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Best Japanese meal in my life...

Went to Kaiseki Sakura finally last night with my pregnant fiance. In my opinion, better than Kaji. Not just the meal, but it's location, and the room is much more refined. But oh, the food...

Amuse: Martini glass with Yuba (tofu 'skin') mizuna, mint-wasabi, fresh chervil & fried yuba.

First: Tomatoe soup (I think gelled consomme) with concasse, seeweed dumpling and lime. I think spriggs of sea asparagus/cumumber too, and a sliver of fresh key lime. Wow...

Second: conga eel (?) and squid sashimi with diakon, shiso (japanese basil?) and spirals of red, golden beet with ume (pickled plum) on the eel. Two sauces, original soy for the eel & ume, and soy with natto (fermented soy bean) for the squid. Served with fresh wasabi that we both were left to grate on our table's shark-skin grater. Uh-huh...paired with sake

Third: BBQ eel with myoga (some vegetable) pickled seaweed, fresh grated ginger & spagetti squash served in a shot glass (I think his take on sunomono). Grilled salmon with sweet miso. BBQ duck slices with Tamago (omelete) & pickled ginger. Bocconcini marinated in soy. Fruit tomotoe (confit?),tempura edamame, stained lily bulb petals, cherry blossom carved daikon, and fried smelt rolled with shiso. Probably my favorite dish, served on a sort of volcanic shaped solid bowl thing...paired with another sake that tasted very much like fresh melon. Whew!

Four: Fried sesame tofu in bonito soup with uni, japanese eggplant and seeweed. Paired with Shoju (spelling may be wrong, berry spirit/whiskey)

Five: Sake steamed grouper, steamed spinach, tofu and ponzu sauce with grated daikon. Also yuzu/pepper paste. Paired with original sake cocktail of grapefuit, cointeau & grenadine.

Six: (or sex) Red miso sauced beef tongue (!) with maple leaf shaped braised carrots and french bagguette. My fiance heard "beef tender" and half way through the dish I could tell she didn't know. After she finished I refered to the outstanding texture of the tongue and she couldn't believe it was tongue, she had to hear it from the Chef...unbelievable.

Seven: cold somen with soba (?) noodle, grated leek & ginger. Palete pleaser

Dessert: Red cargo bean mousse, home made marshmellow (at last) filled with plum, and black sesame cookies. Paired with lychee flavoured sake.

so thereyou have it, the best $@#*^n' japanese meal of my life. What was most interesting to me was how few different components were used with each course. I can't believe this place is open on Sunday, and I don't have to drive to Etobikoe anymore...

556 Church (@ Wellesley!!!) Food was $100 pp. closed tuesday

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  1. Thanks for the details. I think one previous reviewer on this board said he "left hungry". Were you satisfied with the portions?

    1. This was also my big discovery this year. Can't believe how long it took me to try this.
      Superb food, expertly presented. A jewel!
      And don't miss the beef tongue. Whatever your preconception is just trust me on this one (unless you're a vegetarian).
      But, unless you're already a fan, pass on the Shoju in favour of their superb collection of sakes. (sake is more wine-like; shoku more spirits-like)

      1. My hubby and I finally tried the 7 course meal with the drink pairings last month and we are definitely going back at least 4 times a year to sample different seasonal ingredients! It's not traditional kaiseki, but the chef creatively mixes ingredients like cheeses and creams to several dishes for uniquely fusion flavours..... and every morsel we ate was so delicious!

        Do not expect large portions, as kaiseki is to be enjoyed by your eyes and flavour buds, but we were both happily satisfied at the end of our meal.

        You must order the drink pairings together with the set meal - we had 4 cocktails, one sake, and one shochu. Each matched the paired dish wonderfully. They change their tasting menu every month..... and I can't wait to sample their fall dishes!

        3 Replies
        1. re: tampopo

          When you say "must order the drink pairings" do you mean should order or have to order? As a non-drinker one of my pet peeves is tasting menu's that force you to pay for the drinks that you don't want. I'm excited, but just want to be clear before I go.


          1. re: tellerium

            I think that was a strong suggestion!
            I ordered drinks separately.

            1. re: tellerium

              Sorry, I meant that the drink pairings really enhanced the dishes - not that they're compulsory. The 7 course meal was $100 and the optional drink pairings went for $35. I think they mentioned that the whole table had to order the same tasting menu (but not the drinks).

          2. I also had the best Japanese meal of my life there, a few weeks ago, with my significant other. Been meaning to write about it in detail as you did, but now I think the moment has passed. Anyway, had the 6 course chef's tasting menu, with the drink pairings. The wife doesn't drink, so I got loaded. Hehe. Anyway, thought the meal was creative, inventive, wonderfully prepared...it was simply outstanding. Favourite was when the chef did a little french/japanese fusion, and prepared a bourgignon style beef tongue with a japanese flair. Anyway, sorry I can't recount the entire meal blow by blow, as it has been a while, but contrary to what some others have posted, I did not leave hungry! The *only* complaint is that it took 2-1/2 hours, and we had to ask the waitress several times to bring the bill, which took about 20 minutes as well. If you're in a hurry, this isn't the place to go.

            1. Sounds pretty interesting. But do they have an expanded tasting menu that includes a bit of raw fish/seafood? Just dosn't sound right to have a Japanese meal without any 'Raw' offerings! Hashimoto's kaiseki offers a few ' raw seafood/fish' dishes

              3 Replies
              1. re: Charles Yu

                Depends on fish availability. Last time I was there we had a sashimi style platter with 3 different fish as the second course. And once there were 5 fish samples (IIRC).

                1. re: estufarian

                  Many Thanks!! Now, I have to find time to try out both Tabla ans Sakura!!

                  1. re: estufarian

                    Ate there last night and we both absolutely loved it. We had the Shiki 5 course tasting menu and it included:

                    amuse bouche of fig, soy jello, wasabi, and pomegranate dish

                    sashimi appetizer (1 salmon, 1 some kind of white fish)

                    consomme with shrimp, eel, and mushrooms

                    large plate with lots of little things: chicken 'balls', shrimp tempura, sweet potato, conch, more eel, and some things i can't remember

                    beef tongue stew, served with baguette

                    a pat of brown rice with apricot and ume compote on top, served with seaweed and broth we poured on ourselves

                    and desert: a red bean 'cake' (the filling was inside a kind of phyllo wrapper), green tea mousse, and black sesame cookies, plus tea.

                    We didn't get the drink pairings, but ordered sake cocktails with the lighter dishes, and then hot sake with the heavier dishes, and it worked out great. The Kyuri cocktail of sake, lemon juice, and cucumber was especially tasty.

                    Everything tasted great. I didn't think I'd like the beef tongue, but I was so wrong! All the dishes were beautiful (we were marveling over how much work it must take to prepare/arrange each one) with gorgeous fall leaves cut out of carrots and sweet potatoes. Service is friendly and helpful. It does take a while, but that's part of the experience. You'll need to ask for the bill, because they wouldn't dream of making you feel rushed.

                    We'll definitely return next season to experience the winter flavours and presentation.

                2. I just had the best japanese meal of my life too, at Hashimoto.

                  Have been to both Hashimoto and Kaiseki Sakura, I must say that Hashimoto wins in all categories which includes taste, service and food presentation in my opinion.
                  Please note that Hashimoto serves Kyo-Kaiseki which is the traditional kaiseki meal. There is no "thuet" beef tongue as in Sakura. I am not saying beef tongue is not good, it is just that if you want to experience the true traditional kaiseki, Hashimoto is the answer in GTA area.

                  The presentation of the dishes are absolutely amazing, Hashimoto ties 3rd place in the 2007 Japanese Culinary Art competition in Japan in the Kinki (Honshu) region which includes cities such as Kyoto (which is the root of kaiseki).

                  Service at Hashimoto is impeccable. Service at Sakura is great too but Hashimoto is a level up. We feel the warm hospitality from the moment we enter the restaurant to the moment we leave.

                  After the dinner, we have a long chat with Mr. Hashimoto on japanese cuisine and ask for his advice for kaiseki meal in Kyoto and Tokyo, he even brings out his laptop to show us the restaurants he recommends !

                  Now, this is truely my most memorable Japanese meal. It is expensive but strongly recommend to anyone who want to try kyo kaiseki in GTA.

                  Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto
                  6435 Dixie Road
                  Mississauga, Ontario

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Trying to add the link correctly ...

                    Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto
                    6435 Dixie Rd, Mississauga, ON L5T, CA

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      I've been to both in the past couple of months - and they are different.
                      I found Hashimoto more "sophisticated" - lighter and elegant. Kaiseki Sakura is less tranquil but I found it more "emotional" - there was more "feel" to the experience (compared to intellectual at Hashimoto).
                      I found the service at Sakura better! Had great difficulty understanding several dishes at Hashimoto - the English language skills are stretched (NOTE: On a previous visit, they had a server who spoke perfect English).

                      I found the meal progression at Sakura more interesting. ALL of the dishes at Hashimoto were vegetable and fish based - no meat anywhere. Whether or not beef tongue is "approved", many people report that this dish is their favourite at Sakura. I certainly enjoyed both, but the addition of meat enhanced the experience for me.
                      But the biggest difference is 'beverages'. Absolutely no selection at Hashimoto - a few 'take it or leave it' options. Latest visit they did have 2 sakes (only 1 the previous visit) - although I swallowed hard at the $170 price for the more expensive one.

                      And overall, I found Hashimoto about 50% more expensive - neither is cheap. We were up in Susur/Splendido territory.

                      But I did enjoy both meals - actually more than that, they were two of the best meals I've had in Toronto this year.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        I had the opposite, I had difficulty understanding at Sakura whereas the server at Hashimoto spoke perfect English, well I guess maybe depends which server you get. I found the service at Hashimoto more on the personal level with a warm touch, which I like. Regarding meal progression, this is the way traditional kyo-kaiseki suppose to be.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          Estufarian to the defence of Hashimoto, some of the ingredients he uses have no English translation.

                          I have not dined at Sakura to compare (but I will based on this thread alone) but I'm pretty sure Sakura's objective is not to serve in traditional Kaieseki style otherwise it would be impossible to serve more than 10 people an evening. Therefore, I don't think it's fair to compare the two restaurants (or to any other Japanese restaurant) beyond basic service expectations and personal taste. Point taken regarding Sake selection, though the Sake I ordered was fantastic.

                          My favourite "Japanese" in the city is still Kaji, he never disappoints me.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            I enjoyed my meal at Hashimoto very much last year. It's the real thing.

                            IMO, in order to fully appreciate Kaiseki, one has to know what to expect & what it's supposed to be.
                            To name a few:
                            It is consists of small dishes, traditional & original style, no fusion of anything, only 1 small course for sashimi, 1 course for deep fried, 1 course for stew food, etc.
                            One has to note the taste of different seasons & where those high quality seasonal ingredients are from, how the food is cooked, shaped & presented in beautiful plates & bowls.
                            All these will be part of the dining experience.

                            I haven't been to Sakura yet, can't comment on it.

                          2. re: estufarian

                            This is the one thing that worries me.. I don't mind reaching deep into my underdeveloped wallet to take the wife out for an experience, but I'd hope I can have a glass of sake with it for $100+ a person.. Do you really have to order the sake seperately?

                            1. re: SocksManly

                              Not sure what you mean? When you go to a French or Italian restaurant that costs $100+ per person, you have to order the wine seperately. What's the difference?

                              1. re: SocksManly

                                You can order the sake drink pairings in addition to the omakase, or you can order sake separately from the drink menu. As syoung said, this seems pretty normal for restaurants of any type; Perigee had the same option when it was all omakase, and wine pairings were extra.

                                Currently I see that the Omakase at Kasekei is $80-120 depending on the number of courses, and the sake pairings are an additional $35-$45.

                                We did the 6 course with sake pairings about a year ago and I would highly recommend both. It was fantastic exciting food that was different from any Japanese I'd had before, and I certainly did not leave hungry, though I am only an average eater (Michael Phelps would leave hungry). I thought the sake pairings were well worth it: some courses were just straight good-quality sakes, and others were creative cocktails.

                                On the website you can see the extensive list of sakes you can order a-la-carte... like wine, the prices range dramatically from $10 to over $100 depending on the bottle size and quality. So if you're going to have more than a couple sakes each, the pairings would probably be more economical.

                                1. re: Gary

                                  Both myself and my wife left hungry (only ~40% full) with our meals at Kaiseki Sakura, but that's more than a year or so ago. And we are average eater too. But looks like the portion situation has changed from recent post.

                                  I never leave hungry at a kaiseki meal either in North American or Japan. The rice or congee course (the course before dessert) always offers refills (not unlimited but they usually prepare a lot of it so it is almost like unlimited), but that is not the case in Kaiseki Sakura. Quality is average at best, not exciting at all, presentation is amateur at some of our dishes (I gave some details in my previous post in other thread) at the time of our visit when compared to other kaiseki meal I had. Probably it is the best in Toronto (excluding Missisauga) as there is only one in here !