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Jan 16, 2008 07:31 AM

Aoyama Sushi Vs Zen Japanese?

I thought I'd revive this question to see if anyone has eaten at both and if so how they compare. Hounds?

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  1. I would throw in Le Cafe Michi as well in this 'battle'.

    I would pick Aoyma Sushi mostly because it is the closest restaurant to me. However if all 3 restaurants were right beside each other, i'd probably go with Zen, Cafe Michi, Aoyoma in that order.

    I find the Sushi very good at Zen, and more importantly there is a lot of variety. Cafe Michi and Aoyoma have more selection then your average Japanese restaurant (and better quality too) but to me Zen has even more.

    I haven't had too many cooked dishes at these places except for Michi - which was excellent.

    Bottom line for me though, is that all 3 are great and definitely the best in the general area. You can't really go wrong with either.

    1. Omakase at Zen, sorry but my girlfriend has the pictures from the Sushi set at Aoyoma, i'll post it if I can get it.

      9 Replies
      1. re: s0memale

        Thank you so much. That's exactly the kind of information I was looking for. In my not so patient wait for the return of the real Omi's John Lee we've kissed a lot of frogs.

        Hubby & I love Zen, but I thought it was worth asking about the other two. We did the omakase thing there about 2.5 weeks ago. It was sensational and full of surprises courtesy of the variety you mentioned. I have limited experience with Zen's hot dishes, but the ones I've had I've enjoyed. In our last trip we were served sea eel verrrrry lightly graced with tempura that we squeezed a small amount of lemon juice onto, dipped into sea salt, then devoured. Divine. Miso soup which is bland dishwater at most other places was soothing and full-flavoured.

        I guess while we wait for the new location to be secured (I feel homeless without John Lee) we'll content ourselves with Zen as it's near my work and Daio on Carlton as it's near hubby's work and 100% reliable. Daio may not be the experience that Omi, Zen, or Kaji are, but for us it is to sushi what The Keg is to steak. We had another pleasing and relaxed meal there just last night in fact.

        1. re: Googs

          Re Daio: the reason I don't eat at the Keg is because it has a chain mentality and doesn't properly dry-age steak, etc. So, if I went to Daio, would I be musing over my tuna-salmon-unagi platter, "This is just like all the other cheap sushi joints in town"? Is it in fact better than, say, Sushi on Bloor? Is the fish notable in any way?

          I wish I could travel out to Scarborough to eat but I seem to have a mental block in driving further east than Coxwell.

          1. re: Food Tourist

            I compare Daio to The Keg by virtue of it's reliability and consistency. I have never been blown away by it, but I enjoy it every single time. It's very comforting in that regard as I know it will never disappoint me.

            The Japanese sushi chef makes an honest effort to serve authentic Japanese food, but must cater to a certain degree to the Yonge St lunch crowd. He may not have the variety of, say, Zen but you could pose the question "is your Uni fresh today?" and they wouldn't look puzzled. His daughter who serves tables can help you pick out what's fresh. If you know what you're ordering they very definitely step up to the plate.

            I cannot make comparisons to Sushi On Bloor. My context is Omi, Zen, Kaji, Japango, etc. I go to Daio more regularly as I can expect quality and reasonable prices, but I wouldn't say it's cheap. Mid-priced would be more accurate.

            Get over it and make the trip to Zen. Hey, you can go bowling afterwards. How many nights can you combo that?

            1. re: Googs

              could you offer some basic numbers for pricing? ie. how much for a set of # pieces of sashimi? and what could you expect in such a plate?

              daio is more out of the way than 930 but i'd be curious.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                PSP, I wish I could give you a precise answer, but honestly I can't remember the last time we chose either Sushi A or Sushi B from a menu. As far as pricing goes I'd say it's in about the same bracket as Kumai.

                The last time we were at Daio we had just come off a rather bad sushi experience so we went a la carte and treated ourselves to all the comfort sushi. Sometimes it's nice to act like an 8 year old and just eat the fun stuff. For nigiri we had amaebi, hamachi, lobster chopped with a little mayo & topped with tobiko, maguro (they were out of toro that night), mutsu, sake, smoked white tuna, and unagi. Add to that spicy tuna rolls, ungreasy & light tempura, miso soup, and a bottle of fume blanc... I'll tell you we just had to laugh when the server suggested dessert.

                I don't know if I'd consider Daio a destination restaurant, but the next time you find yourself on Yonge St near Carlton it would be worth a look-see. I'll be doing the same with 930 as soon as you clear them for landing.

              2. re: Googs

                Question about Zen: we are going to reserve for next weekend -- are reservations at the sushi bar preferable (as they are at Kaji)?

                1. re: EarlyDrive

                  Our first time @ Zen, my wife and I sat at the end of the sushi bar (it's a L shaped sushi bar, with 2 seats at the end). It was very cozy, such that you can still interact with the chefs, but they aren't right in your face. Plus their chairs are really comfy, we just melted into the chairs, much like their ultra-fresh sashimi melted in our mouths... mmm

                  1. re: Royaljelly

                    Well, that is quite unlike Aoyama, where everyone is ushered to a table, but all tables are close to the sushi chef, and interaction is easy enough. When I was there a week ago, Kendo-San had a cook in the kitchen, for prepping and hot dishes, although it was not busy.

                  2. re: EarlyDrive

                    EarlyDrive, we tend not to sit at the sushi bar, but Royaljelly's suggestion for 2 at the bottom of the L sounds good. We like to get a booth which is really more for 4 people, but we eat and drink enough for 4 anyway. The booths (there are two) are directly in front of the sushi bar so you get a good view. Enjoy!

          2. after just enjoying my first dinner at Zen (after reading all the raves about it), I would say that I'd definitely pick Zen over Aoyama. I wanted to like Aoyama very much, after reading positive reviews about it too, but as mentioned previously, Zen has much better variety, and though service was slightly slow at Zen, both times I was at Aoyama, it was almost painstaking to watch the waitress try to keep up with serving all the tables.

            I had the omakase sashimi at Zen (wonderful) along with a shrimp & veggie tempura appetizer (crisp, light and very tasty), and will definitely be back!

            4 Replies
            1. re: auberginegal

              Loved Zen. We went last night and sat at the 2 chairs at the end of the sushi bar, as recommended. We had a great view of the 2 sushi chefs all evening.

              We used to be very regular patrons of Japango and have been maybe 25 times over the years. Over the last year, however, it seems to have slipped -- the portions have become smaller and there are very few surprises. We find it quite expensive for what you get. Also, Bruce seems a bit tired by the whole thing. We have also been to Kaji and loved it but, to my mind, it's in a different league (quality and price-wise) altogether from any other place in city.

              We've been looking for something to replace Japango. Zen will be our new go-to place.

              To begin, the sake list is quite impressive -- there are perhaps 15 different sakes in various price brackets.

              Two of us shared one Chef's selection of sushi and one of sashimi. Each was $45.

              We first each received a small bowl of edamame. Then miso soup. Then a small bowl of crispy eel bone snacks to have with our sake (they were delicious, tasted a bit like pork rinds, but full of calcium!), then a small bowl of octopus bits, while they were preparing our sashimi platter. Sashimi platter, then sushi platter. All of it was generous, fresh and interesting. There were 3 pieces of tuna belly (2 different cuts) on the platters, but not a single piece of gool ol' tuna. Not a single piece of salmon on either platter. All kinds of fish that was new to me.

              With a bottle of sake (shared), the 2 platters, a tempura ice-cream dessert (not so good), tax and tip, we were under $200.

              It's a 30 minute drive for us from downtown, but well worth the drive.

              Thanks for the tips, hounds!

              1. re: auberginegal

                I'm glad you both enjoyed Zen so much. I was beginning to think I was going to have to stand on top of the building yelling and pointing to get CH's to go there.

                1. re: Googs

                  I am a regular patron of Aoyama and would like to try Zen soon. Is it really hard to reserve a table even on weekday nights?

                  1. re: 325i

                    It hasn't been in the past as long as I've given them 1-2 days notice. I have a feeling that's going to change soon. So many sushi houses... so few capable of this level.

              2. Is Zen open for lunch during the week? Is it the sort of place you can just drop by for lunch/dinner? I am thinking about taking the TTC from downtown sometime soon for a treat as I've been craving good sushi.


                1 Reply
                1. re: youeatwhatyouare

                  Yes, they're open for lunch. I believe that's Tues-Fri only, but best to call and check. I've been during my lunch hour and made it back in time. I've always called first before going to lunch as I can't take any chances with my time so I don't know how necessary reservations are at that hour.

                  For dinner I'd say reservations are a must.

                  Zen 416-265-7111

                  2803 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON M1J2E1, CA

                2. You are going to have to try both. Most people here give Zen a slight edge. I think I would too. However I must confess that personally, for me, I found the quality of the fish better at Aoyama though the variety was much better at Zen, as was the atmosphere.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: abscissa

                    Agree totally, there is much to like about both Aoyama and Zen (and add Michi Cafe to the mix ). East-enders are so fortunate to have all 3 establishments and they each offer slightly different experiences. I find it hard to pick one as an absolute favorite, but tend to go to either Aoyama or Michi more often due to location.