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Sushi Kaji (Pictures)

abscissa Nov 19, 2007 08:41 AM

Well that is the last time I ever go to Kaji. Prossibly one of the worst dining experiences of my life.

I had written a pretty scathing review but I do not want to disrupt the fanbase here, so I will just list some highlights.

- bought a round of drinks for the staff and only got one "thank you"
- we were hurried through the meal. One course was even served to us before we had finished the last!
- we were left alone at the sushi bar for most of the meal
- half the time, we had no clue what we were eating. Nobody explained anything to us
- left hungry

The best sushi place I have eaten at in Toronto is Aoyama (review with pictures here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/452697). Top quality fish and ATTENTIVE service. Save yourself a mortgage payment and "suffer" through soy sauce that isn't home made... the fish is so good there that you won't need the soy sauce anyway.

$540 for two people after tip. Yes, you read that number correctly. Instead of buying drinks for the staff, we would have been wiser to order two "tasting menus" for each person.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/68226972...

  1. a
    Apprentice Nov 19, 2007 10:32 AM

    Sorry to hear that. Seems completely opposite to my previous experiences at Kaji, including this Sept. I hope it's not a sign of things to come and just a one of the mishaps that happen at restaurants.

    Can't say anything about receiving "only" one thank-you. How many would be enough? Do you perform a good deed for the reward?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Apprentice
      abscissa Nov 19, 2007 10:43 AM

      What I mean is that nobody bothered to thank us except the sous-chef. Because we were eating late (our reservation was at 8:45) literally half the people who worked there went into the back room (including Kaji himself) never to be seen again. It was almost embarrassing sitting at the bar staring at a wall. Now I'm not asking for someone to come out and juggle for us, but at the very least someone could explain what we were eating, the proper way to eat it, etc. At Aoyama the chef sat us specifically within his eyesight and each course came with detailed instructions which was very helpful. That is what I consider attentive service.

      Maybe I sound a bit picky but I am sorry, for that kind of money dinner had better be perfect. Otherwise what are you paying for?

      1. re: abscissa
        a
        Apprentice Nov 19, 2007 11:55 AM

        I think the last 4 points in your orignal post are all valid complaints, I would expect the same. As I said I'm very surprised and feel bad for you because that has not been my experience.

        How did you enjoy the food itself?

        I will look to dine at Aoyama shortly.

        1. re: abscissa
          OnDaGo Nov 19, 2007 11:56 AM

          many times after the prime dinner hour is when chefs start thier stocks and sauces for service the next day or plan out the next menu. I could just be that timing of your meal that caused the problem.

          As the last customers of the night and seeing that the cut everything fresh it is not like the chef would have anything to do but stare at you as you ate :-)

          1. re: OnDaGo
            Full tummy Nov 19, 2007 12:44 PM

            While I understand your point, that the chef may have not wanted to stare at the customers, that doesn't excuse the lack of explanation of what they were eating. The chef himself could have presented his creations and explained them before departing until he brought the next course out. If the chef isn't prepared to give that kind of customer service for that kind of an order at that time of night, then the restaurant shouldn't allow diners to sit at the bar, after all isn't that was the bar at a sushi restaurant is for?

            1. re: Full tummy
              abscissa Nov 19, 2007 01:25 PM

              You have perfectly articulated what I was thinking. In fact I had specifically ASKED about dining late and they assured me we were most welcome.

      2. Kagemusha Nov 20, 2007 10:54 AM

        That's late for Kaji. That said, Kaji doesn't deliver the song-and-dance routine some sushi joints do. Did you ask what he recommended? Did he suggest an omakase presentation? Didn't you know the prices? Probably unfair but I wonder what was up with you since I've seen Kaji and staff be very kind to customers who were uncertain about what and how to order. I've never had a bad night there but haven't dined that late, either.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kagemusha
          Full tummy Nov 20, 2007 05:08 PM

          I don't know what you mean by "song-and-dance", but when I ate at Kaji a number of years ago, he and the other chef working with him were quite amusing, engaging in all kinds of antics with those at the bar, including lathering up their hands with I don't remember exactly what now and then pretending to shake hands with the regulars, but instead spreading the viscous substance up and down their arm, to everyone's apparent delight -- thankfully nobody tried to do that to me or anyone in our party... They also carved flowers out of fruit for all the women at the bar. It was quite the show.

        2. JamieK Nov 20, 2007 11:18 AM

          +

          -----
          Sushi Kaji
          860 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z1N7, CA

          1. d
            detritus Nov 20, 2007 11:42 AM

            How exactly did the bill get to $540?

            I think the most expensive omakase menu there is $120/person. That's $320 for two including tax and a 20% tip. You must have been buying the staff some pretty top-shelf drinks.

            3 Replies
            1. re: detritus
              abscissa Nov 20, 2007 12:07 PM

              Bill before tip was roughly $480 (I would have to check the receipt -- which I have in case there are doubters). We bought drinks for everyone on staff. Kaji and the sous-chefs had another drink with us, then recommended some sort of scotch and soda -- in which they joined us as well. The sake they brought us was some of the most expensive. But I'm not complaining about the alcohol bill.

              What I am complaining about is the fact that we neglected the whole time. We should have moved to a table so we could at least sit facing each other because watching everyone spray down the counters was quickly unexciting.

              I ASKED POINT BLANK, when I made the reservation, about the dining experience if we chose to eat late. "Oh yes, it's ok it's ok" was the response. They could have said instead "Sorry, no reservations after 8 PM" or something.

              The quality of the food was exceptional. I think you will find I never complained about that. BUT there was no personalized service and I think it wouldn't be too much to ask for a special dish from Kaji on the house. He was probably doing prep work in the back but we joked that he had left and gone to sleep.

              I told the chef at Katsura that there's was some of the best sushi I had in a while and we got free desserts, even though we only spent $60-70 pp. I am not looking for freebies or anything but to me, that lets me know the chef acknowledged the compliment and he appreciates it. At Aoyama they gave my date some flowers and they could clearly see we were really really enjoying the fish.

              By the way, the person I was at Kaji with is not too versed in Japanese etiquette and when Kaji handed him the first course he tried to receive it with one hand and Kaji refused to give him the plate. I thought that was shocking quite frankly. I also had one of my sushi pieces stolen because my dining partner was really hungry and frustrated by the end of the meal.

              I have no clue what some of you think that the premium at expensive restaurants is for. It's very little to do with the ingredients. If you are paying top-dollar and not getting a top of the line experience, one really needs to eat elsewhere. Frankly I would have been just as happy eating pizza at home.

              1. re: abscissa
                p
                phisherking Nov 20, 2007 05:02 PM

                I'm sorry you had such a terrible time but to be honest your pictures looked like quite a lot of food. I've always left stuffed from kaji. Some of your points are rather strange... you said you were completely ignored but you also said that Kaji and his sous had another drink with you?? When you dine from a set menu how is it possible to get free stuff?? the menu was already written. Kaji himself is really quite a card, as I could tell from your photos, on several occasions he has handed us food and then taken it away in a joking manner. Perhaps you misinterpreted his strange ways. And yes premium prices are usually always related to the quality of the ingredients, and good service on top of that.

                1. re: abscissa
                  p
                  pammycakes Nov 29, 2007 08:36 AM

                  "I have no clue what some of you think that the premium at expensive restaurants is for. It's very little to do with the ingredients."

                  I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but I have to tell you, with Kaji, it really is very much ALL about the ingredients--why else would you go to a strip mall in Etobicoke? Unlike other sushi joints, Kaji really does track down the best of the best in terms of his ingredients. My husband is from Japan and has taken many of his Japanese clients there who have all been thoroughly impressed with the quality of the food. You'd pay a heck of a lot more for the same meal in Japan I can assure you.

                  As for buying a round of drinks, it's really not customary to do so in Japan or to tip at all for that matter. I'm not saying you shouldn't receive a thank you, but it's not necessarily all that surprising to me that you didn't receive the 'gratitude' you were expecting.

              2. T Long Nov 20, 2007 02:01 PM

                Hi abscissa: Have you been to Japango downtown recently....would be interested in your opinion....especially how it compares to a place like Aoyama.

                9 Replies
                1. re: T Long
                  skylineR33 Nov 20, 2007 02:34 PM

                  Eventhough I have never buy a round of $$$ drink for the staffs (highly doubt will ever do this in the future), I feel sorry for your experience. Looks like you really like Aoyama. I want to try it out to see if it is real good. I also would like to know how it compare to say .. Zen and Japango in terms of quality ?

                  1. re: skylineR33
                    T Long Nov 22, 2007 04:56 PM

                    Note the Star's recent review of Aoyama.... http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/...

                    1. re: T Long
                      pinstripeprincess Nov 23, 2007 05:50 AM

                      it's interesting that the caption for the photo is:
                      "The fish he serves may be the freshest in the city."

                      and her only complaint of the meal is that the uni was pungent and the tuna not fresh.... this is one bad fish experience out of how many good ones could we surmise?

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess
                        jayt90 Nov 23, 2007 06:06 AM

                        The caption may be written by an editor with or without input from Pataki or Lautens.

                        1. re: jayt90
                          pinstripeprincess Nov 23, 2007 06:51 AM

                          i didn't know that, thanks.

                          1. re: pinstripeprincess
                            jayt90 Nov 23, 2007 07:03 AM

                            I can't speak for the Star, but a lot of people work on the page, against a deadline, and an editor would normally approve it or re-write it.

                        2. re: pinstripeprincess
                          Googs Nov 23, 2007 08:30 AM

                          While it's true that captions and headlines are written by another, they generally paraphrase the writer. Here's Pataki's quote "...standing behind a display of what could be the freshest fish in landlocked Toronto."

                          1. re: Googs
                            jayt90 Nov 23, 2007 08:42 AM

                            Googs, you have pointed out the dissonance perfectly. Would you go to a sushi place with fresh fish but also suspect uni or tuna? Or is the review suspect? I think I'd give the place a chance, and thank Pataki, with all her faults, for telling us about it.

                            1. re: jayt90
                              Googs Nov 24, 2007 11:38 AM

                              I'd suspect Pataki's nose. It's back in the news today.

                  2. b
                    bluedog Nov 23, 2007 09:28 AM

                    So, out of curiousity, if the experience was so bad, why'd you buy the staff drink in the first place??? I'd think that with things starting out so poory and ending so badly, it might have been a night to walk out without leaving any sort of tip at all, let alone buying the house a round!

                    1. j
                      JohnnyBooy Nov 24, 2007 05:51 AM

                      It was very nice of you to buy the staff a round of drinks.
                      I have been a huge fan of Kaji in Toronto (I'm a New York native), but if your review is true I will not defend them on this one.

                      Should go to New York for Yasuda!

                      1. h
                        hungryhungryanne Nov 30, 2007 11:07 AM

                        I would have expected a lot of bowing!

                        1. toronto_tommy Mar 8, 2008 12:06 PM

                          Abscissa is right. I went there last summer (4 or us) and the bill was well over $600. The dinner menu consists of three entrees, the cheapest being $80. Had to ask for sake all the time as wasn't kept coming. Would I go back. I don't think so. Too expensive. I like sushi, as long as it doesn't move on my plate, as a couple of pieces did.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: toronto_tommy
                            fragrant delecti Sep 14, 2008 10:48 AM

                            I beg to differ with the neg reviews. Went to Kaji for the first time in August for the omakase with high expectations. Sat at the sushi bar to be in on the action and experienced a succession of dishes that were exemplary in freshness, presentation and imagination. By comparison, far superior IMHO to omakase at Hiro, Omi (in its heyday) Zen, Sakura Sekai. The servers patiently described each dish and Kaji himself is immensely personable and quite the ham behind the bar. Yes, pricey but at that level -- worth every penny.

                            1. re: fragrant delecti
                              fragrant delecti Sep 14, 2008 10:51 AM

                              Oh and a few pictures to prove my point. Lobster sashimi with gold flakes...etc.

                               
                               
                               
                               
                              1. re: fragrant delecti
                                skylineR33 Sep 14, 2008 03:06 PM

                                Maybe you should also added the fact that Kaji's omakase is double the price or more than the one at Zen and they are two different kinds because the one at Zen is only sushi or sashimi and Kaji`s concentrate on cooked food. I suppose you mean Kaiseki Sakura when you said Sakura Sekai, it is kaiseki type of Japanese cuisine.

                            2. OnDaGo Sep 14, 2008 10:52 AM

                              Maybe he was disturbed by you taking pictures? did you ask permission first?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: OnDaGo
                                fragrant delecti Sep 14, 2008 11:04 AM

                                If you mean my pictures, then no, not at all. If anything, Kaji san wouldn't stop posing -- very funny guy and quite charming to us.

                                And I'm pretty discreet with the camera -- no flash etc. It's a thing my girlfriends and I like to do -- to have fun documenting our culinary expeditions.

                                1. re: fragrant delecti
                                  OnDaGo Sep 14, 2008 12:03 PM

                                  Sorry I meant the original poster, as a reason why maybe Kaji was not behind the bar as much as they would like...

                              2. Bobby Wham Sep 15, 2008 09:39 AM

                                Ah too bad, why did you buy a round of drinks for the staff? Why do people do this at Kaji, we've been there a few times and never do this, we always get great service and everything explained to us, I feel sorry for you, you paid an absurd amount of money for 2 people.

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