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Dec 16, 2007 02:01 PM

Best fancy Japanese (omakase preferred) in Toronto for cooked dishes (no raw seafood)?

My wife's birthday is coming up and she's a few months pregnant, so I'd like to take her to a nice Japanese resto (preferably something w/ omakase) that will serve her only cooked dishes (nothing raw).

I think Kaiseki Sakura was suggested a few months back, any other places I can call up? I'd prefer something either downtown or as far up as Richmond Hill (i.e. Kaji in Mississauga is a bit too far for us).

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  1. I have not yet been to Kaiseki Sakura, but its a clear favorite of many on this board. The best places for cooked Japanese food that I've been to are Ematai and Nami, with Nami having the more "elegant" atmosphere.

    12 Replies
    1. re: T Long

      Another option is Take Sushi at BCE Place. I think its a bit more "new-school" upscale than Nami. Interestingly I think I read on this board that there may be an ownership connection between Nami and Take Sushi. Neither places are the small quaint little ownership run establishments where the owner is also the sushi chef, but for really decent food in a decent atmosphere, both fit the bill imho. Btw, while I can't vouch for "authenticity" (whatever that means), the food and meal is enjoyable which is what counts for me.

      I think I have the same dilemma that you my spouse shys away from raw sushi also (she will sometimes even dip the raw fish in hot soup like Udon...what a waste), whereas I love the raw stuff....and this is a permanent condition for us, whereas for you it is probably not;)

      1. re: T Long

        When I used the word 'authentic' in my reference to Nami, I was comparing dishes offered by them with similar dishes I had in Japan. As an example, I would expect the broth used in the soba dishes to come from 'ichi' broth made from dried kelp and bonito flakes. Likewise, I would also expect the glazing used in their yakitoris to be reduction from sake infused top soy brewed with bonito addition. ( try Japango's version ). Ikura ( salmon roe ) used in sushi should be prepared by first washing and then marinated in sake, mirin and soy. ( most if not all non-authentic japanese restaurant run by Chinese and or Korean serve this ingredient directly out of 'the box' ). All these I find lacking in Nami's versions. Hence my 'authentic' comment. The 'short-cut' version can still be tasty and enjoyable but, when compare to the real McCoy, the difference is clear!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Hi Charles: Yeah, I think I understand where you are coming from. Vorpal also replied to my "authentic" mini-rant in a separate thread... Both of you have experiences with foreign foods that exceed mine probably quite extensively, so I accept that you can determine whether a food compares favorably or not to how you think it should taste. To the extent that you are trying to share these experiences, I think that is great and is of potential benefit to me (and are interesting reads). But I also think that both of you are the exceptions rather than the rule and that the use of the term authentic is very often misused on this board.

          While it may be interesting whether a restaurant is "authentic", I'm really more interested in whether I will enjoy eating there...the food and the surroundings. I have tried a number of establishments based on recommendations here, and must say that authenticity is not much of an indicator that I will be enjoying my 2 cents.

          1. re: T Long

            Me too, and I agree that "authentic" is bandied about all too often...and while my impression is that Charles has for more foreign experience than I do, I do have a lot of Japanese experience (i.e. I lived there for awhile, in a small town near Tokyo, eating Japanese food every day for a year, in people's homes, in the schools (I was teaching English) and in restaurnats, I and used to go back on business with an expense account).

            Anyhow, while Charles is surely correct in that 'short-cut' versions are not as good as (I'm going to call them) traditionally prepared versions, there are LOTS of places in Japan that use short-cut versions as well, in my experience. Not every Japanese meal is an exquisite zen-like experience of perfectly prepared textures and flavours. Indeed, I've seen just as many people over there wolfing down cut-rate sushi as I have here! On the other hand, most people know the difference between the two, while over here they don't, in general, tend to....

            So in my mind it's less a question of what is "authentic" and what isn't, as it is what is traditional and what isn't, and what is an enjoyable dining experience and what isn't. For example, Hashimoto is not traditional kaiseki. And he's very up front about it (read the website) Rather, he's interpreting kaiseki in a manner that makes it more accessible for people. And as he's a fantastic chef, he makes it all work. But not strictly authentic. Of course, not a shortcut version either.

            In any event, I think in the end we're all of the same mindset (i.e. most people who take the time to post on this board like to eat well), even if we all arrive there using different routes, and different philosophies. My 2 cents.

            1. re: bluedog

              Hello T Long and Bluedog. Totally agree with both your view point! In fact your '2 cents' are worth 'mega-bucks'!!

              1. re: bluedog


                The food at Hashimoto is traditional except that it is not served in a tatami room or served by kimono-clad, yes he makes it more accessible for people but does not mean it is not traditional. This is first sentence in his website :

                "We invite you to come and try the true and traditional taste of Kaiseki. For a genuine dining experience contact us now to make your reservation."

                In fact I have talked to him in person. Hashimoto is serving Kyo-kaiseki if you know what I mean. Not sure why you said the food is not traditional there...

                1. re: skylineR33

                  Also from the website:

                  "Kaiseki cuisine has a reputation of being very expensive and not available to most people so Hashimoto added the word "Yu-zen" after "Kaiseki" in the name of his restaurant. This word "Yu-zen" allows Kaiseki be a little more flexible in the way it is prepared and served. Hashimoto's goal was to let those who enjoy Japanese cuisine also be able to enjoy Kaiseki at a very affordable price. The word "Yu-zen" allows Kaiseki to be prepared according to the customer's tastes. Of course, there is no menu of any sort; ingredients and courses served will be the chef's choice, but changed at the customers request."

                  In other words, he is not serving traditional kaiseki, in the *strict* sense of the word, hence the term "kaiseki yu-zen", which is exactly what I said. Anyhow, it's splitting hairs, which was the original point of my post: who cares if the food is fantastic?

                  1. re: bluedog

                    "This word "Yu-zen" allows Kaiseki be a little more flexible in the way it is prepared and served."

                    I can think of this example, the original and official version of the very popular chinese "Yang Chow fried rice" uses Gin Wah ham, but many restaurants in hk/china use cha siu (bbq pork)because it is more economical as gin wah ham is a more expensive ingradient in comparison. It does not make the dish of yang chow fried rice less authentic if it is "cooked" properly.

                    Also, Hashimoto is not served by kimono-clad and in private tatami room which will increase the cost.

                    I think the intention of Hashimoto is stated very clearly in the first sentence of his website.

                    Anyhow, if you interpret it as non-traditional, then I have nothing to say.

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      Dude, read the post, cause I think you missed the point. Don't want to get into a contest about who knows more about kaiseki. Indeed, I think you PROVED my point with your comment about Yang Chow Fried Rice. I'm not questioning authenticity, but arguing for a broader definition, as opposed to strictly traditional interpretations. Indeed I AGREE with you, just from a different angle.

                      1. re: bluedog

                        We all agree on the broader view, but I simply want to point out what Hashimoto served is not "not-traditional" as stated by your post. Please read the first sentence on its website again and please not try to alter the good intention of it.
                        I think I have a pretty good idea about your knowledge of kaiseki by reading your post.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          Lord. OK. I've had Kaiseki in Japan, but think what you like. I'm happy to admit that you probably know more about this than I do, but I'm trying to take a broader view of things, in light of my own experiences eating in Japan, and here.....

                          I mean, the whole argument was based aorund the view that "authenticity" is often misused. I was not in any way trying to alter the good name and good intention of Hashimoto. I think it is one of the best restaurants in the city, Japanese or not, and highly recommend it to everyone. It was my recommendation to Royaljelly in the first place!!!! One of the things I most admire about it is how he is serving very "traditional" Japanese food but still streamlining it slightly to bring it to a Toronto audience without any loss in "authenticity", as people often narrowly define it. I mean, you said it yourself: no tatami rooms, no kimonos, and "prepared to customer's tastes". He's working in kaiseki without being STRICTLY bound by its formalisms.

          2. re: T Long

            I second Take Sushi. I have only ever been for omakase and my last time there, I recall that only 2 of the 9 courses were raw (one was lobster tail sashimi and the other was the sushi/sashimi course). I'm pretty sure any good omakase place will serve a cooked menu for you as long as you ask them in advance.

        2. Kaji is in west Toronto

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

          2 Replies
          1. re: jayt90

            I think the Kaji omakase is mostly raw. Haven't been recently, though.

            1. re: gps_shag

              The last Omakase dinner I had there, we were offered quite a huge array of stupendous 'cooked food'. They included cream crab croquette, sweet corn 'ravioli', baked oysters in a champagne cream sauce topping, braised winter bamboo shoot, a Japanese surf and turf that featured a lobster tail, a huge scampi and veal tenderloin, a 'foie gras' dish. soba, and b-b-q sea eel!!
              Food quality was still top notch. But for us folks who live way up north, that westerly drive was quite something!!

          2. Hi again Royaljelly! Congradulations! Guess in a few months time, we'll seeing more 2 am postings from you. Ha!
            Solo-sushi-ya a little further up in Newmarket has very good cooked authentic Japanese dishes. Mention your 'all cooked omakase' request to the chef/owner during your reservation and I'm sure he'll go out of his way to accommadate your party. There, your wife can have good cooked food and at the same time you can have good raw stuff as well! Win-win situation! Last time I was there they have an amazing 'conch stew' thats so tender and delicious! BTW, at less than $50/person, its great value for Omakase. Quality of food is very similar to Kaiseki Sakura, may be a bit better in a few dishes. However, Sakura's braised ox-tongue is good!
            PS: In my opinion, Nami's cooked food is not authentic enough Japanese for me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Charles Yu

              I think Solo's cooked dishes are even better than their raw offerings. Their chawanmushi is heavenly, the dashi packs loads of flavours. It is one of my fav hidden gems, very rewarding if you're willing to travel that far north.

              A website has popped up, it is rather bare bones. It does have the archive of Amy Pataki's article on the restaurant.


            2. I thknk the perfect venue for this is Hashimoto, on Dixie Road up near the airport. Very accessible, astonishingly good, and almost never mentioned on this board:


              4 Replies
              1. re: bluedog

                Agree! If Royaljelly don't mind the drive!!

                1. re: bluedog

                  Last time I was there I received more raw seafood than at Kaiseki Sakura. Excellent (as usual), but definitely would recommend Sakura if one is trying to avoid raw food.
                  Sorry, don't know anything closer.

                  1. re: estufarian

                    I'm sure if you informed them of the "pregnancy" requirements they would accomodate.

                  2. re: bluedog

                    Hi RoyalJelly, Kaiseki Sakura is a good choice if you don't want raw seafood and provided there are only 2 restaurants that serves kaiseki in TO area, the sashimi course I had only contains 4 pieces of 2cmx2cm sashimi, I think this portion should have no problem with your pregnant wife. For me, Hashimoto is clearly a better choice.

                  3. If Hiro's wasn't so run down and service surly, I would have recommended it since they had a "kitchen omakase" option on their menu that focuses on cooked dishes. I like the Hashimoto recommendation of others on the board... and I'm sure the kitchen could come up with something to replace raw items on the menu to accommodate a pregnancy. It would be most appropriate to let them know of the circumstances at the time of booking, though, to be sure.