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More Authentic Japanese Food!

s
so_lovefood Sep 4, 2007 11:02 AM

Since Katsura (along with the whole of prince hotel) got bought out by new management, the sushi chefs upstairs have started their own restaurants.
I just ate at Aoyama (Vic Park/Finch), a new restaurant opened by former head sushi chef Endo-San and his wife. Don't go there for the atmosphere but try the truly amazing expertly made sushi. He uses the best quality fish but doesnt charge Katsura prices. We ordered Omakase in advance and it was something like only $60 per person!! I'm not sure if that pricing is fixed- I suppose it depends on what he makes, but for sure we felt undercharged!! We had octopus & kelp salad with homemade kyoto miso, an omlette-like dish laced with Uni soaking in broth, crab miso soup, sashimi, sushi and sweet melon just to name a few dishes.

The other young chef that used to work at Katsura is now working at Shinobu @ yonge/lawrence. I haven't tried it yet but his sushi at Katsura was also excellent.

Also heard that Sake (pacific mall) is actually starting up their own Omakase room with a Japanese sushi chef too. This is a trend i'm looking forward to!

  1. Royaljelly Sep 4, 2007 11:11 AM

    Do they also have any non-sushi items on the menu to order as well? My wife might be pregnant now and won't be able to eat any of the raw stuff. :( Luckily for me, I can eat it all!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Royaljelly
      s
      so_lovefood Sep 4, 2007 11:20 AM

      I'm sure Endo-san can accomodate anything you ask for. There was someone in our party who had diet restrictions and he immediately changed all of his dishes from that point on!

      1. re: Royaljelly
        lilith Sep 13, 2007 05:49 PM

        I heard that Aoyama Sushi pretty much concentrates on sushi (as the name suggests), and what they can serve other than sushi pretty much depends on how much his wife can help out. One day they might have a dish or two, but other times they might not. So if you are looking for a sushi/sashimi dinner plus maybe one other non-sushi dish then it might work, but if you are hoping for a non-sushi dinner, then Aoyama Sushi probably is not the best option... unless your wife is okay with stuffing herself with only egg nigiri, eel nigiri and California rolls (I believe those would be the only cooked sushi items).

      2. Kagemusha Sep 4, 2007 12:29 PM

        Great tip. Always fond of the old school vibe upstairs at the Prince and really welcome news that the chefs are still afloat. Thanks!

        1. t
          tampopo Sep 5, 2007 06:36 PM

          I enjoyed the sushi at Aoyama as well over the past weekend - was in a hurry, so just had the deluxe plate and tempura on the side. The sushi had small amounts of rice (which I prefer) and eveything was fresh, especially the uni. Their menu had very little cooked items but the tempura was crisp and not greasy at all.

          The restaurant is quite small (seating for only ~20) and filled up rather quickly, so best to make a reservation ahead of time. I must try their omakase next time as it sounds wonderful!

          With many chefs leaving the Katsura, I wonder what that restaurant is like nowadays......I have not eaten there since February and would hate to see its quality go downhill.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tampopo
            lilith Sep 13, 2007 05:40 PM

            I heard from a friend that Katsura does not serve sushi anymore.
            Apparently the people who bought the Prince Hotel laid off all sushi chefs (dunno how many... and Endo-san of Aoyama actually left before he was laid off) because they couldn't afford to or didn't want to keep them. I dunno about the non-sushi chefs but they laid off the people who were earning most (read: more experienced, and likely the better chefs).

          2. sumashi Sep 6, 2007 08:19 PM

            I was able to try this restaurant with a friend of mine tonight. Thank you so much for the recommendation. This is now going to be my new favorite sushi place and it's close to my house to boot :D
            We arrived there around 9:10, which is actually past their closing time, but they warmly welcomed us in and didn't rush us to make an order at all. We decided to go with an omakase, although not a $60 one :) We asked if the chef could make whatever he wanted to for $30 between the two of us.
            We were the only ones there and asked Endo-san if he minded if we watched him prepare the plate. We had a good conversation with him and his wife and as he was making each sushi or roll, he explained what it was and asked whether we've had it before. It was my first sushi bar experience and I really enjoyed it!!
            The final plate came with fatty tuna (toro), red tuna, salmon, yellowtail (hamachi), freshwater eel, sea urchin, shrimp, and raw shrimp. There were also four different rolls : spicy tuna, california, tempura squid w/cucumber and avocado, and a shiso roll (tuna inside rolled with the japanese shiso mint on the outside). He also added extra garnishes like little leaves on top of the salmon sushi ( i forget what it was) and gave a lil plate of carrot slices with sesame seeds. All in all, we also felt like we were being undercharged for the meal!!
            Endo-san and his wife are so sweet, I'm sure it gets really busy during lunches and dinners, but i'm kind of glad I caught them at an empty time or else I don't think I would have been able to enjoy a sushi bar show and conversation with them :) I will remember to come before closing time though!

            4 Replies
            1. re: sumashi
              c
              cat Sep 7, 2007 08:33 AM

              hi
              can you please tell me exactly where this restaurant is located? i would love to give it a try
              thanks.

              1. re: cat
                sumashi Sep 7, 2007 10:07 AM

                Yes, it's actually on Victoria Park, a bit south of Finch.
                I didn't mention that we had trouble finding it and spent a good 15 minutes driving around looking for it since the first plaza that came to mind was the one just east of it, with the LCBO. Then we went north until we hit the chinese plaza and couldn't find it there. Finally, drove south quitr a bit and found it o_O It's at a strip plaza that runs along Victoria Park, just south of the plaza with the Sunoco and a big parking lot.

              2. re: sumashi
                e
                eco987 Sep 7, 2007 07:23 PM

                I went today and order the exact same thing you got; 30 buck for two people. Attached is the camera pic (sorry about the quality of pic) I took of the plate we got. Plus salad and miso soup. Our shared plate had an 8 piece tempura shrimp roll topped with roe, 6 piece spicy tuna roll wrapped in shiso leaf, 6 piece cali roll, and 2 pieces each of the following sushi: fatty salmon with red sprouts, salmon with green sprouts, maguro tuna, 50/50 salmon roe and uni, hamachi, and freshwater eel. We each had out own mound of wasabi and he added some marinated lotus root and carrots to the plate. Quite a steal for $30 plus tax and tip.

                I loved the food so much I also ordered two peices of tamago (egg) sushi and was presently surprised to see the different presentation...Endo-san assured me that his way was the way they did it in Japan 30 years ago. *shrug* Who am I to argue, it was super yummy and there was so much more egg than what I normally get.

                If you're looking for the place it is south of Finch on Vic Park. You will see the Van Horne Plaza with the Sunoco and the Value Village. The plaza touching and just south of that (with the KFC) is the place you are looking for.

                 
                 
                 
                1. re: eco987
                  sumashi Sep 8, 2007 08:36 AM

                  That's great :D I'm glad that you liked it as well.
                  Your plate looks almost the same as mine.
                  I wanted to take a picture when he was done, but I didn't have my camera unfortunately. That shiso roll was good.. I love mint :)
                  What time did you go and was it busy when you went?

              3. T Long Sep 8, 2007 01:28 PM

                Went for lunch today (Saturday)....very nice place. Had the sushi combo B and Udon. Thank-you for the recommendation...this will be one of my go-to places.

                14 Replies
                1. re: T Long
                  kerwintoronto Sep 9, 2007 05:42 PM

                  aoyama sushi
                  2766 Victoria Park Avenue
                  North York, ON

                  416-494-7373

                  No luck tonight (no rezzies, Sunday) but at least I got their business card.

                  1. re: kerwintoronto
                    sumashi Sep 10, 2007 08:07 AM

                    Hi kerwin,

                    I was going to be in town to meet friends on Sunday and was going to have dinner at Aoyama. Do you mean that they're open, but they don't take reservations and it was too full so you didn't eat there? Do you happen to know what time they're open on Sunday?

                    Thanks!

                    1. re: sumashi
                      T Long Sep 10, 2007 08:17 AM

                      Aoyama's posted hours are: Lunch 12-2:30, Monday to Saturday, closed for lunch on Sunday. Supper: 6 - 9pm daily. Not sure if they take reservations, but suspect they may, worth trying for sure. Seating capacity is 20 seats (I counted).

                      1. re: T Long
                        sumashi Sep 10, 2007 08:33 AM

                        Thank you T Long!
                        It's for my b-day so I'm hoping they'll take it :)

                        1. re: sumashi
                          s
                          so_lovefood Sep 10, 2007 09:22 AM

                          I thought I was the only (crazy?!) one who felt the need to pull out my camera... see below a pic of the sushi course we had for my sister's birthday.

                           
                          1. re: so_lovefood
                            skylineR33 Sep 10, 2007 09:25 AM

                            May I ask why is it so special regarding the sushi in the pic ? Is there any special kind of fish there ? It is not showing very clear ...

                            1. re: skylineR33
                              s
                              so_lovefood Sep 10, 2007 09:45 AM

                              Oops sorry I forgot to explain that I wanted to show the size of the pieces of sushi- there's definitely no skimping on the fish. But of course nothing can describe the melt in your mouth sushi. The first piece is Toro, which is harder to get these days especially at such a good price. We had more "common" sushi: tamago, maguro (tuna), hamachi, sweet shrimp, uni, etc. We also had special kind of clam sushi that i've never seen before. It wasn't mirogai but a smaller type of clam (I dont have a picture because that was from the 2nd time we went).

                            2. re: so_lovefood
                              sumashi Sep 11, 2007 08:47 PM

                              I'm happy! I got my reservations for this Sunday night :)
                              I'll be bringing my camera this time since we'll be ordering for about 8-10 people. Should be good...! Will post pics after....

                              1. re: sumashi
                                T Long Oct 18, 2007 03:30 PM

                                Hey Sumashi: Did you post any followup on your birthday supper at Aoyama?

                                1. re: T Long
                                  sumashi Oct 18, 2007 10:22 PM

                                  Sorry, I was bad and didn't post a follow-up .... !
                                  We got there on Sunday night and they already had the tables together and reserved for us. We were given menus but Endo-san suggested we go with a random omakase that he'll put together. Six of us went with that while the other two stuck with ordering off the menu.
                                  First came the requisite salad and miso soup. I have to say that I really love the dressing on their salad much better than the usual vinegary dressing you find at most places.
                                  Next came the sushi boats (picture 1). There were two identical ones so each boat was for 3 people. There was salmon, fatty tuna, squid, sea urchin (inside the cucumber cups), salmon roe (inside cucumber cup), surf clam, and *i think* yellowtail, but not sure. can somebody ID it on the left side of the pic? It was a good mix and the quality was good.. fresh :) And the leaves on the boat are shiso leaves.. i looove shiso...

                                  Next were the handrolls, one per person... there was a good amount of spicy fatty tuna in each roll. (picture 2)

                                  Next came the individual sushi plates. (picture 3) Each plate had salmon, red snapper(?), shrimp, fatty tuna, bbq eel, and 3 pieces of california roll.

                                  Last of course was the green tea ice cream.. which I didn't take a pic of :P ...forgot, but we all know what that looks like, right? hehe..
                                  It was $20 for those of us who chose to go with the omakase. We spent about 2 1/2 hrs there total.. each dish was brought out with good timing in between. Being a group of young 'uns in our mid-20's taking up half the restaurant, we were kind of loud and noisy at times during the evening. However, we were not rushed at all and, as always, the service was excellent.

                                   
                                   
                                   
                                  1. re: sumashi
                                    skylineR33 Oct 19, 2007 09:19 PM

                                    Hi sumashi, thanks for the review. Just have a question.

                                    Do you mean the food in the 1st pictures are for 3 people and the 3rd picture are per person ? And it is $20 (without tax + tip ) per person for the omakase ?

                                    1. re: skylineR33
                                      sumashi Oct 20, 2007 09:42 PM

                                      No probs. Yes, you're right...
                                      The sashimi boat in the first picture was shared between 3 people.
                                      One handroll per person in the second picture.
                                      The sushi/maki plate in the third picture was given to each person.

                                      And the $20 wasn't including tax/tip.

                                    2. re: sumashi
                                      genie81 Feb 17, 2009 07:50 AM

                                      haha i see a part of me in the second picture (ie. the handrolls). i loved the omakase there!

                          2. re: sumashi
                            kerwintoronto Sep 11, 2007 03:45 PM

                            Sorry...

                            Yup, they were open.
                            They DO take reservations...recommended!!
                            It was full and they were fully booked for the night so we didn't dine there.

                      2. p
                        pammycakes Sep 10, 2007 11:47 AM

                        I lived in Japan for 5 years and my husband is Japanese, so I guess we're pretty in tune with authenticity. Our favourite place is Sushi Kaji on the Queensway, but it's expensive (cheapest set is $80). What lots of people may not know though is that Kaji now operates a small sushi bar in the back of Le Cafe Michi (a Japanese style coffee shop) at a strip mall around Pharmacy and Finch. It’s a ‘poor man’s version’ of sushi Kaji, but is still great.
                        Another place we really like is Zen at a different strip mall in Scarborough, this one at Eglinton East and McCowan (which makes it close enough for the Japanese workers at Honda to head there for lunch). Not crazy about their kitchen but their sushi is probably second on my list and omakase is about $50-$60 (plate is around $25).
                        Finally, if you’re downtown, both Sushiman (Richmond and Victoria) and Ichiriki (Bloor/Church) are reasonable and authentic. Sushiman is also quite a character which makes sitting at the bar pretty fun.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: pammycakes
                          c
                          cowhound Sep 10, 2007 12:02 PM

                          Sorry, but Kaji severed ties with Michi about six months ago.

                          1. re: cowhound
                            p
                            pammycakes Sep 10, 2007 12:16 PM

                            Really? Had no idea. We took my husbands parents (visiting from Tokyo) there a month ago and they were suitably impressed.

                            Ematei off Queen West also has some of the best "authentic" atmosphere, but I find the food a bit hit a miss (last time it was a hit).

                            1. re: pammycakes
                              k
                              kaka Sep 10, 2007 12:46 PM

                              I've been to Zen, and Ematei. They are both pretty good to me. Kaji is just out of my budget although I would like to go there one day.

                              I'm thinking of taking a friend out for a birthday dinner this weekend. He's been to Japan many times, and is only interested in authentic food (more cooked dishes than sashimi) Just wondering which one would you recommend? Aoyama, Sushiman or Ichikiri?

                              Thanks!

                              1. re: kaka
                                p
                                pammycakes Sep 10, 2007 06:56 PM

                                I haven't been to Aoyama, so it's hard for me to comment (though I've been to Katsura which I thought was good but my husband thought was nothing to write home about).

                                I think Sushiman is the best time if you sit at the counter, as the master is quite a prankster, but I feel the kitchen at both Ichiriki and Sushiman are good bets.
                                The raves about Aoyama and the value for money reputation it's garnering, make me want to check it out. None of them, by the sounds of it have spectacular atmosphere. Such, seems to be the fate of good Japanese in Toronto.

                                I'm still waiting for someone to open a really good Izakaya. The restaurant of the same name on Front Street is, to me, expensive and overrated, especially if you compare it to Hapa in Vancouver (cheap, chic and delicious!).

                                1. re: pammycakes
                                  skylineR33 Sep 10, 2007 07:32 PM

                                  Both Zen and Cafe Michi are good and good value. But I found Cafe Michi is a better deal.

                                  Their $28 dollar Chirashi Sushi includes salad, a piece of cake from J Town and a coffee. The chirashi includes uni, scallop, kampachi, sweet shrimp, Blue fin tuna (the special of the night I went)......., a total of more than 20 pieces of sashimi. Very fresh fish ! I am impressed (thanks to the recommendation from Charles Yu !)

                                  The sushi or sashimi omakase at Zen is $48.

                                  For me, the sushi/sashimi at Cafe Michi has better value than Japango, Zen and Ichiriki. And Yes, Cafe Michi is not with Kaji anymore for a few months already.

                                  1. re: skylineR33
                                    a
                                    ace123 Sep 11, 2007 04:09 PM

                                    Besides the Chirashi Sushi for $28, here is what you can get for $20 at Cafe Michi. It includes also a salad, a small slice of cake and coffee/green tea.

                                    The fish is ultra fresh.

                                     
                                2. re: kaka
                                  T Long Sep 10, 2007 08:45 PM

                                  I've been recently to Aoyama and Sushiman. Aoyama specializes in raw offerings, and has very few cooked menu items. Sushiman has a more balanced offering, but Nami on Adelaide, E of Yonge seems to have much more cooked menu items, and specializes in Robata (not sure of spelling). Decor/atmosphere at Nami blows away Sushiman or Aoyama if that is a factor. Not at all sure of authentic tag, but I enjoyed it more than Sushiman.

                          2. tawnyport Sep 10, 2007 04:48 PM

                            Estufarian told us about this treasure this weekend.

                            Unfortunately, Endo-san would not do an Omakase for us.

                            The recommendation was to give him at least seven days notice so that he can prepare a proper dinner.

                            The 17 piece Sashimi dinner was a deal for both price and quality.

                            Tawnyport

                            1. lilith Sep 11, 2007 10:41 PM

                              I just read a review on Mamma Magazine (a local Japanese monthly magazine for nursing parents) that Aoyama's omakase starts at $50.

                              1. a
                                ace123 Sep 13, 2007 06:11 PM

                                I went to Aoyama for lunch this week. I ordered the chirashi which was ok. My friend ordered a bento box set lunch. The tempura in the set lunch was so so. The batter was thick & not crispy. The tempura I had last week at Sagano was very good. The shrimp was juicy & the batter was crispy.
                                There were only Edo-san & his wife working there. His wife was the waitress. Besides manning the sushi counter, he has to go to the back to prepare cooked items as well.
                                In that neighbourhood, I prefer Cafe Miche.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ace123
                                  T Long Sep 23, 2007 12:28 PM

                                  Just back from Cafe Michi at lunch. Very enjoyable meal. Somewhat different experience than Aoyama Sushi. Both good sushi value. Michi has more menu selections, expecially non sushi. Michi has also larger seating capacity (about 50% larger). Aoyama has the more basic decor and the final bill is likely to be less. I think the sushi itself is about equivalent in quality. I will return to both places...perhaps the deciding factor will be whether I feel like a piece of cake with my meal, which Michi seems to have with each combo package...

                                2. p
                                  Paradocs Oct 3, 2007 01:28 PM

                                  My friend took me to Aoyama last night. We went a little later than the dinner rush so there weren't any other people there. The chefs wife was really nice and he even came out and talked to us about the dishes and what was special about it all. We're young though, so it probably seemed like we were pretty novice when it comes to food - which I don't deny.
                                  From what I could tell though, it's hands down the best sushi I've ever had.

                                  Having usually eaten AYCE or some actual dish, it was interesting going in for something that was much closer to a la carte.

                                  1. abscissa Oct 3, 2007 06:23 PM

                                    I was inspired, based on the postings here, to try the sushi there. It was AMAZING. Would be one of the top 3 that I have tried in Toronto and FOR THE PRICE I would say it was the best. Their menu is, indeed, very limiting though. Also why do they have California rolls on the menu? That looks really tacky.

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