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Best sushi for special occasion dinner (west side or downtown)?

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I'm a New Yorker and have been in Toronto for about a year and a half and have not had great sushi here yet (haven't been out much, new baby, etc.) I am going out Sunday night for my birthday and want to eat GREAT sushi. I want something fairly authentic - don't need crazy huge rolls or wild cocktails, just great fish. I have been to Japan several times, so I know what the real thing tastes like. Kaji is on our list, but I'm not sure if I want to shell out that much money and really just want sushi/sashimi anyway. Looking through other posts people recommend Japango, Hiro, Nami, Blowfish. Don't want to go to Scarborough or North York. Opinions?

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  1. Hiro is not open on Sunday. That would be my first choice. Kaji is open on Sunday and the experience can be great. I didn't have a great experience at Omi, but many other people recommend it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dubchild

      I love Omi (a lot), but don't go there if you're looking for a traditional experience. He's not crazy-fusion, but traditional isn't what I'd call his fish.

      1. re: jlunar

        Omi isn't open Sundays.

    2. many, if not nearly all of the great sushi places are not open sundays. i've written off sushi on sundays for a while now. i imagine all on your list will be closed.

      1. Thanks - so maybe I should pick another night (not Sunday). What would you recommend then?

        1 Reply
        1. re: susclaire

          Kaji in Etobicoke, but if you aren't looking to shell out the money, the next best option is Zen, which is too far. I wouldn't bother with Japango, Nami or Blowfish, and Hiro seems to have gone downhill, though the fish will still probably be decent.

        2. Just splurge and do Kaji, you really won't be disappointed. I had the best piece of O Toro there last night, that I have ever had outside of Japan. For reference, his sushi is sort of like Sushi of Gari in NY with some traditional sushi thrown in between.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

            Thanks. I think we will just splurge. One more question - which omakase to chose? Should we just go for the most expensive? or one of each? or is the lowest price one enough of a treat?

            1. re: susclaire

              There is another thread somewhere about which menu to order depending on how much you eat. It depends on how big your appetites are.

              1. re: susclaire

                I would just go with the gut on that one. When you get there, check the menu out and see what looks best to you. They're all different and all have awesome dishes, the only difference being quantity. I'm about 6 feet 2 inches and weigh about 240 pounds and I usually go with the Takumi which is the biggest and most expensive at $120. I always leave stuffed. I drink a lot of Sake with it as well which may contribute to my being stuffed but it's a lot of food nonetheless.

                Also, when you reserve, tell them it's your birthday. ;)

            2. Hope you went to Kaji.... it's the one and the only. Inventive. fresh. authentic.

              1. Kaji is not just about sushi/sashimi. Their Omakase has quite a few very enjoyable 'cooked' dishes as well. In fact, Kaji's 'hot food chef' is a rare breed as he is both Japanese and French trained and has amass over 2000 recipes in his repertoire. Fish/seafood offered might not be as diverse and varied as say a Sushi Yasuda of NYC, however, quality is pristine since he takes delivery of fish air freight from Tokyo's Tsujiki fish market almost every day!
                As tjr eluded to, apart from Kaji, the other worth going 'authentic Japanese own and run' place is Zen.
                IMO and FYI, Japengo and Hiro have both gone down hill. Omi, Nami and Blowfish are either Korean or Chinese run and own. Skeptical about the ingredients they use such as Escolar and Tilapia. ( cost saving purpose ). Real and good quality Japanese sushi restaurants will not touch these type of fish! In fact Escolar and Tilapia are not use in Japan for sushi due to toxin and parasite levels!

                Just stick with Kaji, If you have the appetite, pay $120 for the top end Omakase, splurge and ENJOY!!!

                23 Replies
                1. re: Charles Yu

                  I wouldn't paint Omi with the tilapia and escolar brush. I've never been served either there. As for John Lee being Korean, I for one am enjoying the fusion of styles he's introduced there that in addition to Korean also include Italian and French touches. While I appreciate the purist approach of such places as Zen, there's room for creativity as well in sushi world.

                  1. re: Googs

                    I was served Escolar in his old restaurant a few years back!. Not very impressed. May be he has changed!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      He certainly has changed. I do recall that from years ago. That and course after course of sushi. I've gone to the new digs roughly once a month since it's opening. It's quite different from the old place in a good way. You live, you learn.

                      1. re: Googs

                        Thx Googs for the update! May be I'll drive down and give it a try one day.

                        Once a month! Wow! By now you should be getting tons of complimentary stuff from him! Ha!

                        1. re: Googs

                          Goog, I was served a white fish at Omi one time recently. It is not Albcore tuna, and I did not get much info from the people there, they told me it is "white fish". It tastes like tilapia to me, do you know exactly what kind of fish is that ? Thanks.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            pinstripe princess noted in another thread that she received "white tuna toro" at Omi. Not sure if it was shiro maguro; "white tuna" in North America seems to generally refer to escolar, and the real thing isn't exactly a popular sushi menu item for a variety of reasons. That wouldn't taste like tilapia though.

                            Lee to me doesn't seem to be the type of person who would do this now though, so I'm not sure.

                            1. re: tjr

                              Albacore Tuna is referred to as White Tuna. The belly of it is called White Tuna Toro by some people.

                              1. re: katana750

                                Yes, but unfortunately most restaurants serving white tuna are not serving albacore/shiro maguro.

                              2. re: tjr

                                From my understanding, white Tuna is usually Albacore tuna, well maybe sometimes escolar. White fish (shiromi, 白身) is a general term for a piece of fish that is white in color (Sea Bream, Snapper, Hirame........)

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  Very odd that they'd be so generic. Maybe it was tilapia then!

                                  1. re: tjr

                                    Yeah, usually it is not that generic. I thought it is tilapia, but according to Googs, they do not use it, so I am not sure what kind of fish that is ...

                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                      Albacore/shiro maguro should be 'more oily' and 'softer texture' than Tilapia. No?!

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        Yeah, Albacore is softer than Tilapia. You know, people use these "terms" incorrectly.

                                        So the raw fish I had at Omi is not Albacore (white tuna), it is a kind of "white fish" as I am told and no further info is given when I asked, it did taste like tilapia. That's why I have the question for Googs in hope he/she knows what that is as Googs has been to Omi for so many times.

                                2. re: tjr

                                  my photos are a bit iffy for the tuna, but it looks like it was a really fatty shiro maguro i suspect (lots of fat striations).... from the belly perhaps? should have tried to get a japanese name out of them but they only referred to it as "white toro". it has pinkish tones that i associate with albacore but had all the fatty richness i associate with an ok grade toro.

                                  i also received a white fish in a few cooked forms that i'm not sure of what the provenance is. it wasn't oily and was quite dense which rules out a few options but i'm not entirely convinced it was tilapia either.

                                  definitely no escolar.

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                    Thanks! That's good to know.

                                    1. re: tjr

                                      Anyone tried toro other than those of "Albacore" at Omi ?

                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                        The toro I've had there hasn't been very high quality.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          he presented a side by side toro and toro (red and white for simplicities sake) and as tjr noted, the (red) toro isn't very high quality at all. it seemed more like a slightly fattier piece of maguro and certainly did not have anywhere near the fat content i'm used to. i was actually surprised he would even bother serving it as i thought his maguro was better.

                                          1. re: skylineR33

                                            Aoyama had Albacore tuna belly, that's where I remember it from. To get a higher price, the large Tuna's belly is cut and sold separatly.

                                            1. re: katana750

                                              Actually I am asking if anyone has other kind of Toro at Omi, if yes, what is it. I am not asking if there are other places serving Albacore tuna belly. Albacore belly is relatively cheap and lower quality compared to other kinds. But thanks for the info.

                                              1. re: skylineR33

                                                My understanding is that shiro/bincho maguro is rarely if ever served in Japan, and I'm talking about albacore here, not escolar. The texture degrades quickly from what I've been told.

                                                1. re: aser

                                                  Albacore (bincho maguro) is the kind of fish you will find in conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Japan. It is more popular in North America such as Toronto.

                                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                                    I've seen it at low end sushi restaurants in Japan (keep in mind, low end in Japan is on the higher end quality-wise for Toronto), but it isn't something that would be served at quality sushi joints. aser is right though, the fish begins to change colours and stuff pretty quickly, though I'm not sure if the quality of the fish degrades that fast...

                                                    It's not really something that is popular in Japan though.

                          2. Check out OKI/Oakville. It is a gem! They have delighful omakase & a wonderful and reasonable wine collection.
                            Ask for Peter & he will rfemermber you for life

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: towkay

                              Never heard of it. Is it new? Is it Japanese own and run? Have to know more since need to drive from Richmond Hill!!!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                It is feature in Trendy Zone one time, not sure about the chef but the owner speak Cantonese. If my memory serves me right, their feature roll is using a colouful rice paper. Nice decor. I have not tried it though, let me know how it goes if you go !

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  I think this was the front of the house guy from the other restaurant in Oakville (Mye?) who opened his own place. If so, it's not Japanese-owned or run. I've been to Mye before; it's a sushi-tempura-teriyaki place. The service was good, but the food wasn't anything special. It is more of a restaurant that caters to a suburban population looking for weird rolls than authentic sushi. I think it's probably the best sushi restaurant in that region (Oakville/Hamilton/Burlington), though I haven't eaten Japanese very extensively in those areas. If what I've just said about it being related to Mye is true, then I think more of the same thing is to be expected.

                                  I don't think it would be worth the drive for you, Charles_Yu, but let us know how it goes if you do decide to try it!

                                  1. re: tjr

                                    If you're coming from Richmond Hill, try Akasaka on Hwy #7. Took our New York friends there and they were wow'd by the presentation, freshness and innovative menu. They also have the chop chop but stay in the regular dining room. Fairly suburban atmosphere but the food is outstanding and very fresh. One of the owners is a chef/teacher at George Brown College and other cooking schools.