New Izakaya joint @ Yonge & Eg
Can't remember the name, something with 3 or 4 letters, it will come back to me...but where Ichiban used to be, white paper all in the windows, with big "Coming soon" signs - great place for a sake bar, hopefully they serve some good sushi, as this area desperately needs some!
Maybe I will pop in this afternoon to get the scoop.
Exciting! Except if they are a real izakaya, they won't serve sushi at all. I would like to get a real izakaya in this neck of the woods!
Bad assumption on my part re: the sushi thing, I suppose the only reason why I thought this was due to the Izakaya place on willowdale being my only exposure to this type of cuisine.
It's definitely not a traditional izakaya but does offer some izakaya style dishes. Most dish are pretty good in a crowd pleaser kind of way. In the area it's located, I'd choose this place over any other Asian restaurant at the same price range ($20+ per person, excluding cost of alcohol). Most dishes tasted fresh. I tried a radish salad in Shabu Shabu dressing, not bad. Cold tofu 3 styles (ie, with 3 toppings), 2 of the 3 styles delivered. Sliced pork in ginger sauce - dry. Dragon roll - fresh, but no surprise.
The setting is nicely befitting of its offerings and price range. Service is very personable and warm. It has 1 of those colorful, 1-sheet, laminated menu with little pictures of most items next to their names. Quite Japanese city cantine (chain) looking.
I will go back if I'm around that area.
Went to Fin for dinner and I have ordered:
(1) Agedashi Tofu Trio -- not the type of Agedashi I like (too firm) but the tofu came with three different types of tasty Radish, good try.
(2) Clam cooked in a hot pot with Sake (can't remember the name) -- my favourite of the nite, clam is surprisingly fresh and they keep the pot warm by placing it over a little candlie lit burner. The broth works well with the clam.
(3) Kakuni Pork (Pork Belly and eggs cooked in a sauce) -- will order again
(4) Pork Ramen Noodle -- above average
(5) Deep fried lotus root -- interestingly combo of deep fried lotus with spinach cheese dip
(6) Some Yakitori -- good but definitely room for improvement
(7) Hamachi and Tuna sushi -- fresh and the proportion of rice to fish is perfect.
Comparing with other izakaya places in North American that I have tried, like Kenka, Oh Taisho in NYC or Guu, Kinyo in Vancouver, Overall, I would give "Fin" a 7.5/10 for now. Good service, nice decor, great location. If you don't know where it is, it just one block east of Eglinton subway station, on the South side of Eglinton (next to Spring Roll). But consider there isn't too much izakaya place in Toronto, I will probably visit this place quite often.
And they haven't started serving alcohol yet but there are a lot of Sake and cocktail to choose from once the license is there. Looking forward to it.
55 Eglinton E. Closed Sundays. They have an ad in the current issue of the Japanese community paper for the 1st time, announcing their grand opening . Maybe they finally got the liquor licence. Never saw any hiring ad in the same paper. Maybe they didn't recruit locally. I found out about Kaiseki Sakura months before their opening from their hiring ad.
Dishes appearing in the photo look good. There is a little CV of the master chef - master chef of an izakaya chain, master chef of kani kaiseki restaurant, master sushi cook of old kaiseki restaurant, assistant to Iron Chef Japanese Nakamura for 11 years. We'll check it out soon.
Had the blowfish fin sake and apple chu-hi for drinks. They were OK.
- complimentary otoshi - eggplant, string beans with yuzu, spinach with sesame paste
- sea smelts karaage - quite nice, not overly battered/dry/greasy, ponzu dipping sauce
- Ahi Tuna tataki - half frozen and tasted like cheap sashima from AYCE places, with some caviar on top and served with ponzu jello instead of ponzu sauce. It didn't work well at all.
- wagyu hamburger steak with daikon and ponzu sauce - not bad
- asari no sakamushi - clams were small and they weren't kept in the tank long enough to get rid of the grit before being cooked. Lots of cracked shells.Taste-wise acceptable and not over-cooked.
- yaki onigiri - rice was a bit too dry(or stale) when put on the grill
So far Emetei seems to be better. Will try some other dishes next time before the discount coupon expires in the next few days.
Went there 2 more times, lunch and dinner.
Lunch: Grill king fish saikyu miso, with the additional $3 shashimi. Shashimi was good. Fish was acceptible
Dinner (Canada day eve - place was 80% full, majority Japanese, 20% other asians and 1 non-asian table):
Sake samplers - They ran out of 2 of the premium brands in the combo. Waitress suggested substitutions. I had to remind her that the substitutions are much cheaper brands.
Sashimi - asked for the one with 5 varieties, showed up with 3, with 3pc+3pc+1pc(hamachi). Upon inquiry, another plate showed up with 3pc+3pc+3pc. No additional hamachi on the 2nd plate. The shredded daikon on the "plate" left big puddles of water on the table. This happened at lunch as well.
Yakitori & Tsukune platter - this was very good
Veggie skewers mix - also very good
Conclusion: still a lot of teething problem. Not the greatest izakaya food.
Next task: check out yet another new izakaya - KOYOI at Yonge and Irwin(Wellesley)
I've been to Fin twice now, and am very pleased. I really enjoyed the unagi don and the blowtorched saba. The sake and wasabi marinated octopus starter is also delicious. The ika sushi is phenomenally tender, and only on a very small bed of rice. I have tried a couple of the rolls, and have enjoyed them immensely. I will avoid the one with cheese on top (?!), however. I've also been pleasantly surprised by the bill at the end of the meal. I consider this a pretty nice spot. Service is very friendly, and they seem to be super customer-oriented. My second time there, I was mistakenly given two things I didn't order - which they knew at the time they presented the dish, and could simply have removed without me even knowing - and was cheerfully told they were on the house.
As for the plinky shamisen, I'm pretty convinced they had one song on repeat, rather than the whole CD. The first time, yes, the same piece played repeatedly the whole time. The second time, there were multiple different pieces.
I went tonight because my gf is really into izakaya/homey Japanese food. Let's just say Ematei has nothing much to worry about until Guu opens.
The decor was nice, very bright natural light shining through, lots of dark wood everywhere. Service was extremely attentive, tea was refilled w/o prompting countless times, top marks there.
Going through the menu I see "chef's special" icons beside certain dishes, I automatically gravitate towards those. If they're proud enough to boast, it'll be a good indicator of the kitchen's skill. We avoided the sushi and ordered....
- agedashi tofu trio
Generous portion, came w/ 3 daikon toppings in a separate bowl (ginger/momijioroshi/aonori). My gf ate the majority of it, I only tried it w/ aonori. The tofu, although fried decent enough, had a lingering taste of oil past its prime. Either the oil needed to be changed or more likely, they didn't clean their deep fryer and filter the oil for reuse after each day. The tentsuyu broth was average at best, their dashi needs work.
- japanese eggplant dengaku
Eggplant was cooked well, the sauce had a thicker consistency but again wasn't particularly strong. You would think it would have more pow considering how syrupy it was. The cream cheese on the side added nothing to the dish, not sure why it was there honestly.
- sake steamed asari sakamusi
Ordered this because of the recommendation above. The clams were overcooked as they were brought out in a stone pot w/ lid. They could've been cooked perfectly once off the stove. Leaving the lid on for presentation purposes meant it was doomed by the time it was uncovered at the table. It was plated on top of a candle warmer base, again unnecessary as the stone pot retains heat already. The broth inside was over-reduced, too salty, and obviously not enough of it to go around. I had to tilt the hot stone pot at an angle to gather up broth to accompany the clams. It was also topped w/ too much negi. The dish would've been much better if I could've added some hot water to rescue/recalibrate the broth.
- fin special ramen
I wasn't expecting much, this is Toronto after all, but I'm just a sucker for ramen. I'll order it once anywhere just for the sake of it. It is a shoyu based pork broth, topped w/ charshu, shanghai bok choy and shoyu egg. First the broth lacked any punch, I had to rescue it by throwing in some shichimi. The charshu looked more pork belly than shoulder to me, I could be wrong. It was also sliced much thicker than the thin slivers you come to expect. The benefit is you do get more meat, the tradeoff is you lose the moistness you'd get w/ thinner pieces soaking up the broth. To their credit, the charshu was still relatively soft considering the thickness, it just lacked taste again. The shoyu egg was hard boiled, definitely not hanjuku, tis a shame. Noodle wise, they were overcooked, too soft to have good mouthfeel. Taste wise the noodles were functionary, but nothing memorable. Finally there was no negi in sight, the bowl was screaming for some. I should've transferred the excessive negi from the clams onto the ramen instead.
- yakitori (thigh meat I assume & kawa)
A real low point, do not order this if you do go. The kawa (chicken skin) was totally deep fried while the chicken thigh had very little caramelization. I didn't expect them to grill over charcoal, it's Toronto afterall, but it didn't even seem like they grilled it over a standard gas grill either. It was under-seasoned again, I stuck w/ shio as the seasoning choice since the rest sounded too fusion to me (wasabi mayo, etc).
Music wise, it was jpop, I think it was Mika Nakashima actually.
Total for 2 w/o alcohol + tax/tip was $41.
Overall, I suggest you pass and stick w/ Ematei, a little more expensive but worth the $. Pics coming soon.....
Well, Mika Nakashima is certainly a bit more modern than the endless revolutions of 90s Utada Hikaru albums.
I've also been, but didn't really want to post a thorough review until my second visit, because I'm not sure whether the issues were growing pains, or were actually legitimate issues that would continue. It looks like the latter is probably the case, so I'll just give different dishes a try next time and post a second one.
Of the five you ordered, we ordered the last two. The dishes we split were: ramen, yakitori, torched saba, sashimi, "tofu fight," tsukemono, ika sugata yaki, and the wagyu hamburger.
Regarding the ramen and yakitori, you've pretty much summed up what I would have said, except that I think you went a bit too easy on the ramen. There was a decent amount of meat, but I didn't find it exceptional in any way. The ramen was completely bland; the only thing I could really taste was salt, but not in a good way.
The blowtorched saba was okay, but the skin wasn't crispy, which is the point of this dish. The sashimi was mediocre; it's basically the same thing you'd get anywhere else. No interesting fish, all the standards, reasonable quality, but nothing special.
The tofu fight was an okay idea, I suppose, pitting Japanese/Korean/Chinese sauces against each other atop three cubes of tofu. The only thing was that the sauces really weren't that great. I don't know if they make them in house, but the Chinese one definitely tasted bottled to me. The tsukemono were good.
The ika sugata yaki was overcooked; it's fairly easy to overcook this sort of dish, I guess, but it really makes it rubbery and inedible. I'm not sure about the wagyu hamburger steak. The meat itself was okay, but I think the presentation and demi-glace brought me back and I enjoyed it (I could probably eat demi-glace hamburger steaks everyday, I guess).
my friend and i went today. we had the wakame salad, eggplant, hamburger steak, grilled calamari, and the tempura. overall, the place had a nice atmosphere. the staff were very pleasant. the food was ok, nothing super, but nothing horrible. i have not had proper izakaya in japan, and my only experiences have been in vancouver (guu, gyoza king, hapa), and ematei in toronto. i had the impression that izakaya food was to accompany drinks and therefore were tasty (and some almost intense tasting) small plates. what we had was very edible, but lacked a certain kick to it. it was almost bland. one of our servers described the food as japanese home cooking! that was a bit of a surprise to me. the selection of food (and ingredients) did not seem particularly creative....i think ematei does a much better job with their menu and the intensity and diversity of flavours for izakaya in toronto. and i think i also paid less at ematei. fin is in my hood, so i probably would go back, but i don't think it's a go-to spot for izakaya just yet.
Picked this from a few Japanese-style restaurants located along Eglinton east of Yonge St based on how it looked inside from the street - received a friendly greeting upon entering but became quickly disappointed from the service and food once inside. Perhaps we should have picked up on a clue of what awaited for us inside from the sign on the door that read something like "Hour Operation." Our server abandoned us after they took our order - during this time we decided to use the facilities that were hard to find and we were surprised to find an open door to the multi-stalled washrooms. When another server eventually tried to pick up the slack they brought out our heaviest order first (terriyaki that seemed more like Irish stew in the house sauce) and then our appetizers. Overall better organization, proper compliance to health codes and an environment that customers can understand (the pictorial menu was only slightly helpful) when trying the "Izakaya" experience would have better matched the pricing.
Went to Fin last night with a group of friends. It was fairly busy with a good mix of japanese ex-pats, foreign students, and non-asians. It was the first time that most of my friends had tried out an izakaya, and i have to say that as a first time experience, it definately delivered. friendly and attentive service, food was reminecent of japan, but does need a little more work to live up to other izakayas in north america. (this is where i will not compare it to izakayas in japan, as it really is in a different league). ultimately a good place to start off at for izakaya beginners.
having 9 people in our group meant that we were able to order an extremely wide range of items. i wont go into the details of all of them...
Niku-jyaga - This came as the starter for the group. Wasn't anything to write home about, as the potatoes were overdone, but the flavour was there. the right amount of sweetness.
shabu shabu radish salad - huge plate of radish, sliced pork, and what tasted like ponzu sauce as dressing. cute presentation, and a nice way to ease people in to the meal.
natto and rice - fermented soy beans, green onion, soya sauce and white rice. hmmm. since this is such an acquired taste, we decided to give it a whirl. since i enjoy natto on occassion, i quite liked the stickiness and stringiness that it offered, and since natto typically has a very powerful smell, the brand of natto that was served up wasnt that bad at all. definately will get it again - if not for myself, but for newbies to japanese cuisine.
Asian Tofu Flight - 3 cubes of medium-hard tofu topped with toppings that were supposed to represent China, Korea, and Japan. Japan was some green onion, ginger, and radish. Korea was basicaly kimchi, and the chinese one i couldnt identify at all. Interesting concept nonetheless.
ika sugata yaki - grilled squid. pretty darn good. i wish we had ordered two of them.
fin ramen - to be honest - there isnt anywhere in toronto that serves great ramen. and this one was fairly average.
yakisoba - topped with an omelette, the yakisoba was very well prepared. the right amount of ginger and sauce made this one of of the more popular dishes.
Aji Namerou - Horse Mackeral (which is a fish about 6 inches long or so) that is filleted, then the meat is ground up with green onion and ginger. kind of like a salmon or steak tartare. this was pretty decent. great presentaton as the plate included the fileted fish strung up on a piece of bamboo that all in one shot, wowed and grossed out our 16 yr old at the table. in my opinion, this was gorgeous and i commend the chef for having the guts to plate the dish in that manner. once we finished the dish and all that was left was the fileted fish, i asked our waitress if it was safe to eat the fish on its on. she replied by saying that if we would like, she would take it away and prepare it such that we could eat the entire thing head to tail. intrigued, we agreed, and about 15 minutes later, she came back with our fish lightly battered and fried to the point where all the bones had grown soft. she also brought a small dish of ponzu sauce and said we could just break off pieces of the fish and dip into the sauce for flavour. "full of calcium", she remarked, after a couple minutes of laughing and picture taking, we embarked into the devouring what was left of the fish, with a friend of mine chowing down right into the head. beautiful.
all in all - the food was decent, but not mind-blowing. however, the great and attentive service, reasonable prices, and non-pretentious clientele will definately have me coming back to fin.
Went to Fin today for lunch. Looks like they have changed their lunch menu-- focusing more on donburi (rice bowls with toppings). Don't know about their dinner menu.
I had the slow-cooked pork belly on rice. Came with a soft quail egg on top. Very nice. Wife had the special marinaded beef on rice. Flavour was good. Also had the tempura. Good, very nice and light batter. Came with three different kinds of dipping salts, instead of the usual sauce.
Overall, a solid choice for lunch in the 'hood. Service was very friendly. Will be back, hopefully to try the dinner menu next time.
I was at this place for a birthday party, the food was pretty good but it was a bit weird that they serve what appeared to be Tostitos as a table snack, or maybe it was one of the appetizers someone ordered. Are Tostitos popular in Japan?
I enjoy Fin a lot. Nice to know there's a coupon - might go and buy a couple! Here's what I wrote on some of the dishes I had:
Katsuo No Tataki – Seared bonito tuna with crunchy garlic served with ponzu sauce. Not a re-order for moi. Interesting though.
Pork Belly Kushiyaki – Six skewers the first time we had this. Six. I had two. You do the math. Love that delicious meat + fire + fat + sake/soju taste.
Saba Aburi – blowtorched marinated mackerel served with ponzu sauce. We’ve ordered this twice now. Good stuff.
Amaebi Karaage – this fried shrimp was tasty – try to not let it get cold. Mine had lovely roe for that extra crunch too!
Takoyaki – I think this was the best version I’ve had in the city. Really reminded me of eating in Osaka. The shell is soft, which I prefer. Guu’s is very hard in comparison. A definite re-order for me next time. Caveat: I was last in Japan over eight years ago now. My taste-memory isn’t that good.
Wholey Holy Garlic! – whole deep-fried garlic with chef’s miso mayo sauce. Given that I love me some garlic, I enjoyed this one a lot. The miso sauce however, was surprisingly good – spicy and fruity. Worth a try, I think.
Kamo-no Shichimi-yaki – Grilled duck breast seasoned with rock salt and Japanese shichimi pepper. Good enough to order again during our second visit. This hot plate sizzles when it hits the table and I love the toasty mushroom and onion bits that get stuck to the iron.
I think the menu has changed recently though, and again since I last went for fall. Here's the latest menu shot I have:
398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA
So I do not know if it was this post, or something else, but I went there tonight. Decided to sit at the sushi bar.
WOW, it was wonderful. Great drink and food. Seriously, get the man behind the sushi bar chatting and you will have a great night. Just do not call him a "sushi chef".
I am to full and sleepy to give the chowworthy details, perhaps another time. :)