile pain and we asked for more ginger.. that was when the $3 mini bowl arrived. The california rolls have not yet arrived. I asked several times and was assured they were coming. My friends finished their sushi as they were not about to leave 30 bucks on the table especially since it was my turn to pay and they were already knowing full well that I was NOT happy about coming to this ridiculous basement to eat. I was fuming. The california rolls arrived, and you guessed it, covered in wasabi. I ate one and returned the plate. Still no water. NO tea refills ($3 bucks a cup no less- what place that serves $30 sushi plates charges for tea?) and boy was I hungry. I paid, $125 including tip (hey, she was cute and it wasn't her fault). Told them how disappointed we were, offered to get her a job at Takesushi and left in disgust. Yet another bad T.O. restaurant and further disappointment for me about this, my city of bad food experiences. We walked back to work, me $125 poorer, said very little to each other and then stopped at Marche for a mediocre caesar salad for me at a cost of $9.10. We then headed home. Friends, for the sake of your health and your pocket book, stay away from this hole called Hiro Sushi. And look for Kathy to be working at Takesushi in the very near future!.

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  1. You're not alone in your disgust - I have said it before too, I believe Hiro Sushi is much overrated and overpriced. Perhaps on the night that the master Hiro is there, AND he recognizes you as a regular/friend, then you may be in for a unique treat - otherwise, you're better off at one of the sushi places along bloor in the annex. I am still eager to try their Soba Sundays, only because it would be made by someone else and I love soba but I've long given up on sushi at Hiro's. sad...

    1. Two words of advice: Sushi Kaji.

      1 Reply
      1. a dab of wasabi is actually normal for nigiri and maki- but I've become accustomed to never getting it. But it is "supposed" to be there. Eating all that ginger only makes the wasabi seem hotter.

        1. Sorry to hear about your experience at Hiro. It isn't for everybody.

          Kaji is my favourite restaurant in Toronto. But I still enjoy a visit to Hiro. I am by no means a regular there, but I have always had fabulous sushi, and yes it is expensive. Sorry but the fish is so much better at Hiro than any place on Bloor St. You can't compare it. And now I must add that I love New Generation on Bloor. But the calibre is different, as are the prices. There's a time for everything good.

          Not getting soy with your meal is very unusual no doubt, in fact Hiro makes his own soy sauce, so this can only be because of poor service. Because the wasabi is served in the sushi, just as you described, extra would need to be ordered if you wanted more. Ginger is served to help cleanse the palate between different fishes but Hiro doesn't accompany every type of fish with it for some reason lost on me.

          It is traditional to serve sushi with wasabi between the fish and the rice. Restos in Toronto have altered that to suit our palate by putting it on the side instead. Spice to your own liking sort of thing.

          As far as the room at Hiro, there is no doubt that it is shabby and borderline dirty. I can never understand why no profits can go back into cleaning the place up. Removing the stains from the wall. It is just weird that the place is so off putting. We go back because we love the food. Sitting at the sushi bar is always an experience as Hiro pays close attention to your likes and dislikes. He loves to entertain with his food. Compared to Kaji though, the cooked food doesn't come close.

          Some of my favourite chinese experiences were had at "dumps" on Spadina/Dundas, and I go back for more. Hiro is the same to me. YES Hiro is way more expensive than any chinese "dump", but the food experience is well worth it to me.

          6 Replies
          1. re: bestandworst

            Well put, bestandworst. Also, I agree that New Gen. is the best of the cheap places on Bloor in the Annex there and worthy of repeat visits.

            1. re: bestandworst

              i agree with you about Hiro. In fact the wasbi he has, and if you ask for it, is REAL wasbi, not the fake stuff that comes from a power. All the difference in the world.

              I have never been to Kaji, (looking forward to do so) BUT i have found, of those i have tried, and i have tried MANY here and elsewhere, HIRO is the best, in Canada, east of Winnipeg. (there is a very very good sushi place there which matches hiro, bite for bite.

              expensive... right.
              decor.... not great (but some of the greasiest places i have eaten are the best in terms of flavour.
              sushi found no where else.... Right. in fact i remember when hiro did a mackerel sushi, he fried the bones and gave that as well as another dish. never seen that before or after.

              Hiro sushi is the real stuff, including putting wasbi under the fish, on top of the rice. if one doesn';t like wasbi, ask that it not be put on. BUT the default, at hiro and japan, is with wasbi.

              1. re: galambo

                each piece of fish should have an appropriate amount of wasabi on it as deemed by any real sushi master. not every single piece of fish should be eaten with soy sauce either and if you order it piece by piece then they will give you only what they think is appropriate. if you're really that sensitive to wasabi, then just ask for them to not use it.

                hiro doesn't actually give everyone the fresh wasabi from what i've heard... they'll only do it if you can prove your weight in japanese dining.

                to be honest, i find it rather questionable that for a first timer you'd order california rolls... they're not a good test by any means of a sushi restaurant. beyond that, how is it not the - repeatedly - cute server's fault that you weren't served water, tea, soy sauce and everything else?

                my own experience at hiro was a combination of bad service, by somewhat cute servers, with a dull omakase pulled together using items from the regular menu. the fish was quite tasty but the use of a shitake mushroom for nigiri was silly. i'm willing to give it one more chance at the sushi bar.

                now specifically to galambo!
                where else have you eaten around town that prompts you to claim hiro as the best? i haven't tried kaji yet but am a fan of the work at japango and omi, especially for their price points. bruce at japango is impeccable to his diners and the only place i've been to so far that's served fish paste cones for their handrolls.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  That was my thought too, pinstripe, I don't think that Hiro uses real wasabi often. But in my experiences so far, Kaji does. I am a fan of both types.

                  I have seen Hiro basically yell at his servers to 'get moving'. I think sitting at the sushi bar, eating omakase, is the only way to go at Hiro.

                  Hiro is HIGHLY reputed to use only the best fish and best parts of the fish. He serves traditional combinations and knows what he is doing. If it matters, I can tell you that Susur has personally told me that he respects highly both Hiro and Kaji.

                  As far as busy or not...I agree that what neighbourguy wrote is a very good rule of thumb generally speaking, and especially when it comes to raw fish. But I personally have to trust that Hiro is the last place you need to worry about this.

                  Anyway, I didn't plan to chime in again, but I really wanted to back Hiro because although not perfect in his ambience, the integrity of his execution has been so well preserved through the years. For a true Japanese experience, I believe we are lucky to still have him available to us.

                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                    No i have never claimed to have eaten in EVERY Japanese rest. BUT that is not to say that HIRO is not the best either. Taste is VERY VERY subjective to say the least.

                    Also i said 'if you ask for it' in terms of real WASBI. And generally speaking MOST the run of the mill rest do put WASBI on every sushi piece. But then again HIRO is a certified sushi chief and there are not alot of them around.

                    though i am interested in your comments about Bruce, and i guess that is my next spot to go to, when we are not looking to 'just east'

                    1. re: galambo

                      by no means was i trying to berate you, my response fell under your post simply because i'm trying to better ascertain your basis of comparison. i find it difficult to simply take someone's opinion of "the best" without any background. if you've frequented my own personal favourites and have found hiro to the better of them, then it would prompt me more so to try him out again.

              2. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. I ate there once years ago, and it was disappointing.

                Just wanted to say that wasabi under the fish with sushi is quite common -- in fact I've never seen it any other way.