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The Hiro Sushi Rip-off!

c
Cutiepettutie Apr 9, 2009 09:12 PM

So my boyfriend wanted to try a new sushi place, this being Hiro Sushi (King and Jarvis, Toronto, ON), as he thinks that we need to try out different places. I personally prefer Kokyo Sushi at Yonge and Alexander (north of College) especially the top 3 rolls in the special rolls section of the menu. In any case, he told me that he saw on various websites that this is the best sushi place in Toronto. So we went. We really weren't sure as to what to order and the waitress recommended that we try the $35 chef special. We thought that this could be split between 2 people, but apparently the price tag was for one person as we discovered on the bill. Thats not even the bad part. The plate arrived. It was OK but absolutely nothing special. The rice already had wasabi and as I am not a fan of things being too spicy, I can't say that I enjoyed it at all. It did clear up my sinuses however. The food was otherwise ok at best, but don't go there if you want actual flavour that comprises of more things than wasabi. I personally would not return. It is not worth the price. Places such as this remind me that trying new things is sometimes not worth it!!! Don't go there, try Kokyo Sushi instead!!! Hiro Sushi is really stingy on the fish, very thin slices, complete rip-off!!!! For less than half of what you pay at Hiro Sushi, you will be much more than pleased!!!! I think Johnny Roll at Kokyo Sushi is like $12, and had more& better tasting fish than the whole $70 plate combined!!!

One thing that was ok is the white wine mousse with strawberries. While that is good, it is not worth the overall $100 price tag!

  1. pinstripeprincess Apr 10, 2009 08:05 AM

    i think that one of these threads about the great rip-off of hiro comes up every year or two with virtually the same complaints. i was almost expecting this and save for any comments about cute waitresses and the constant reference to kokyo, this feels like a near carbon copy of something a trashing talking character by the name of derek had written.

    anyhow... i don't prefer hiro as i don't like getting reconstituted shitake as a piece of sushi and the setting is rather dismal, but you can't say what he's doing is wrong. i think a lot of the other posts here summed it up already but there is a lot to be said for sushi (if not even japanese) culture that it would benefit someone to do the research so that they optimize their experience and know what they're getting into.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pinstripeprincess
      aser Apr 10, 2009 09:20 AM

      Hiro is good only if you're willing to order a la carte and pay dearly. Hiro is not good if you order the combos on the menu, they can't even feed a bulimic supermodel.

      In a way this saddens me to see sushi bastardized to the point where people "prefer" the fake stuff. It was the same for Chinese food in the 60's with chop suey, but most people have outgrown that. Perhaps this can also happen with Japanese food, just hoping it won't take 30 years to happen.

      1. re: aser
        Food Tourist Apr 10, 2009 10:22 AM

        I used to love Hiro and took everyone there, but haven't been in about 2 years now. However, the amount of wasabi (fake) on the nigiri used to blow my mind (unpleasantly). I've since discovered Kumai (in Mississauga) and have started taking everyone there. (Incidentally, I've been to Yuzu twice now, and some of it is quite good - but only a la carte, which adds up quickly).

        I don't think most people have outgrown Americanized Chinese food - many people I know still order the chicken balls and think they are eating Chinese. Mind you, I know a lot of people in the 'burbs who aren't Asian.

        1. re: aser
          ChalkBoy Apr 11, 2009 06:46 AM

          I only go to Hiro for omakase.

      2. skylineR33 Apr 10, 2009 07:16 AM

        A suggestion to all the sushi chefs out there who is reading there. I understand it is authentic to put wasabi in between rice and fish, and I absolutely like it this way, but please if you are gonna do that, make sure you use real and fresh wasabi. People (at least me and my friends) are willing to pay a premium for that since we are already doing that if I am going to places like Hiro.

        If fake wasabi is used, this can only destroy the taste of the fish as it is way too spicy and completely different from the harmony it goes with the fish when the real wasabi is used. Hiro uses fake wasabi (unless you specify and pay extra), and I have had heavy dose of wasabi in Hiro's nigiri. So I think it is better for him not to use fake wasabi in the nigiri and put it on the side, so people can apply it accordingly on top of the fish when eaten.

        24 Replies
        1. re: skylineR33
          a
          Apprentice Apr 10, 2009 07:20 AM

          Skyline does Kaji always use fresh wasabi? I noticed the difference at Hashimoto, but not always at Kaji, which makes me wonder if he sometimes uses the "not-so-good" stuff.

          1. re: Apprentice
            skylineR33 Apr 10, 2009 07:26 AM

            I agree and I have the same experience as you at Kaji, probably his wasabi is real but "not-so-good" quality, as there are also different grade of real wasabi.

            1. re: skylineR33
              Charles Yu Apr 10, 2009 07:49 AM

              Last time I ate at Kaji, I sat at the sushi bar and noticed fresh wasabi roots and grater on his 'work station'. Saw him uses the 'real stuff' on all my sushi. ( since I'm facing him. he cannot cheat! Ha! ). However, for people sitting elsewhere and cannot see him work, may be, just may be, he might cut cost by using the 'not-so-good' stuff? May be that constitute the taste difference? Just guessing?!

              1. re: Charles Yu
                skylineR33 Apr 10, 2009 08:11 AM

                Not sure ... also maybe the wasabi at Kaji is real and fresh but "not-so-good" quality at times as there are different grade ?! Or some batch of real wasabi he imported is not so fresh after 14 hours of flight and delay from Japan ?! There are many possibility, however, it is all down to how tight the quality control is.

                1. re: Charles Yu
                  redearth Apr 10, 2009 08:13 AM

                  While that's certainly a possibility, I can't help but think that it's unlikely. Sure, fresh wasabi is expensive, but it's one of those ingredients where a little goes a long way. The use of real wasabi makes such a big difference to the sushi that I would think that he would use it at all times, regardless of where the dish's recipient is sitting... Just my two cents.

                  1. re: redearth
                    Charles Yu Apr 10, 2009 09:05 AM

                    For sure fresh wasabi roots are expensive in TO. I recall seeing them in J-town. About $15 per root?! A fairly small one at that!!

                  2. re: Charles Yu
                    b
                    befuggled Apr 12, 2009 01:58 PM

                    I would be surprised if he cheats when anyone is watching. You may not see him cheat on your sushi, but would you come back if you saw him cheat on someone else's? I wouldn't.

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      v
                      vivo Apr 14, 2009 09:41 AM

                      My two cents worth. Kaji uses real wasabi when it is in season, summer. There are other countries which now grow wasabi, but the best still comes from Japan; my memory is awful these days, but I think the harvest period is a 4-6 week window. That being said, we grow very good, if not as good, wasabi in British Columbia (similar growing conditions). Kaji used to get his wasabi from BC. Unfortunately I haven't been to Kaji for the last couple of years so I don't know where he sources it these days. He also used to offer some primo soy sauce, yum.

                2. re: skylineR33
                  1sweetpea Apr 10, 2009 07:27 AM

                  That's an interesting point, SkylineR33. My first forays into sushi were in Vancouver's cheap sushi joints, where they use the fake stuff. Being a spicy food lover, I adore the sinus hit of the fake stuff (powder made into paste -- not the prepared stuff from tubes). I'm always surprised at how vastly different the properties of the real, grated wasabi root are. I like both, but perhaps you are right that the fake stuff can overpower a lot of the more delicate fishes. A heavy-handed sushi chef might be obscuring the flavours of some of the fish somewhat, which might then beg the question from certain types of diners that if you can't really taste the fish's flavours, does it matter whether you pay top dollar for freshness or less for mediocre quality, since the wasabi is the overpowering flavour anyway.

                  1. re: skylineR33
                    k
                    katana750 Apr 10, 2009 07:39 AM

                    Close to 100% of the restaurants use powder wasabi (mostly western horseradish) because of cost. IMO equal number of people don't know, don't care and just want more quantity. If enough people ask for it, then there may be more places with fresh or real wasabi. There is a restaurnt in Montreal that a friend runs, he charges $5 for real wasabi. That was when the Yen was cheap!

                    1. re: katana750
                      skylineR33 Apr 11, 2009 09:41 AM

                      Don't know why my post is deleted ... but make it short, many non-expensive restaurants use fresh wasabi in Japan.

                      I have also seen fresh wasabi root at Taro on Bayview and Sheppard priced around $10 to $20. But they don't look too fresh. There are also mixed real wasabi/horseradish tube at J-Town, but obviously they are not from fresh as it is in a tube.

                      1. re: skylineR33
                        shekamoo Apr 11, 2009 11:35 AM

                        so where would one go in Toronto to have sushi with real wasabi after all? is Kaji the only rather safe bet?
                        I would happily pay extra anywhere, but I'm afraid I would come across as offensive...like, is there such a possibility at Zen or Aoyama?

                        1. re: shekamoo
                          skylineR33 Apr 11, 2009 12:35 PM

                          There are real and fresh wasabi at Zen, but just that it is not always used in their sushi set, or a la carte. To be safe, I think you can always request/confirm for the using of real and fresh wasabi when ordering sushi or omakase at Zen. I don't think Aoyama uses real wasabi at all, but I guess they can get some for you if you request it while making reservation.

                          Just a note that there are restaurants out there saying they use real wasabi but it is actually a mixture of horseradish and real wasabi. Also, real and fresh wasabi can be of different grade as mentioned in some of the post above.

                          Cheers !

                          1. re: skylineR33
                            jayt90 Apr 11, 2009 05:42 PM

                            Aoyama has fresh grated wasabi. I didn't ask about the authenticity, but I know they have a source of Japanese vegetables from Essex county. I don't know if the wasabi root can be grown there, but after all, it is just a horseradish.

                            1. re: jayt90
                              skylineR33 Apr 11, 2009 08:04 PM

                              But they do not use fresh wasabi when I ordered the $60 omakase (which is the most expensive omakase) at Aoyama. So it does not hurt to request for real wasabi while making the reservation. Wasabi requires a much tricky condition to grow than horseradish. For me, wasabi is completely different from horseradish, not to say horseradish is bad, it goes well with other food.

                            2. re: skylineR33
                              k
                              katana750 Apr 12, 2009 12:31 PM

                              Went to Aoyama last week, it was a mixture of real and fake. Still better than the powder. They had fresh wasabi some time ago but not this time, unfortunately. I'll try asking for it before my next visit.

                            3. re: shekamoo
                              s
                              szw Apr 12, 2009 12:42 PM

                              Sushi Marche uses it for their sashimi dinners.

                              1. re: szw
                                skylineR33 Apr 12, 2009 01:25 PM

                                How much is the sashimi dinners at Sushi Marche ?

                                1. re: skylineR33
                                  Wahooty Apr 12, 2009 09:14 PM

                                  I believe it's $35 for the set sashimi dinner on the menu. Or you can do an omakase starting at $50. I don't think I've ever gotten real wasabi, but I don't go there very often, and have never gone the omakase route.

                                  1. re: skylineR33
                                    s
                                    szw Apr 13, 2009 06:31 AM

                                    menu is on the website sushimarche.com

                                    I called to ask about the wasabi one time. If you dontt want to order off the menu combo just tell them how much you want to pay, how many people eating, and some of your preferences, and they will put together an appropriate platter. I think you can probably ask for real wasabi with any order but I'm not sure.

                                    1. re: szw
                                      pinstripeprincess Apr 13, 2009 07:28 AM

                                      they're using real whole wasabi root?

                                      there is this stuff that you can get at jtown and some korean grocers, it is a prepackaged mix of fake and real. you get the nice creamy depth of wasabi with the burn of the horseradish. sushi 930 uses this stuff and i'm not sure who else does but i have seen it around. it's better than the fake stuff but still a far cry from the real thing (the texture is too rough)... either way i give props to whomever is at least making the effort to get this. i now keep a bag of it in my fridge.

                            4. re: katana750
                              skylineR33 Apr 10, 2009 07:42 AM

                              Yes, that's true or mixture of real wasabi and horseradish in a ratio like 1 to 4.

                              1. re: skylineR33
                                shekamoo Apr 10, 2009 09:59 AM

                                does Zen use the real stuff most or all the time?

                                1. re: shekamoo
                                  skylineR33 Apr 10, 2009 06:47 PM

                                  Not really.

                          2. t
                            tjr Apr 9, 2009 10:16 PM

                            Hiro is more of an authentic sushi restaurant than Kokyo, as such, and as Charles_Yu mentioned, sushi comes "pre-seasoned" as the chef is supposed to know the proper amount of seasoning (from wasabi, soy, a sauce, etc.), since he's the master of his craft.

                            Kokyo is a pretty standard cheap sushi restaurant, but it's much better than Sky Sushi that is close by. Their portions are large, the fish is of okay quality, and they have all the strange rolls, sushi pizzas, etc. that one could possibly want.

                            I can understand why you'd be upset, but I think you'll get a lot of cruel comments. It's kind of like you really wanted a poutine made with shredded cheddar and you got cheese curds. There are several schools of thought floating around the boards: there are people who are looking for somewhere like Hiro (authentic, by the book), people who are looking for somewhere like Kaji (inventive, but with technical mastery and great execution), and people who are looking for rolls and teriyaki/tempura bentos.

                            Strangely-named rolls don't really appeal to me. Strange ingredients and sauces tend to mask the real purpose behind eating and enjoying sushi. I don't find Hiro heavy on the wasabi, but I understand that some people want spicy mayo-laden rolls topped with avocado and apple slices or something.

                            My suggestion is that you do your research ahead of time. If you are looking for "the best" sushi, you're going to be finding something expensive and less to your tastes. Look at the menus beforehand, or tell them what you like and ask for suggestions.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: tjr
                              t
                              tuttebene Apr 10, 2009 04:17 AM

                              tjr, this was a thoughtful and informative response.

                              1. re: tjr
                                y
                                Yongeman Apr 10, 2009 04:20 AM

                                "It's kind of like you really wanted a poutine made with shredded cheddar and you got cheese curds."
                                That's a great analogy, tjr. Well done!

                                1. re: tjr
                                  sloweater Apr 10, 2009 05:58 AM

                                  This article was recently in the Toronto Star. It may be of some use to the OP:

                                  http://www.thestar.com/article/603883

                                  While there is a wide range of opinion on Hiro Sushi, I have to say it continues to rank as one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in the city.

                                  1. re: sloweater
                                    redearth Apr 10, 2009 06:22 AM

                                    Thanks for the link to the article - I know a lot of people who should read it! I've always felt that it would be too rude of me to correct my friends and/or co-workers' sushi-dining etiquette, and have always suffered silently as they commit such crimes as piling pickled ginger on their nigiri sushi. There's one thing I'm unclear of here, though, and that's Kim Honey's comment that, "Servers cringe when you unwrap your chopsticks and rub them together vigorously like some demented carpenter with a splinter phobia". What exactly does this have to do with sushi restaurant etiquette? I've certainly experienced splinters falling into my food from disposable chopsticks, and have found that a light rubbing together of them removes any possibility of such happening. As long as one is not seemingly trying to start a fire...! Methinks this is just a pet peeve of Ms. Honey's.

                                    1. re: redearth
                                      1sweetpea Apr 10, 2009 07:16 AM

                                      I hate to criticize your boyfriend, but it sounds like he didn't do too much in-depth reading on these boards at all, but instead just skimmed for names that came up often as peoples' faves. It is widely discussed on these boards that Hiro is known and loved (by some) for his dedication to traditionalism. That means ultra fresh fish, dainty (meaning small-ish) cuts of fish that you can eat in one bite without making a pig of yourself or else trying to take bites and destroying the artistry and enjoyment of each individual cut. It also means that the wasabi is already applied as the chef deems it appropriate for each piece. These are the high points of the place. The low points (to me, at least) are the drab, often filthy condition of the restaurant, the painfully slow and indifferent service from the staff and the hostility with which requests for extra ginger or wasabi are met (I like a little extra, so shoot me!). It's enough of a turn-off to keep me from patronizing the place, no matter how great the fish might be.

                                      It is clear that you and your boyfriend frequent places where the "more is better" approach applies. These places feature chefs with far less (occasionaly no) training at their "craft". In these places, they'll happily make substitutions, give you more or less of something and often leave out the wasabi so that the customer can apply as he or she wishes, if he or she wishes. This makes sushi more approachable for the masses. If I want a true Japanese sushi experience, I'll head to Kaji, Zen, Katsura's sushi bar in the Prince Hotel or perhaps Hiro. If I want a small miso soup, tasty salad and generous plate of sushi, sashimi and maki with all the ginger and wasabi I please, for less than $20, I head to Sushi Garden in Delisle Court.

                                      I think your boyfriend's biggest mistake, aside from not really reading his way through the various threads on Hiro and where to find the best sushi, was not to consider what it is exactly that you both want from your sushi dining experiences. If he truly wanted to expand your collective horizons, he should have read up on the topic and informed you ahead of time that an authentic place won't likely offer a whole menu page worth of newfangled giant fusion rolls that are so stuffed with goodies they practically require a knife and fork to eat. This is "sushi" (using the term loosely) for the masses. It's perfectly fine to love it and even to prefer it, but don't make the mistake of going to a higher end Japanese sushi bar that specializes in the freshest fish available and serves it in a very traditional manner. As you learned the hard way, you're not paying for quantity, and quality may not be something you really appreciate when it comes with a much bigger price tag.

                                      1. re: 1sweetpea
                                        redearth Apr 10, 2009 08:08 AM

                                        Well written - a very good response! I too enjoy both ends of the sushi spectrum, so to speak, and I agree that if one is accustomed to the type of restaurant that favours quantity over quality, Hiro might have come as something of a surprise, particularly if one didn't know exactly what to expect.

                                  2. re: tjr
                                    Charles Yu Apr 10, 2009 07:34 AM

                                    tjr,1sweetpea, skylineR33, Apprentice...et al,
                                    Great advise to a new chowhounder! Keep up the good work. The fraternity needs more members like you!

                                    1. re: tjr
                                      BokChoi Apr 10, 2009 08:18 AM

                                      Very diplomatic. I really love how this board has handled Cutiepettutie's review. Cutiepettutie, I hope you do still use this board to find other good eats, just be careful and read the entire thread to determine if the restaurant suggested is truly what you are looking for. As well, try to look at reviewer's profiles to get a sense of their eating background to see if it matches with your own. Good luck!

                                      1. re: BokChoi
                                        jayt90 Apr 10, 2009 12:07 PM

                                        The OP's bf read various websites, so I doubt if any of the Ch threads were influential; they have not been very favorable to Hiro from what I have read.

                                        1. re: jayt90
                                          BokChoi Apr 15, 2009 06:40 AM

                                          I more meant that one should read the people's food description to see if it matched up with what they were expecting (and what they were expecting to pay). The unfavourable reviews of Hiro are what kept me from trying it, even though it was so close to my former work place.

                                    2. Charles Yu Apr 9, 2009 09:41 PM

                                      FYI, Hiro Sushi is one of the few authentic Japanese run restaurant in town. As such, their nigiri sushi is prepared the traditional 'authentic' way by incorporating wasabi on top of the shari ( rice ) before the chef places the fish on top to finish off the end product. Almost all nigiri sushi in Japan are prepared that way!

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