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Sakawaya - How is it now?

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Hey East End Hounds,

I haven't been back to Sakawaya since it changed hands and am wondering about the new owners. Has anyone here tried it out? How is it?

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  1. My wife and I were there last night (Sunday) from around 6:45 till 10:00 pm. We were really disappointed. The food is not as good. Both of us didn't really want to finish the food we ordered, but figured we may as well eat it. During the time we were there, nobody else came in to eat. There was a table of three that were finishing up when we walked in, but after they left around 7:00 we were the lone diners. One couple came in for takeout, but that was it.

    We both noticed how dirty the walls are, they are in need of a thorough cleaning and painting. I was wondering why they don't do that on a Monday when they are closed, they should have painted as soon as they took over. We decided that we won't be back in a hurry, but may try it again in a few months. I was not going to post this negative review, but since you asked...

    7 Replies
    1. re: foodyDudey

      Wow, 3 hours at Sakawaya. Sounds like a marathon meal. Was that by choice, or was the service slow?

      1. re: millygirl

        The service was slow. We were ready to leave much before that. It took about 35 minutes after we finished to get out of there. Even after the waitress brought the bill, she took over 20 minutes to come get the cash. I had to finally ask her to take it, as I wanted to watch the 10:00 pm news. (which was not at 10:00 due to the hockey game)

      2. re: foodyDudey

        Don't write it off just yet, my wife and I have been there twice in the past week and new owner Tsuji-san is making his mark.
        A new waitress is more attentive and fast and the food was very impressive. Fresh sushi aside, Tsuji-san's background is from some of the better Japanese kitchens in the city and his dishes really shine.
        Try his salmon tataki or his eggplant, his miso soup uses more red miso paste that most places...delicious.
        His ramen was a nice surprise as well, very hardy broth that must use beef bones as well as the standard pork...nice twist.
        He has cleaned up the place with new paint and artwork.
        We wish him well.

        1. re: tetsuo

          How does the ramen stack up against the "best" Toronto has to offer? While I've not tried it, I'm not very enthusiastic about a beefy ramen broth.

          1. re: tjr

            Wow...good question, ramen here in Toronto is not as good as back home in Japan, but I would say ramen is best at following places...Konnichiwa and Kenzo.
            The broth is rich tasting at Sakawaya, I thought maybe beef stock but Tsujisan tells me it is all chicken and vegatable. Tastes nice on a cold winter night.
            Last week he said he might bring on Oden for the menu this fall.
            My wife and I look forward to that,

            1. re: tetsuo

              Thank you; I'd be interested in trying his oden.

          2. re: tetsuo

            I was there last week, I think it was Tuesday. It was really quite empty. The food was good, but I thought that the tekka maki could have had less rice and more fish. Otherwise, yes it had improved. He seems eager to please and is quite friendly. I'll go back. It's a lot cleaner there now. He really needs some more business, he won't be able to survive with the place almost empty.

        2. Yeah, my wife and I went there last night and were really disappointed. The izakaya menu has been really chopped - no more selection of yakitori, which was the main reason I used to go there. The two yakitori I managed to order, after our waitress went to the kitchen to find out if they had such a thing, were virtually devoid of taste, and a real buzzkill after my dinner at Yakitori Totto in NY last month. So Sakawaya has become another boring Japanese restaurant. My small less-than-fresh sashimi selection - which they brought before the hot appetizers I ordered - made me kick myself that I just didn't get John's brilliant takeout from Sushi Marché. My wife watched me despondently chew solo, as her cooked maki selection (she's pregnant) came halfway through the appetizers, or I guess in this case "closers." Her california roll didn't have any cucumber in it. I guess it's not in season?

          Service was really bad, including one waitress who not only appears hitherto completely unexposed to the English language, but also isn't comfortable with the universal "point at the menu" trick. Plus I've lived in Japan and know how to pronounce things, so that wasn't the reason. Oh well. I ended up having to bus empty plates to the neighbouring vacant table in order to make room, and then when it came time to pay neither waitress could figure out how to run our chip-embedded credit cards. We ended up just throwing down cash and vowing never to return.

          Such a shame, I really liked the old Sakawaya, it had charm and honest food. I guess it's Ematei or bust for the little Japanese hot dishes that I crave. Someone really should open a proper izakaya in this town. With a yakitori bar too. Just a fun Japanese pub to drink and eat small nibbles and drink some more. Oh what a day that would be.

          1. The new owner Tsuji got off to a slow and awkward start - chopping the menu wasn't the greatest idea in the world, like other posts here, my wife and I do miss some of Koki's appetizers. That said we gave him a chance as we like to support the neighbourhood and our patience has paid off.
            Tsuji and cleaned up and painted the place, it definitely needed and more importantly added a few twists to the menu along with very fresh fish, nightly specials and new upscale resto plates.
            Clearly the best Japanese restaraunt on the Danforth.

            1. I was there last night and went a few weeks ago after I moved into the neighbourhood. The new chef/owner, Yoshi Tsuji, is good and the quality is good. I hope they get busier so they stick around.

              If you want authentic Japanese food at reasonable prices, try Sakawaya. When I was there last night there were two tables of Japanese customers.
              If you want large portions with lots of rice, and all you can eat sushi (basically westernized sushi, less authentic) go somewhere else.

              I had the beef udon last night, and it was good. If you're a foodie, you notice that they take more time to make it look good (like Japanese food should be done) and it tastes good. The Japanese couple beside me had ramen and were commenting on how good the broth was - next time I'm trying that.

              The first time I went, I had salmon tataki, also very good. Portions are not massive, but reasonable for the prices. The service is not the fastest, but I go for the food.

              Also, both times they gave me complimentary miso soup and ice cream. Last night he gave me ginger ice cream with a sesame crunchy candy he had made. Yummy.

              5 Replies
              1. re: janel

                My wife and I were there again last night, we are both from Yokohama and miss much of of the food we grew up eating beside just sushi.
                Since last night was cold we tried Tsuji-san's noodles and liked them very much. His Ramen soup had more meatier taste than most places here in Toronto, he must use both pork and beef in his stock.
                Again it seemed like a quiet night in Sakawaya, I hope business gets better, Tsuji-san's food deserves a bigger crowd.

                1. re: tetsuo

                  tetsuo - I think you and I want the same thing...to see Sakawaya get the business it deserves so it stays in the neighbourhood.

                  For those interested, they have a regular jazz night (not sure when it is, but they invited me to it for this past Wednesday, but I had plans).

                  1. re: janel

                    Yes Janel, I hope fans of Japanese food find their way to Sakawaya. Regular jazz nights are Sundays and features Koji on guitar, he used to play gigs once a month in Sakawaya when Koki-san owned it.
                    We were there again the other night and tried the Salmon Tataki...amazing as was his eggplant dish, hiyayako (cold tofu) and yakatori set.
                    Tsuji-san's sushi and sahimi are always fresh and nice, but the real fun is exploring his dishes from the kitchen.
                    If given enough time, I am sure his food will find the crowd it deserves.

                    1. re: tetsuo

                      My wife wanted sushi last night, so we walked over to Sakawaya. It was 8:30 pm, and the place was deserted. We went to Aji Sai instead, as I don't l like being he only people in a restaurant. I hope it picks up for them soon. Aji Sai had at least 10 customers. I think Sakawaya may just be too close to the "dead zone" on Danforth.

                      1. re: foodyDudey

                        I went a couple of weeks ago with a bunch of hungry guys, and while the food was good, the slow service put a dent in the experience.
                        I suggest going with not a big party.

              2. Any more recent info on this restaurant? Thinking of heading down to the 'forth this weekend. We used to eat at the old Sakawaya at least twice a month, but since moving from the neighbourhood have only returned once, near the end of Koki's regime.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Judson5

                  I'm curious too. We seemed to have run out of options for okay sushi on the Danforth, the only decent place left being AjiSai.

                  1. re: neighborguy

                    I think AjiSai is a pretty good option. That's our 'go to' place.

                  2. re: Judson5

                    My husband and I have ordered numerous times from both Sakawaya and Aji Sai and Sakawaya wins for quality (sushi) hands down. Aki-Da on Queen also good.