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Mid-priced Japanese?

n
neighborguy Aug 3, 2008 04:10 PM

There are a lot of 'cheap' sushi joints in the city with great and not good versions. New Gen imho counts among the great affordable places; by comparison a dinner at Sushi Inn before a flick at the Varsity last night was just okay -- I didn't love it.

At the same time, there are a few more expensive places that I've been reading about lately -- Sushi Marche, Zen, Omi, etc. While I've only experienced the less expensive restaurants I am interested in the experience the better places offer. Good chow is good chow. I read about the subtleties and nuance around ingredients, prep and presentation and it's all something I think I can get into, money aside.

I'm wondering if there are restaurants in between these two polarities, in order for a novice to ramp up to the food and service of the Zens and Kansei Sakuras.

  1. c
    chaptwo Aug 3, 2008 04:26 PM

    You'll think I'm nuts, but having been to Japan 12 times and with a japanese girlfriend, we both totally endorse Prince Sushi at Hurontario and World Drive in Missisauga. It's all you can eat for $ 20 and it is extremely good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chaptwo
      r
      ricenice Aug 27, 2008 11:59 AM

      I love this place. Compared to any other AYCE place it has a sense of authenticity and they take more care in their food. The service can be at time hit or miss but is generally better than other places.

      1. re: omnipotent
        t
        tjr Mar 17, 2009 10:32 PM

        Sounds like a standard AYCE sushi place. The time limit is imposed not because they are busy, but because someone might just sit there all day eating or something (I guess, I'm not trying to defend them for being rude). At AYCE, usually the quality of the food (especially for sushi) isn't going to be wonderful. They won't always have everything on their giant menus either. Service is always notoriously slow and forgetful (again, it is a way for them to save money). There have been very few times I've been to an AYCE sushi restaurant where it has been different.

        I don't like going, but there have been times where I've been dragged along with friends. There was a place called Sushi Star in Hamilton that we went to around the time it opened, and the service was great, there was no time limit, it was incredibly cheap, and the cooked dishes made it to you right away and were fairly decent (the teriyakis and tempuras and stuff). Sushi was as to be expected at that price point, but it was all relatively fresh and the servings were sizable. When I returned with friends again a few months later, everything had changed, and I'm sure the reasons I've just stated are the reasons for the changes.

        Instead of going to AYCE, go to Kumai Sushi and eat less or pay more. The food is much better, though the service can be slow, especially if you don't speak Japanese. Jimbay's is also fairly good, and they have one pot dishes that you have to order ahead of time, but that are good.

      2. jayt90 Aug 3, 2008 08:38 PM

        Speaking of Prince (hotel) their 17 year sushi chef is on his own now at Aoyama and the prices are reasonable, quality very good.

        The trick is to get in when they are not too busy. Call the hostess (wife) Caroline, and be prepared to accept off hours or days. It's worth it.

        -----
        Aoyama
        2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: jayt90
          c
          chaptwo Aug 4, 2008 07:14 AM

          Thanks for the recommendation jayt...I will definitely check it out...

        2. janel Aug 21, 2008 10:22 AM

          Try Sakawaya (Donlands and Danforth) or Aoyama. Both authentic and reasonably priced. Feel free to talk to them about the food as well. The wife/waitress at Aoyama is nice, and the chef at Sakaway is pleasant.

          1. BokChoi Aug 21, 2008 10:55 AM

            Aoyoma is, IMO, more inline with the pricing at Zen. And from your earlier post, you mentioned you considered Zen and Sushi marche a bit on the pricey end (I can sympathize. Wish my pockets were as cavernous as my stomach). It’s just a warning. Also, if you are willing to pay for Aoyoma, I would recommend switching it over to Zen instead. I find that Zen is better and around the same price point. Aoyoma was a bit forgettable IMO, though it’s loved on this forum. To each their own - just a heads-up. Service is great there though - Chef is such a great guy.

            If you don’t care too much for atmosphere and you wanna save $$ - try takeout from J-Town. You don’t have to pay the premium for cut fish from a resto, nor the tip. Here’s one of my earlier posts: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546741

            Another similar option is Taro’s –which used to be in J Town but has since moved. Someone’s posted their new address on chowhound somewhere…just search for it.

            Oh. And if you want something dirt cheap, but up north (far from New Gen) then head to Gal Sushi on Hwy7 and Bayview. Doesn't get much better (at that price point) or cheaper than that. Sashimi Platter for 3 < $30. Not great sushi - but fish is fresh. IMO, it’s a better and cheaper version of New Gen. Just as large and sloppily-cut chunks of fish, just as cheap (or cheaper if you go in a group to get the platter), and décor is just a notch down. Make sure you don’t go to the wrong location – there’s another similarly named one just down the street at Leslie. Haven’t checked that one out yet.

            Cheers and Happy Eating

            3 Replies
            1. re: BokChoi
              abscissa Aug 21, 2008 09:11 PM

              Zen isn't THAT expensive... and Aoyama is slightly cheaper. Some people like to sample fish, some people like to gorge on rice. I think you should try Zen. Aoyama does not have the variety that Zen has (but the fish is excellent--so if you like "standard" fish, ie salmon and tuna, then go to Aoyama, you will taste the difference)

              1. re: abscissa
                sugarcube Aug 22, 2008 05:08 PM

                What do you recommend ordering from Aoyama's menu? (i.e. for lunch)

                1. re: abscissa
                  BokChoi Aug 22, 2008 06:02 PM

                  I'm just stating the price range that neighbourguy posted - from what he said, sushi marche is a bit on the pricier end - and that's not omakase. Hence, I don't know if he assumes that Zen is expensive as an a la carte, or as you state, omakase. "expensive" is a relative term. For someone in school and paying off school loans without a job, Zen is expensive even as an a la carte restaurant. I just wanted to give him a headsup of what to expect when heading to Aoyama. That's all...

                  Cheers

              2. a
                ascendance Aug 22, 2008 09:16 AM

                Zen is very affordable if you go there for lunch. You get a nice platter of sushi or sashimi for around $15. Even for dinner, you get get a good plate for around $25. Not everyone has to do the omokase.

                7 Replies
                1. re: ascendance
                  n
                  neighborguy Aug 22, 2008 08:12 PM

                  Bok choi is right on that expensive is a relative term and I shoulda been more specific....going by my own benchmarks, I think the 12-15 dollars meals at New Generation are fantastic and they are one of the better versions of their genre.

                  Let's say at other restaurants there are mains between $20 and $30, then this is the range I'm aiming for. (I've never had omakase but we've done tasting menus at about $150 pp and I'm not looking for this neccesarily.)

                  1. re: neighborguy
                    BokChoi Aug 22, 2008 09:57 PM

                    neighborguy - Zen would fit your criteria then if you order carefully. If you like cooked food, they come in at around $15-$20 a main. If you go raw, you can range from about $23 to $85 (omakase). Depending on how much you eat, a couple of good rolls (including the fantastic spider roll) will run you about $10-$13 a pop.

                    I dug up my Zen takeout menu and here are some prices of some more 'popular' dishes so you can get a reference point (I haven't really tried many of their cooked main dishes):

                    Beef Teriyaki: $16
                    Chicken Teriyaki: $12.5
                    Sashimi: $23.5
                    Jyo Sushi: $20.5 (tuna, salmon, white fish, yellow tail, shrimp, cuttle fish, flying fish roe, mackerel and tuna roll)
                    Tokujyo Sushi: $27.5 (tuna, salmon, white fish, clam, cuttle fish, BBQ eel, yellow tail, salmon roe and special tuna roll)
                    Apps are about $4.5 (yakitori) to $12.50 (sashimi)
                    makimono prices are about $5.9 for a Cali roll to $13 for a Spider.

                    These are a bit older as I know the most recent menu I saw at the restaurant was a couple of dollars more, but you get the gist.

                    Aoyama is about $2-3 less for certain dishes. But I'd be willing to pay for the premium - Zen has a nicer space (traditional room, and in this case - don't judge a book by its cover. The stripmall looks dubious) and I think the quality of the food (rolls and prepped foods at least) warrant the extra couple of dollars. I have always enjoyed dining there.

                    Cheers and Happy Eating.

                    1. re: neighborguy
                      T Long Aug 22, 2008 11:12 PM

                      Neighborguy: Consider trying all 3 of Scarborough's better Japanese restaurants....Zen, Michi Cafe and Aoyoma (I know its on the other side of Victoria Park and therefore officially N. York). You will have 3 different experiences, but I think all three are quite good....I don't have an absolute favorite as I enjoy all three.

                      1. re: neighborguy
                        e
                        esf2003 Aug 23, 2008 01:08 AM

                        Zen's lunch is a bargain. $15 or so for 9 pieces of good sushi, no reduction in quality as far as I can tell. It's one of the few places in town that doesn't serve that disgusting "whitefish" that gives you the runs. The picture below was from 4 months ago, before I left from Hong Kong. I shot it with my phone camera, but I guarantee you it was excellent.

                         
                        1. re: esf2003
                          BokChoi Aug 23, 2008 07:56 AM

                          Wow. That looks stellar. Is it available during the weekends as well?

                          1. re: BokChoi
                            i
                            I_52_porkoil Sep 19, 2008 09:09 AM

                            I've been to many japanese restaurants within Toronto, and I think Aoyama serves one of the best quality fishes. Their toro is an absolute meltdown in your mouth, and reasonably priced too!
                            I'm not really into 'all-you-can-eat' japanese buffet, it kinda takes the joy of eating japanese food out of the equation

                            1. re: BokChoi
                              hippotatomus Mar 17, 2009 09:23 PM

                              I tried the lunch and it wasn't anything special. They only give you the standard sushi, but I guess at that price point that's all I should expect. However, I really didn't find the quality all that great - it was just normal. Nothing that makes you swoon like the omakase.. ... and if you're going to spend 40 bucks on lunch for two people I would frankly just go to AYCE - or even skip sushi altogether and eat something else.

                      2. p
                        papagorgio Sep 19, 2008 12:47 PM

                        I eat at Ematei on St. Paterick yesturday and it was really tasty, and the interior was very authentic! the sushi chef's were very friendly, and so was my waitress .. and the uni was top notch (my personal guage of sushi resto quality).

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