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Hashimoto vs. Sushi Kaji

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Hey there Chowhounds,

I would like the lowdown on these two Japanese restaurants--
What are the differences and similarities in terms of food selection, presentation, and taste between these two restaurants? (I've read the Toronto Life reviews and James Chatto gave them both a 4 star rating, but in your opinion is there one more superior than the other?) Any additional tidbits are much appreciated.

Thanks much in advance!

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  1. First, Kaji is in Toronto, and not in Mississauga. Both are 2 of the best if not the 2 best Japanese restaurants in the GTA....do yourself a favor and plan to go to both....just bring lots of $$

    1 Reply
    1. re: T Long

      I mistakenly thought Sushi Kaji was in Mississauga for some reason (not too familiar with the area)... but after looking at google maps, I'm happy to see Kaji is within reach.

    2. I wouln't really consider Kaji being in "toronto" Toronto: the etobicoke location is difficult to access without a car.
      Kaji is considerably bigger (establishment and sitting wise) than Hashimoto, so if its a larger party, Kaji would definitely be a better option. Kakji has a better/larger selection of sake.
      Kaji San no doubt gets extra points for star value: many people go to Kaji to see Kaji.
      For the food, though, I would prefer Hashimoto. For one thing, I feel that although the presentation in Kaji may excel, Hashimoto is alot more delicate in his touch. As an example, I have had grilled hablibut cheek at both establishments. Both offered impeccable freshness but Kaji had covered the fish with a thick miso sauce with lemon, whereas Hashimoto actually left it plain only seasoned with rock salt, with a light plum sauce on the side.The latter was definitely alot more memorable.

      In a nutshell, you will have superb experience at either restaurants. Go to Kaji if you need to wow companions, but consider Hashimoto if you are looking for a more subdued but memorable experience.

      1 Reply
      1. re: happycamper

        "many people go to Kaji to see Kaji."
        As in he has a very dynamic/outgoing personality? I have heard stories about his escapades...

      2. Hashimoto serves Kyoto Kaiseki style dinner. Very traditional Japanese. Food tends to be more delicate and bland ( letting the freshness of the ingredients speak for themselves ). Also, a lot of focus are placed on presentation.
        Kaji excels in raw items ( sushi and sashimi ). His 'French trained' sous chef who looked after the cooked food inside the kitchen has over 2500 recipe under his belt. As such, a lot of the entree items tend to be a bit 'fusion' nowadays. ( eg., grilled lobster tail with veal piccata! ). A definite divergence from the more tradtional approach 3-4 years ago!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Charles Yu

          I agree with Charles' descriptions, other than finding Hashimoto bland :-) That being said, I prefer Kaji to Hashimoto for creativity and flavour; Hashimoto's food is very well-presented though, and a more intimate experience.

          1. re: tjr

            Why don't we replace the term "bland" with the term "Subtle"

          2. re: Charles Yu

            Charles makes very good points of the 2 restaurants.

            Hashimoto and Sushi Kaji are two different Japanese restaurant. I do not think too many people appreciate the food at Hashimoto as it is very traditional with the taste more subtle and mild. Unlike Kaji, which is more modern, and with some of French influence, make it easier to be accepted by people. Even Kaji's sushi has some fusion factor in it with heavier sauce used and the way it is prepared.

            I suggest you go to Kaji first, Hashimoto's Kyo Kaiseki is more sophisticated and may be a next level to you after experiencing Kaji, may be at that time you will appreciate it more.

            Another thing is the portion at Kaji is much bigger than Hashimoto if that is a concern to you. For presentation, Hashimoto wins with different traditional plates and bowl used to present the food which is another things that may not be appreciated by people but it is pure Japanese traditional !

          3. They are both very high quality. They are NOT expensive as other posters suggested. For the quality of the food they serve, their price is a bargain. A lot less expensive than the similar restaurants in Japan.

            Their menus are different. Kaji emphasizes more on sushi and sashimi, while Hashimoto serves a traditional Kaiseki menu.

            Both change their menus every month. I don't know about Hashimoto. If I go to Kaji more than once in a month, they will give me a second menu. So you don't have to worry about having the same menu if you visit them again in the same month.

            Kaji is a bit more open to taking pictures. You are welcomed to take photos of the food, the menu, the restaurant, and Kaji himself. While Hashimoto doesn't allow you to take pictures inside. They will take pictures of the dishes and email them to you.

            One thing about Hashimoto is that they only have 8 seats. You will need to reserve at least a week before. Even if they have space available, they still won't let you in without the one-week advance reservation. I guess they need to prepare the food. On the other hand, Kaji is a lot more flexible. They are full sometimes too, but you can usually get a table with a few days notice.

            29 Replies
            1. re: jarusoba

              No photos, eh? I guess that rules out Hashimoto for me, unfortunately! Too bad - I guess I'll head to Kaji sometime. Thanks for the heads-up on that one jarusoba. I would only think that photos would help them as I show my acquaintances photos that actually persuade them to try places they would not normally go to. In the end, we eat almost as much as we do with our eyes as we do our mouths.
              Cheers!

              1. re: BokChoi

                Hey bokchoi, they will send photos of all the food back to you afterward if you request. But it is only one picture per course.

                1. re: skylineR33

                  hey skylineR33 - I rather enjoy taking photos of my own food the way I like taking photos of it. A bit of a control freak, if you would like to call it! But it's a bit of a hobby for me and actually enhances the experience for me. Without being in control of the photo taking, I am not quite sure of what I will get via email after the meal and it would be a bit inconsistent with my photosets. Just me being difficult I guess.

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    I agree with you BokChoi. The photos that they took were quite low res. They would take a picture of all of us and the dishes. Although you bring a camera in and take a few sneak shots. They won't notice it :P

                    1. re: jarusoba

                      If they do not suggest taking a picture in there, I think it is better to show some respect, especially when you are having a formal kaiseki meal.

                      1. re: jarusoba

                        Thanks for the msg jarusoba, but I wouldn't want to ruffle any feathers. They have their reasons, and of course I can choose to dine elsewhere as a result. I use my photos as a way to compensate for my poor memory. Without this crutch, much of the meal will be lost in only a few short weeks.

                        Do you still have your photos? Can you post them perhaps?

                        TIA

                        1. re: BokChoi

                          No, I didn't take pictures in their restaurant.

                          Here are some of the pictures they sent me a while ago.

                           
                           
                           
                           
                          1. re: BokChoi

                            More. These 8 pictures were from one meal. I misplaced the menu so I didn't send in the menu.

                             
                             
                             
                             
                            1. re: jarusoba

                              Thanks for the photos jarusoba. It looks great. How much was the meal again? Too bad I cannot take my own photos. Takes the resto down a few notches on my 'must visit' list as a result.

                              1. re: BokChoi

                                Just checked their website, it's $150 for an 8-dish course, $100 for a 6-dish course. The price has dropped. It used to be $160 and there was no 6-dish course choice. So maybe it's time for me to go again soon!

                                Don't worry too much about not being able to take your photos. You can ask them and give them your reasons! I'm sure they will let you. Go there for the experience. I go to Japan a few times a year and I would say Hashimoto is very comparable to many of the high-end restaurants in Japan.

                                Even Kaji-san at Kaji Sushi agreed! He's been to Hashimoto 3 times when I spoke with him last time.

                                1. re: jarusoba

                                  Thank you for the information jarusoba. It does sound like a great experience and you seem to highly praise it. Perhaps I will make this one exception and go expecting not to take photos. Thanks for the photos and review.

                                  1. re: BokChoi

                                    do make an exception, plus the photos they sent me were of good quality, albeit resized. They'll have much better lighting in the back than you will manage in the dining room.

                                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/aser/273...

                                    1. re: aser

                                      Great photos, aser. Now that's what I'm talking about when I pictured "Omakase", so I was a bit shocked when I saw Zen's version. I'm sure it is great, and I will eventually try it - it just was not what I expected. Where do the photos of Kaji begin and end though in your photostream? Everything looks exceptionally tasty.
                                      Cheers!

                                      1. re: BokChoi

                                        aser, sorry, they were of Hashimoto? Can you let me know which photos are for which restaurant? There were many Omakase photos. TIA

                                        Also, if two individuals dine there, do they both get the same set? Or are the two 6 or 8 course menus varied?

                                        1. re: BokChoi

                                          at Hashimoto, both get the same sets. He does take down notes to ensure you won't get a repeat dish on your next visit.

                                          At Kaji, each person can order a different price point if they choose to. If they order the same price point, it'll be the same set.

                                          here are my kaji pics...

                                          http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=76335...

                                          1. re: aser

                                            Thank you very much aser. The food looks extremely tasty. Great photos.

                                  2. re: jarusoba

                                    The price of Hashimoto has been dropped for at least a year. Where I agree food at Hashimoto and Sushi Kaji are pretty good especially for what you can get in Canada, with my experience and my foodie friend's experience, I think what I can get in Japan is just better, and it is not fair to make comparison. One of the reason is the fish and the ingradient they can get in Japan is fresher as it does not need to ship all the way from Japan to Toronto.

                                    There are a lots of crazy expensive restaurants in Japan, but if you know your way around, there are many restaurants that does not cost a arm or a leg for either kaiseki or sushi with supreme quality. And of course, Hashimoto is a great restaurant to experience traditional kaiseki without having to spend the money to fly all the way to Japan.

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      You're right, skylineR33. The real high-end restaurants in Japan are better than these two mainly due to the service level, decor, and the freshness of the food. I know that because I usually go to Japan a few times a year just to eat! And my trips to Japan are usually weekend trips.

                                      However, I am very happy with Hashimoto and Kaji and I usually go to Kaji at least once a month because they don't need a week's notice to get a table.

                                      In Japan, you do have to know your way because a lot of restaurants won't give you good service if you're not Japanese or don't speak the language.... But that's off-topic :)

                                      1. re: jarusoba

                                        I lived in Japan for most of my life, and go back three or four times a year (most of this time is occupied with eating, as one would imagine). I am not Japanese, though I speak it, and have never had anything but impeccable service from restaurants where one would expect good service, even when I didn't let on that I speak Japanese. I've had poor service too, but it really wasn't due to me being white or not speaking the language, and more to pretentiousness/overbookings/etc. Service at every level in Japan is head and shoulders above service in Toronto, where you'll get ignored and treated like crap even if you speak the lingua franca.

                                        Don't scare people unnecessarily. Have a hotel make your reservations for places that take reservations, point to pictures on menus, or plastic items in windows for places that have these. Many French, Italian, etc. restaurants have their menus in English (or at least French/Italian/etc.) as well. Even at places where it is highly likely that no one speaks a word of English, the staff will generally fawn over you as a chance to practice English and try to find whatever forks they have lying around the restaurant. You will get bad service if you go to a pretentious lounge-esque place where bad service is par for the course, but that's definitely not representative of service in Japan.

                                        Yes, restaurants in Japan can be insanely expensive, but there are great values as well (for both kaiseki and sushi, amongst other things).

                                        I can see why people consider them expensive (after all, most of the sushi places people eat at are in the $10-20 range), but considering this is Toronto, the food is definitely worth the price at either. They're the best Japanese we have in Toronto, and the prices are fairly reasonable compared to other higher-end restaurants.

                                        1. re: jarusoba

                                          Actually since we are on this side topic of Japanese food between Japan and Toronto, I think I have much better sushi in Japan even with some average pricing (< 5000 yen) restaurant than Kaji. Unlike sushi at Japan, I do not get the fish and rice harmony at Kaji. But again, I want to stress Kaji is great in Toronto and it is not appropriate to do the comparison. It is just that it does not quite reach the mark when we are talking about some great sushi in Japan. I think it belongs more to the class with high end sushi places in Vancouver or other cities in North America.

                                          1. re: skylineR33

                                            Having eaten sushi in both Tokyo and New york during the past few months, I totally agree with skylineR33's comment.. Yes, Kaji's sushi might be the one of the best in Canada, however when compare side by side with the likes of Yasuda of NYC or Urasawa of LA, the difference in quality ( both fish/seafood and rice ) is clearly noticeable. Furthermore, the selection of fish available in the States are also much more varied. eg., in Yasuda, they offered Sea Urchins from Alaska, Russia and Hokkaido, 'wild white' salmon from Alaska and five different types of tuna/toro- blue fin, yellow fin, abbacore....not to mention numerous types of clams etc. That said, the sushi in Japan is another notch or two up!!!
                                            eg., Jiro in Tokyo offered me five different types of raw ocean sweet shrimp/prawns!

                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                              For sure, even average sushi joints in Japan can be better than Kaji (though you likely wouldn't get cooked dishes too). I've had menus at ~2000 yen that were better than a meal at Kaji. The comments both of you have made are spot on though, but, I think it's still important to note that it is still the best Toronto has to offer (you know, to keep it on topic).

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                And they have great prices on umbrells.

                                                To keep it on topic...what's the cost of the meal at Kaji? They do omakase?

                                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                                  They only do Omakase. I believe recently, price starts at $100 and increased to $140 pp for the top of the line version. Been eating Japanese overseas for the past few months so havn't been there for a while ( 6 months? )

                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                    i was dining with a friend who was able to finangle a much lower cost omakase at kaji but still included some of the most fabulous uni i've ever tasted (once as sushi and second as a sauce) and a couple toro courses. if they're having a slow night on a mon-weds, you may be able to strick a deal yourself.

                                                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                      Kaji is closed Monday and Tuesday. I think

                                                      1. re: katana750

                                                        ha, you could be right. i went on a wednesday and got away with the much lower bill.

                                                    2. re: Charles Yu

                                                      Just got back from Kaji (Sunday), $80, $100, $120 . The Ika tempura was cold. For the fusion dish of fish cake/chicken/wintermelon, I think the menu doesn't mention fuzzy squash which is the most prominent ingredient. Waiter certainly did not mention it as he explained the dish. The kampachi was good, much preferred over hamachi by the Japanese.
                                                      Hashimoto serves a lot of fresh seafood from Japan so that abalone probably cost $20 in air freight alone. And then there's the hand carved daikon crane, another $20 in labour cost. Frankly the workmanship on that wasn't that good. His family members served at the tables, but I would think a lot of Japanese working holiday visa holders in Toronto would have been much better wait staff.
                                                      Insanely expensive restaurants in Japan are for those on expense accounts. You can have food just a notch or 2 below at a fraction of the cost at numerous other restaurants, and you are more likely to run into part time students working there, able to talk to you in English.

                                                      1. re: beepbeep

                                                        what other restaurants do you suggest at a fraction of the price? i haven't been to a japanese restaurant in toronto that executes at the level of kaji at any price.

                      2. I didn't feel like starting a new thread but I went to Hashimoto on Saturday (5th anniversary dinner). I haven't been to Kaji but knew that I wasn't in for a sushi meal that night. I've read all the replies and agree that the dishes aren't masked by heavy sauces or spices. Each main ingredient is given a chance to showcase itself.
                        The chef came out at the end of the meal to explain that he orders food from Japan and just enough for the meals he's serving. Also that he goes back several times a year to study with his teacher. This is an art and unless you can go to Japan (as others on this post have said they do) you will save yourself a lot of money in airfare to experience real Japanese cuisine. (at least this style!) He's very passionate about his food and it comes through in what he makes. A memorable meal and appropriate for an anniversary.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Janine

                          Thanks Janine!
                          BTW, how much is the Kaiseki meal cost nowadays? Also, how many courses were served? Planning a long overdue re-visit. Thx!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            hi Charles,

                            we had 4 glasses of plum wine and with taxes the total around $375. I can't recall the cost pp. I'll ask hubby when he's awake and let you know. We had 8 courses. I also want to comment on BeepBeep's comment on the staff. We had trouble finding the restaurant as hubby forgot to bring the address and when we called, we did speak to a japanese woman who didn't speak english well but we managed to find the place. our server spoke perfect english with no accent and was able to explain every dish in detail and answer any questions I might have and if he couldn't, I think he would had asked for me.

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              I was there in July. The 8 course is $150 & 6 course is $100. I had the 8 course & I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner.

                              1. re: ace123

                                Thx!
                                After checking out the photos of the impressive $300 'Urasawa' meal on the LA board, guess I'll use the money for my trip out west instead!