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Reasonably-Priced Sushi Made by Japanese-speaking Chef?

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Moved back to Toronto for over a year now but never got the motivation to look for really good sushi. Having lived in NYC for the past 8 years (and San Francisco where there is a Japan Town), Toronto's Japanese food just seems like a wasteland of AYCE or so-so sushi by Chinese or Korean proprietors. There is no large Japanese diaspora that I seem to be aware of, compared to Chinese, Korean, Indian, etc. I think I've been to some small Japanese mall up in North York, and a couple of scattered Japanese stores on Queen West and Dundonald/Yonge.

So ... can anyone at Chowhound point me to where I can find sushi that is reasonably priced and not made by someone who doesn't even speak Japanese. I'm tired of going to the same old cookie-cutter sushi joint where the only thing that is Japanese are the names of the menu items. I guess I just don't have the constitution to comb through Toronto when I can rely on the suggestions of others...

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  1. If you live downtown, 'Japango' on Elizabeth should meet you criteria. The entire establishment is Japanese run and the price is very reasonable. If you are willing to travel then try out 'Zen' in Scarborough. It has Japanese master sushi chefs manning the sushi bar and again price is good unless you want to opt for exotics like mirugai. Happy chowing!

    1. Toshi Sushi on King Street. Kaji Sushi is the best, but more expensive.

      1. On the Danforth, there's Sakawaya and Aji Sai. On Yonge, south of Davisville, there's I Zu. The ones on the Danforth I frequented regularly when I lived in the neighbourhood. Sakawaya in particular has a great menu. When I worked on Merton Street, it was a treat to go to I Zu for lunch. Great, friendly staff and I adored having their Nabeyaki noodle soup on a chilly day (and their Age Dango on the lucky times when they had them).

        1. Sushi Kaji Queensway, Hiro and Toshi Sushi King st W.
          Ematei, Japango downtown
          Mikado Leaside
          Zen, Le cafe Michi Scarborough
          Hama, Miyabi Markham

          I suggest Mikado or Michi.

          1 Reply
          1. re: visconti

            Jack, the sushi chef at Michi is 'Chinese'!!

          2. yes, but he does speak japanese as requested

            1. Curious... if the sushi is really good, what does it matter if the chef speaks Japanese or not? Shouldn't the quality be the most important? Just wondering that's all.

              In any case, can't go wrong with Hiro Sushi or Sushi Kaji.

              8 Replies
              1. re: spades

                Kumai in Mississauga on Hurontario s. of Britannia.Sushi Kaji is arguably the best in town, albeit at a price.

                1. re: spades

                  A popular viewpoint is that if you don't speak Japanese then you must not have been properly trained in Japan as a sushi chef. Being such means more than just cutting up raw fish and rolling ingredients together - besides knowing how each dish should taste you'll need to know safe handling of food and can tell if the fish is not good, etc.

                  1. re: spades

                    Returning from living in Japan for 8 years, I found that speaking or being Japanese isn't essential to preparing good sushi - I don't think John Lee at Omi is Japanese - but it's a very strong predictor of good sushi. If I had to choose between two places and the only information I had was that one place had a Japanese chef, that's the one I'd choose. It sounds a bit nationalistic/chauvinistic, I suppose, and I might miss out on something fantastic, but I see it as just playing the odds.

                    Overall, my favourite place downtown is Ematei, not just for sushi, but for all the other things they have on the menu that remind me of eating out in Japan. Although I haven't been there, friends who have also lived in Japan tell me that Rikishi at Bloor and Shaw comes closest for them.

                    1. re: tbonetak

                      One time I was at Rikishi, I had a lunch special which had tuna maki as one of the items, and I was very surprised to find canned tuna in the roll. Do they do that in Japan?

                      1. re: Teep

                        They sure do! Lots and lots of canned tuna and mayo in Japan, particularly at lunch. They called it a 'tuna maki' and not a 'tekka maki,' right? Because if they called it the latter they totally hosed you, but if it were the former, that's actually what it would be called.

                        Again, though, I haven't been to Rikishi, so I'm only relaying what others, including those who were born and raised in Japan have told me. Although perhaps I should have been more clear that what they were attracted to might not have been its resemblance to the high points of the cuisine, but rather its familiarity for them.

                        1. re: tbonetak

                          I really like Rikishi too. the food is very fresh, very big selection of dishes for the vegetarians. BUT their hours seem a bit irregular - couple of times i went to find the doors closed even though there posted hours indicated they should be open. the people in the restaurant are very nice.

                          1. re: tbonetak

                            Thanks for clearing that up! I think it was indeed "tuna maki".

                        2. re: tbonetak

                          Rikishi has good food (though they use too much rice with very thin slices of fish in their sushi). Both cooked and raw items are enjoyable. However, the service is abysmal. Both times I've been there on Sunday nights, the food took 1.5 to 2 hours to be served. First visit (about a year ago), the restaurant was almost empty when we arrived; today, the restaurant was "full" (they turn customers away despite having several empty seats). I won't be going back - I normally ignore poor service in favour of delicious food, but it just isn't worth the endless wait.

                      2. I am totally a fan of the new Sinai Sushi. It's a tiny place, not for fancy meals with basic sushi that is delicious and prepared by a Japanese speaking chef.

                        Grosvenor Street (3 doors west of Yonge Street, south side).

                        Excellent value,

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: orangewasabi

                          Well Sinai offers Korean and Japanese fare, so the chef is probably a Korean who speaks Japanese. I find their menu too limited though, feels more like a fast food place than a restaurant.

                          But value is right, I've never seen such a large piece of neta (the fish part) over such a small amount of rice!

                          1. re: Teep

                            Second the Sinai Sushi rec. the place usually closes at 8pm so not exactly a dinner hotspot. great value for its price, you won't find a more generous chef anywhere.

                            he is, however, a little slow. by the way, i asked him and he told me he was Korean. got tired of the sandwich business so decided to do sushi instead.

                            1. re: doctorandchef

                              oh that's really interesting! did he own the sandwich business that was there before?

                              1. re: orangewasabi

                                Yes, I believe he was the owner. I'm surprised the sandwich place stayed in business for as long as it did.

                                1. re: doctorandchef

                                  so am I! I always thought it was a front for somethine else, now, however, I kinda wish I had gone there.

                              2. re: doctorandchef

                                Sometimes you want good. Sometimes you want big & cheap. (I notice that this gets confused a lot on this board.) Anyway, Sinai sushi is OK for the second. Not for the first.

                          2. Takesushi - Downtown (Japanese)
                            Jimbay - Mississauga (Japanese)

                            Non-Japanese but good
                            Omi - Downtown (Korean) - Their omakase (mostly sushi in there) is very good !

                            1. While not actually a sushi place and some would say not very resonably priced... it is probably has the greatest Japanese influence as the owner was the chef at the Japanese consulate for 10 years... Kaiseki-Sakura on Church just North of Wellesley...

                              Also as an aside Korea was annexed by Japan for many years which gave rise to the number of Koreans becoming Sushi chefs begging the question if they became a chef in Korea when it was run by Japan are they not Japanese chefs :-)

                              And imagine the flames someone would get if they posted asking for a english pub where the cooks "spoke english"...

                              1. Try Sado Sushi on Eglinton just east of Allen Rd. I have no idea as to the nationality of the sushi chef, but the food is phenomenal - especially the items from the chef's specialties menu.

                                Very innovative and creative food, the restaurant is an offshoot of Atami Restaurant in Montreal, another favourite.

                                1. Bear in mind the portion at Kaiseki-Sakura is incredibly small and the omakase I had there one night has only one tiny piece of salmon sushi+other cooked stuffs in one of the course. The sashimi course only has 4 tiny pieces of sashimi in it... well I guess Kaiseki means small plate so everything there is light ... haha But the food there is very well presented like a piece of art.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                    I've seen Kaiseki Sakura since its first opening and I know the owner and chef is Japanese. His menu is very interesting - more modern interpretation than classic. I believe he worked in Thuet, which explains the beef tongue sandwich on Thuet bakery baguette. However, at $18 I decided to take a pass despite really wanting to try it.

                                    I've had friends who dined there and said the food and presentation was top notch but they felt they have barely eaten even after paying over a $100 each. They had to get a sharwarma next door afterwards. And my friend is thin and eats like a bird.

                                    The value seems to be missing there. When I dined at Nobu and Morimoto, the price was high but I felt the value was worth it. I was satiated, and certainly did not want to spoil the lingering aftereffect on my palate by washing it down with a sandwich from elsewhere right away simply for hunger.

                                  2. There's also Inaho in Richmond Hill, which is a little bit east of Miyabi. Both are good value.

                                    Finally, the best overall balance between value and quality is Solo Sushi-Ya. Albeit that's in Newmarket.

                                    1. We went to the crepe place across the street to fill up our stomach afterward, the crepe is yummy too !

                                      1. Guirei Sushi located on Queens Quay is one of my current favorites. I believe they have delivery too, but they ahve a great atmosphere to dine in.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Barwick

                                          Guirei is Korean as well. What's strange is that on their marquee they spell their name in Japanese as "Kirei" ("Beautiful") but it's changed in English.

                                        2. The owner and chefs at Sado are Vietnamese.

                                          1. Zen is top notch. Chef Seiichi is quite personable. He also tends to get in a lot of fairly rare, and quite spectacular fishes. I was quite wowed by wild hamachi ($5/slice!).

                                            1. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SUSHI SKY (WEST OF YONGE NORTHOF COLLEGE?

                                              1. Okay look past the name, but Sushiman at Richmond & Victoria is authentic Japanese and also reasonably priced. Chirashi is $17.95 and chock full of good sashimi. I always use chirashi as a benchmark of quality and price at all sushi places. They also offer omakase at reasonable rates. I often see Japanese business men sitting at the bar talking to Tani-san, the owner. He loves to make fun of his customers in his really bad english and wonderful sarcasm.