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J-Town ~ Open Now: Sakana-Ya & Famu (+ photos)

I stopped by J-Town yesterday because I was craving some nice fish and had yet to check out the new offerings in town in the spot now vacated by Taro’s fish. Let’s say I was very pleasantly surprised by what has popped up in the now defunct dishware store and former Taro spot.

In their places sprang up two excellent purveyors of fine, fresh foods. Though I have yet to sample Famu’s meat, their cuts look fantastic. The aged meats they offer look delectable and I will definitely return at a future occasion to try them out. The meat seems on par with other higher-end butcher shops (Cumbrae comes to mind) and looks fabulous. They offer US Kobe, as well as naturally raised Angus Beef that has been well aged and the colouring is fantastic and its exceptionally marbled. I have posted some photos so you can see what I mean. The store also offers Berkshire Pork and advertises itself as the only Japanese Butcher Shop in the city. There was a man there that spoke to me for a bit of their aging process and the natural raising of their animals and it sounded like it had a lot of potential. They just opened two weeks ago and I cannot wait to give it a try. There are some prices on the labels in the photos so you can get an idea of what the prices are.

Beef Selection: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Berkshire: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

Then I made my way over to the store which was the real reason why I headed to J-Town – Sakana-Ya. All I can say is WOW. The fish looks fresh, and there were a lot of exotic items that I have not seen around town elsewhere. Their fish is flown in daily, as the counter-lady explained to me and they have specialties each day. This time I sampled an tantalizing mini squid platter. Once you remove the eyeballs, you pop them in your mouth and they burst with flavour. They were not at all what I expected (I thought it was going to be your typical calamari dish, but I was dead wrong). I would definitely recommend trying this dish if you are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary. I am not sure of the Japanese name, but the lady told me they were squid.

Baby Squid: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

I also sampled their sashimi platter, which had your basic culprits: Salmon, Tuna, Hamachi, Ika and Fluke…but the taste sensation was multiplied ten-fold. The tuna was buttery-smooth and had no tough sinewy-strands that I sometimes find in my sashimi (rarely, but it’s still there at times). The salmon was full of flavour, the Ika crunchy and the hamachi – amazing. I also sampled their Horse Mackeral, which was the entire fish, sliced up sashimi-style. It was light in flavour and not too oily. It was topped with fresh chives/green onion and ginger. Their uni was also solid – though I prefer my uni to be a bit more firm in texture and have those ridges/bumps on the surface to add variation. This one melted in your mouth, which is a different, yet also very appealing sensation. No complaints.

Horse Mackeral: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Uni: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...
Conch(?): http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

Overall, I will definitely be more of a regular to J-Town after discovering these two purveyors. The price seems in line with other high-end food stores, and the quality is top-notch. Everyone has their favourite food-fixes, so I would be happy to hear of where everyone else gets their foodie-fix.

Now if only the black-sesame ice cream maker hadn’t left…

Slideshow link including other offerings from J-Town: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28531775...

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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  1. I have had their prepared horse-mackeral ($3.99 for a decent piece with rice a dumpling and some veg), and it was the best mackeral I've had (was grilled with some teriyaki sauce on it). I bought some frozen to go (reasonably priced at $3 for 3 pieces) and cooked it up for my father-in-law who loves mackeral and he also quite enjoyed it (though this was simply BBQed with no sauce). Both the prepared and frozen were much less oily then I am used to from mackeral but very high in flavour.

    1. Love your pictures. Thanks. Will definitely go this weekend. I used to love the clam and scallop sashami at Taro. Plus the udon and curry pork rice at the cooked food counter as well.

      1 Reply
      1. re: caitlink

        Thanks caitlink. They did not have scallop sashimi last time at the new shop that replaced Taro. Hope they will have it soon though, as I am quite addicted to it!

      2. I tried Sakana-Ya and felt it did not live up to the hype, we made the trip down to Taro's new location on Sheppard and were pleasantly greeted by old familiar faces. Love their new place and fine selection of fish.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tetsuo

          where exactly is the new Taro's location on Sheppard? I thought the place vanished!

          1. re: oohlala

            Taro has moved to Sheppard, just west of Leslie. It's been replaced by the aforementioned fish shop at J-Town.

        2. I got the Berkshire chops from Famu and tried it this past Saturday, just salt and pepper nothing else. It was pretty good, but sliced too thin, would have liked it to be a bit thicker.
          Will probably try the Wagyu this weekend.

          The quality at Sakana-Ya seems to have gone down from 2-3 weeks ago but don't take my word for it, I am only judging visually....

          1. I am sorry I keep on comparing Taro's and Sakana-ya, but here goes another one.

            I have the feeling the staff (or at least one of the ladies) at Sakana ya is inexperienced with working in a fish store.
            I wrote on another thread that the first time I was at Sakana-ya the sashimi didn't look very fresh, but the other day I was there they were okay. I picked up a plate of madai (sea breams) and a few other items, and asked if I could pay now and pick up later, after an hour or so. I often did this with Taro's because I want to get fish before the best ones sold out, then shop for other things.
            Anyhow, the lady said that was okay so I left the plastic bag with her and headed off to Heisei Mart and Bakery Nakamura, and then went back to Sakana-ya to pick up my fish... and what do I see? My plastic bag sitting on the counter. I politely mentioned that I would have liked them kept in the fridge and she looked at me funny like I was asking her to bend over backwards (or maybe I was...?)
            I didn't think I even had to ask to have the sashimi kept in the fridge because 1) I had told her that I'd come back in an hour, not in 5 minutes; and 2) Taro's people always did that without my asking, even when I told them I'd be back in 5 minutes (which is why I simply assumed that would have been the standard for fish shops that dealt with sashimi and other to-be-eaten-raw-fish-items, but I guess I was wrong and Taro's people were just being nice).

            Another reason I suspected that the lady wasn't experienced with fish was when she was checking prices on some of the trays I got she laid her fingers right on the price tag, i.e. touching the fish. That's not a good way to handle sashimi trays...

            I sure hope they train their staff right and teach tell them not to touch the sashimi trays the way they do now, or otherwise I won't give them a third chance.

            2 Replies
            1. re: lilith

              sorry to hear you had a bad experience, lilith. I have only been there once, though I plan to return in the near future as I had a very pleasurable experience last time. The baby squid I tried were fantastic and I found that the variety was definitely not lacking with respect to their offerings. I hope they can redeem themselves in your eyes.

              1. re: BokChoi

                We took one look at Sakana-Ya and went straight down to Taro on Sheppard and have been there 4 times since...superior fish and great to see all the old familiar faces on the floor and behind the counters.

            2. Thanks for the shots, BokChoi. They look great. Next time I have a car I'll have to check it out.

              The baby squid are called hotaru ika, or "firefly squid" in Japanese.

              http://tinyurl.com/5ergpn

              1 Reply
              1. re: tbonetak

                Awesome. Thanks, tbonetak. Supposedly they get different stuff each shipment so I wonder if I get to order these bad boys again sometime soon. I might just like them better than uni..shocking.