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May 10, 2009 08:44 PM

Sushi Survey - disturbing article in the Star

Just finished reading Toronto Star's article on sushi restaurants substituting tilapia for red snapper nigiri in 10 out of 12 restaurants. Thankfully, Yuzu and Sushi Marche did not. Sadly though, my former favorite sushi place was one of the guilty restaurants.

Does anyone have any reputable and reliable sushi places that they'd recommend? Preferably close to the subway. Low and high price points welcome.

Here's the link to the Star's restaurant list:

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  1. Hiro on King should be OK! Unfortunately recent reviews had been mixed!
    BTW, there's an active ongoing exchange of your above captioned topic on the 'Food Media news' board! Feel free to participate!

    1. For those who want to comment on the Star's article, please post on the Food and Media News thread below:


      Please keep replies on the Ontario board focused on sushi places you would recommend.

      1. Marche patrons were told verbally that it was "Japanese Snapper" thereby inferring a higher price than what they were really selling. Marche's guilty of being more clever at the scam than others.

        Try Zen in Scarborough or Take Sushi downtown. They are both reputable and reliable. Zen is way out in Scarborough, but worth the trip.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Googs

          Fune near St.Andrew, Yamato near Bay, has real Ma-Dai(Tai/ Seabream) as does Marche..

          1. re: Googs

            My impression of the report was that Marche was simplifying Japanese sea bream for us simpletons. I have no problem with that. I understand that red sea bream has been farmed carefully in Japan for the sushi trade for more than 25 years, but is not well known here except for sushi mavens. If a sushi chef or server told me it was Japanese snapper, an expensive import, I'd go along with it, and hope they might be more forthcoming if I was a regular patron.

            1. re: jayt90

              Well as long as they're just being condescending that's okay then.

            2. re: Googs

              I've had it a few times now and they've always described it to me as sea bream. Its sea bream on the menu, and its also called Madai. I think that response may have been an answer to a question asking for more clarification on what it is., something like "sea bream what is that?".

              1. re: szw

                I speak a tiny bit of Japanese, really just enough to order in restaurants after a year of living in Japan, and am a regular customer of Marché, and they've always described the bream they serve accurately to me. Red sea bream in Japan is called "Madai" but is often commonly referred to as "Tai" - which is what sushi shops in North America call snapper. Confusing! According to Elizabeth Ando’s Japanese cookbook, Washoku, Tai is a member of the snapper family - dunno if there are any icythyologists out there who can confirm this. So I think Marché's dumbing-down as "Japanese snapper" is very common, and probably the way any Japanese person would describe bream in English to a gaijin. So I don't like this notion of Marché being called "more clever at the scam" when this is not the case. Rather, let's commend them - and Yuzu of course - on the fact that they are serving a delicacy flown in from Japan, and not swapping in cheap tilapia like so many restaurants apparently do.

                1. re: childofthestorm

                  While Marché did not mislabel the fish (I agree that whoever the person spoke to was probably trying to clarify for the person conducting the survey, and it's not an issue with how a Japanese would describe it to a foreigner; there are plenty of people in North America who know about sea bream), Yuzu did mislabel their product. Whether or not it's superior to tilapia isn't the issue: the labeling is.

                  1. re: tjr

                    "plenty" is pretty subjective, also depending on the circles you travel in. I would guess that the majority of the general public have no idea what sea bream is

                    1. re: szw

                      Well, yes, but claiming that it's okay for Bu to call his product "red snapper from Japan" is absurd. It's not. It's bream. There are people who know the difference, and how it should be listed is "red sea bream, like red snapper from Japan" or something if that was his real intention.

                      While Yuzu is by no means my idea of a high quality sushi shop, the food is better than at some, and this shows why: Bu is interested in sourcing quality ingredients. Wonderful, just don't call them the wrong thing.

              2. re: Googs

                I second Zen. I eat there once a week without fail

                You can also get to Zen very easily from Kennedy station... just take the Kennedy bus eastward.

              3. Zen is a good choice for honest sushi in Toronto area.

                "Tai" (鯛) usually refers to fish in the family of Snapper (Lutjanus) and family of Seabream (Sparidae) with similar form. And there are many many different type of it. Red seabream or Madai (Pagrus major of the family Sparidae) is the most well-known in this kind. Most of the one you see in the market are farmed.

                22 Replies
                1. re: skylineR33

                  Hay skylineR33 - Fish Master! Do you know if the 'expensive' KINKI is a member of the Tai family too? The 'reddish' colour sure looks similar!! Had one at the Japanese restaurant situated on the ground floor of HK landmark. Costs a whopping HK$800 for a smallish size one!! Thank God I don't have to pay! Ha!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Ha, thanks, but I am certainly no master. Kinki is in another family called Scorpaenidae "鮋科". The fish is expensive especially with the one caught at Hokkaido.

                    1. re: skylineR33

                      Definitely the worth the money though! A delicious fish! I wonder if there is anywhere to get these in Toronto...

                      1. re: tjr

                        Hi tjr, I saw it at Sakana-ya of J-Town. However, I am not too fond of the fish quality there ....

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          Thanks. Did you see how much they were charging? I've been relatively unimpressed with Sakanaya's offerings as well. I preferred Taro.

                          1. re: tjr

                            Me too! Much prefer Taro over Sakana-ya. Fresher products and better presentation.
                            BTW, I went to a fish monger on 3280 Midland called 'Star Lobster' this weekend. They have live spotted prawns, live ling cod, live French Turbot, live abalone as well as live diver scallops in the shell that is the size of a table tennis bat!! They also have fresh strawberry garoupa that were air freight from Hong Kong. The size of their Mirugai was also twice the size of what one gets in say T&T. Impressive!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              ok I'm so there for those diver scallops, getting good live scallops has proven quite elusive.

                              How much were the spotted prawns? The season has started for them...

                              1. re: aser

                                The prawns were around $19 a pound. However, after getting them I noticed later on that 'Bayview Food Mart' in Richmond Hill ( Corner Bayview and Blackmoor ) was selling them for $16!! Schucks!!!

                                1. re: aser

                                  Just to let you know I've seen live scallops in shell at T&T (downtown location) for the last week. I don't know about the quality compared to other places but thought I'd mention it since I don't see them there regularly.

                                  1. re: szw

                                    Thanks, I'll keep an eye out. I've bought the frozen scallops on the half shell from T&T before, quality is decent for frozen.

                                    However, the one time I've bought shucked scallops at T&T, they were disgusting. Very bleached, extreme taste of chemical, never again.

                                    Thanks Charles, I'll be hitting BFM up soon. T&T at times does have it at as low as $12.99, but that's pretty rare.

                                    Since we're talking about Chinese markets, the one in the Regal 16 plaza, has very cheap prices on veg. They often have gai lan for 99cents/lb, with most places closer to $2/lb.

                                    1. re: szw

                                      WOW! So hard to find... Thanks for the tip.

                                  2. re: Charles Yu

                                    I have never worked with live scallops, so please pardon my ignorance. I hate the flavour of scallops soaked in tripolyphosphate (sp?), and I also hate how they cook. Would these scallops have come near such chemicals?

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      The processing (wet pack) is done to improve yield (plumping by injecting) and shelf life/appearance. No need to do that when the scallop is still alive.

                                      You'll also get to eat the roe too, common in Asia but rarely served in western cuisine. The french chefs don't cook them together because the abductor muscle (what you associate w/ a scallop) takes half as long to cook as the rest.

                                      On the shell, I like to just cook them whole in the oven or steamed w/ some julienned ginger/scallions.

                                      1. re: aser

                                        Thanks, aser. I love scallops, so this seems like my best chance at some great ones.

                                      2. re: Full tummy

                                        Diver scallops in the shell should be 'wild'!!! As such, quality should be prestine and if brave enough can even be eaten raw!

                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                          No need for bravery! That's what I do (though enjoy other preparations as well). I'll have to limit my grilled red meat consumption this long weekend and opt in for some seafood as well! Or just have steak and scallops :-)

                                          1. re: tjr

                                            Looks like quite a few of us will be converging there for live prawns/scallops/seafood....etc, May be we'll all wear a 'Chowhound' tag to identify ourselves! Ha! I'm in the mood for some Mirugai sashimi but I need to shop around since Star Lobster is overcharging IMO. Another thing is, the best and biggest TO has to offer still cannot beat Vancouver's average! Sigh!!!! Whilst in the area, most probably I'll take out a 'soya sauce free range chicken' from Fantasy Eatery as well!

                                    2. re: tjr

                                      I once got the so-called "Hon Maguro" otoro at Sakana-ya, the quality is just far far from what it should be, hugh disappointment. For the Kinki, I think it is like around $50 if my memory serves me right, it is in hard-packed frozen form and I bet it is not from Hokkaido.

                                      Wow Charles, I got to check "Star Lobster" soon ! Thanks.

                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                        Yeah, not really worth it then. Thanks for the tip, Charles, I'll definitely head over the next chance I get!

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          I will check out Star Lobster this weekend. I love live scallops. Somehow always found them much cheaper in Vancouver.

                                          Also went to Taro for the first time this month. Loved the uni and the abalone sashimi. Thanks, everyone.

                                          1. re: caitlink

                                            I would google for their phone ( Star lobster seafood) and call ahead to be sure. Good stuff sold out fast in that place. Especially 'live' sea urchins! ( Uni ).

                                          2. re: skylineR33

                                            spotted prawns on sale at T&T for $13.98/lb

                                            only Fri-Mon..........Don't buy it all, save some for me.

                              2. This is hardly surprising since sushi is fundamentally a scam. A few cents of worth of rice and fish and voila, the suckers will pay $4-$5 or more. Why do you think that are so many sushi places in Toronto? Because it's a gold mine. Real sushi require a chef who has had years of training and only the highest quality seafood. You don't get that in Toronto. You get some guy from Korea or somewhere who decides to open a restaurant and cash in on the sushi gold mine. Really top sushi is a mind blowingly great experience. But even the best places in Toronto are mediocre or worse. The problem is that most people who claim to be sushi fans have never really had top stuff and don't know the difference. So substituting cheap ingredients goes unnoticed.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: evansl

                                  Same can be said of any cusine .. french, indian, chinese..

                                  1. re: evansl

                                    The price of food in any restaurant is more than the cost of the food itself. Every restaurant is a scam by your "logic." Well, maybe not Ikea...