Hiro Sushi- Hmmm....
Okay, so I went to Hiro Sushi for lunch today, expecting to be blown away. I was very hungry and chose to have the Sushi and a Half lunch special. I was the only one there, being there at exactly 12:00pm. The sushi rice wasn't even ready when I sat down, so I waited a little while before Hiro-san actually started making the sushi.
Anyways, my set came, and it was completely underwhelming. 2 pieces of salmon, one white fish, one saba, surf clam, shrimp, shiitake, fake crab stick, egg, unagi. How disappointing it was, getting really cheap ingredients in supposedly such a great place for sushi. The use of the shiitake mushroom really shocked me. On a brighter note, the fish was absolutely superb, and the shrimp, egg and unagi nigiri I still enjoyed very much (but the surf clam, shiitake, fake crab stick was really dispapointing). The rice was perfect, and the right amount of wasabi was used in my opinion, though I can see why people may find it to be a bit too strong.
I decided to give him another chance and ordered a few a la carte orders as I sat at the sushi bar. I started off with his signature zuke, the marinated tuna, and it was sublime. The rich flavour of the tuna marinated in his soy sauce, with the raw garlic on the top was such a perfect combo. Next, I had the hamachi, which was pretty standard, but very fresh. After asking for bonito and aji, I was disappointed to find out it wasn't available today. No matter, I ask him for his recommendations. I order the fluke, and it was also excellent. Finally, to finish off, he recommended a spanish mackarel, which he put some hot oil on top, a leaf of lettuce under, and ginger and green onion on top. This absolutely blew me away, possibly the best mackarel sushi I've ever had.
I left $40 poorer, which wasn't too bad, considering I had 18 pieces of sushi and a roll, but I definitely would have enjoyed it more if I just ignored the lunch menu and ordered straight from the a la carte menu or ordered omakase. Although, I didn't feel like it was completely worth it to walk all the way from Bloor and St. George in the cold all the way to Jarvis and King E. and back just for lunch.
So in conclusion, will I return? Yes. But I will not order the cheap lunch specials again. The only way to go must be to order the sushi omakase or just order a la carte. The sushi is really good, it's absolutely what I'm looking for, but the silly cheap ingredients are a turn-off to say the least.
The thing I found about Hiro's omakase was that the sushi and other dishes were excellent, but the courses were a painful 20-30 minutes apart, the walls were dirty, and what really put me off was that the paper towel dispenser in the washroom was a *garbage can* slung over one of the stall doors.
We spent $350 at Hiro--and I had to wipe my hands with paper towels from a garbage can?? For me, the food wasn't good enough to put up with that.
If you want to fill your belly with sushi, I recommend the mutitude of mediocre AYCE sushi joints in town. You should not equate quantity with quality. Hiro is about the quality of the ingredeints and impeccable preparation of same. I have never left hungry with the $30 to $40 omakase.
Again, I emphasize that I did enjoy Hiro's sushi, but only if it was not the gaijin rubbish, I spent a term on exchange in Japan a year ago, and it was pretty sad coming back to Toronto and getting pretty mediocre sushi, with the exception of the places I mentioned earlier. Hiro's sushi matches that quality and would be out of this world if the real wasabi was used. I'm done with the set dinners or lunches, and I'm probably going back next week for the omakase. Basically, to sum up what I said, I was quite disappointed with the set lunch, but was more than happy with the a la carte orders, and felt that it represented his work well.
BTW- What was the point of showing me that rant? A measure of "worth" is rather subjective, and yes I do think some sushi is more than worth it (The individual orders I had at $6 for 2 pieces was well worth it, but I wouldn't pay anything for sushi at most places on Bloor). You can question if any food is worth the money, it doesn't apply just to sushi...
If you go to a place like Hiro and order the satndard sushi set they will assume (rightly so) that you are not adventurous and give you the gaijin treatment. If however you sit at the sushi bar and connect with the chef he will instinctively know that you are looking for an experience and will proceed accordingly. I have had the omakase sushi at Hiro many times and can assure you that if you do the same you will not get any mundane offerings but some creative and very tasty stuff.
As for sushi being a ripoff that is an opinion that does not hold water when eating at top end esatblishment. Yes paying for mass produced and refrigerated supermarket sushi is not the most prudent way to spend your money, but $40 for approx. 20 pieces of masterfully prepared and impeccably fresh products is a true bargain in my book.
What the gaijin want, the gaijin get.That's pretty much axiomatic among the so-so sushi purveyors.That blog rant does nothing but reinforce this. Kaji charges top prices not just for exquisite freshness but inspired presentation that's an equally important part of the bargain.
Another agree from me...
I get the same feeling of being ripped off every time I go for sushi, no matter where.
Read this blog (some guy in NY, not me) to see what I mean:
Scroll down about halfway and read his rant. I think you and I agree with him...