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Jun 8, 2009 05:45 PM

Church St. - Sakura Karsai?

I recently heard about this relatively new spot on Church, near Wellesley. Not sure if I'm spelling it correctly,Sakura Karsai? I wondered if anybody has been, and has any info to share. Apparently the food is really good but I would like to hear from some CH'ers. Thanks

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    1. re: Muffin__Top

      Yep, must be Kaiseki Sakura.

      Sakura is a higher-end Japanese restaurant. It's not kaiseki, as the name would lead you to believe, but the food quality is beyond what most Japanese restaurants in Toronto are serving. I personally prefer Kaji for Japanese in general, and Hashimoto for the closest approximation of kaiseki you're going to get in Toronto. I find the tasting menus at Sakura usually leave me feeling disappointed.

      Sakura can be a bit inventive, the presentation of dishes is okay, and the quality of the ingredients is generally fine. They have a lot of nice drink options (sake, cocktails, etc.) and also have an a la carte menu. It's more of an upscale izakaya.

      1. re: tjr

        It has been open a couple of years you can search google and find some reviews.. When it opened it tried to be true Kaiseki but the economy and the clientale forced them to dumbdown the menu to more of a high end tasting. For the price and convinience of location (as opposed to Kaji & Hashimoto which basically need a car to get too from downtown) . I say it is a great place to go to get high end Japanese in more of a lounge setting with great drinks. Sakura come from being personal chef for tha Japanese Consulate plus a stint under a chef from France so he puts some little twists on the menu that makes it special...

        1. re: OnDaGo

          Kaiseki Sakura never provides authentic (or true ?) kaiseki nor I think they have ever tried to provide authentic kaiseki. I had been there when it is first opened. Their omakase use to be cheaper than now. tjr is right, it is more like a modern izakaya that has the option of providing set courses/tasting menu, which is very common in Japan. This has been talked about long time ago.

          1. re: skylineR33

            Not that I assume to think that you don't know more then profesional food writters but Toronto Life in 2007 though they got a Kaiseki meal...

            1. re: OnDaGo

              As I said, there are many restaurant out there providing a range of Japanese food which include some sort of kaiseki style set meal, or you can call it omakase. Kaiseki Sakura is one of these and this cannot be consider a true kaiseki experience. Not that I assume the writer of that torontolife article never eat a authentic (true ?) kaiseki meal but not all professional food writter has experience authentic (true ?) kaiseki meal.

              You can get more info about kaiseki cuisine here ;


            2. re: skylineR33

              skylineR33 kept saying that Sakura is not a real kaiseki restaurant.
              But what do you think the fact that the chef has been a kaiseki chef for more than 20 years, trained in Japan, not like other Japanese chefs that are trained only in toronto. Sakura's chef used to be the personal chef to the Japanese consulate. Do you think consulate hires a fake kaiseki chef? He also has experience serving to Japanese royal family, too. That's the fact that he is a true kaiseki chef. You cannot tell because you are not kaiseki chef, you just have eaten some kaiseki in Japan. It's ok that you don't like sakura, but you'd better stop telling people that sakura is not a kaiseki place... you just don't know, man.

              1. re: kumakuma

                I am not the only one who said the food you get at Kaiseki Sakura is not real Kaiseki on this board. In fact, it is not and I know, man.

                1. re: kumakuma

                  Credential is one thing, the food coming out of his kitchen is another.! Based on the few Kaiseki meals I had in Japan, Sakura 's Kaiseki is no where near the real thing one gets in Osaka, Kyoto or Tokyo! The dining ware, the presentation, the number of courses, the food....etc all fall short! Sakura may be serving multi-courses Japanese food but the meal on the whole IS NOT KAISEKI!!! In Toronto, closest is Hashimoto. But, even THAT, is 'border-line' Kaiseki when compared to the authentic Japanese version!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Agree, Kaiseki Sakura is not 'genuine' Kaiseki'.
                    But it is an excellent restaurant that serves 'good food aimed at western palates'.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      I also agree that it's not Kaiseki but it's not totally devoid of references to Kaiseki Cuisine with regards to some dishes, ingredients, and execution.

                      I've had many good meals there however the last time I went it was underwhelming to say the least. Anyone been lately?

                      1. re: estufarian

                        I think not everyone appreciate the 'good food aimed at western palates' at Kaiseki Sakura, definitely not me. I have a couple of bland and overcooked dishes there as well such as the salmon, duck and black cod.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          However, the braised ox-tongue was very good though!

                2. re: OnDaGo

                  The chef's name is Daisuke Izutsu, not Sakura. The "stint" you're referring to is the one under Thuet.

              1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                Thanks muffin_top for the correct name. I wasn't even close so no wonder I couldn't find it anywhere. I must put this place on top of my list. The dishes my friend described sounded wonderful. She raved about the pari pari salad, duck on hot stone, scallops, tempura shrimps....yum!

                1. re: millygirl

                  Oddly, I read an article about this place that remarked on how good their vegetarian dishes were. They have a veg section in their menu (includes tofu lasagna----this had me very confused when I read the article about what ethnicity this restaurant represented). I have this place on my mental list of places to go to if I'm in the neighbourhood.

                  1. re: millygirl

                    Despite mixed reviews amongst the hounds I think this place is great. Their beef/miso soup is a must-try item!
                    Also I think it's a really fun to eat menu. I love how their sushi is served with a real wasabi root that you can grate yourself, and the concept of serving cocktail pairings with the tasting menu is something I'd love to see more of.
                    Whether it's real kaiseki or not doesn't make any difference to me.

                    1. re: graydyn

                      I completely agree, graydyn. Semantics aside, Kaiseki Sakura is a great, authentic Japanese restaurant. Whether it's omakase, kaiseki or whatever, I've always had an excellent dining experience there. And before anyone posts about whether I've been to Kaji or Hashimoto, yes I have been to both.

                      I was there for dinner this weekend and really enjoyed my meal. Not everything was perfect, it would be difficult to be unable to find any fault in any meal but the food and service were great. I personally found the scallop dish to be my least favourite, just because I didn't think the combination of the turnip "noodles" and tomato and apple went well with the scallops, not because any component was poorly prepared.

                      My dining companion is the type to ask a million questions - sometimes to the point where even I can't take it anymore. They were very friendly and gracious, answering a myriad of questions about ingredients etc. and offering advice about where one might purchase these things.

                      I would like to comment that it's a shame this restaurant isn't busier. I've dined at Sakura several times in the last few years and it never seems to be very busy. There are usually a few tables but I've never been there when it was full. It's too bad. With the countless assembly-line, pseudo-Japanese places around, more Torontonians should experience real Japanese food, not just all-you-can-eat sushi bars, where you can dunk your massive maki roll into a vat of soy until you've obliterated any taste except soy sauce.

                  2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                    Definitely the reason I go, over the food, though I do enjoy some of the dishes.

                    I find the "grate your own wasabi" is too much of a gimmick (and also promotes its overuse, which may be okay since I don't find the fish to be anything special at Sakura), though it's nice that someone is using fresh (albeit mediocre quality) wasabi.

                  3. Debates on whether this place is "true" kaiseki style dining or not aside, I agree that it's definitely worth visiting. My wife and I have been twice, about a year apart. The first time we had the tasting menu, and the second time we ordered a series of dishes from the a-la-carte menu. Both experiences were quite different but equally good.

                    Everything is prepared with great care and even the dishes that were new to me were delicious. Toss aside any preconceptions you might have based on Japanese food in Toronto... there are no California rolls or teriyaki chicken dishes to be found here, that's for sure. The decor of the restaurant is beautifully minimalist and the service is attentive, polite, and patient with questions from people like me with a limited knowledge of Japanese cuisine. Finally, as others suggested above, don't neglect to try a good sake or sake based cocktail. it's hard to find much sake selection elsewhere in Toronto.

                    The restaurant website is quite good and posts updated menus seasonally:


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Gary

                      Checked their menu, they recommend 3 dishes per person. Does that mean their entrees (e.g. duck sukiyaki) are smallish?

                      1. re: Gary

                        The last time I was there, I signed up for their newsletter. It was a good move because the newsletter announced several special offers for August. They scrapped the regular menu and were offering smaller "tapas" dishes. My friends and I went for dinner last Friday and it was great. The food was delicious and the service very polite and helpful. I can't repeat myself often enough - this is a restaurant worth visiting again and again. And the sake cocktails are delicious!

                      2. I will never go back, we spend $160 for two ate 8 to 9 items, to share. I am asian maybe thats the main reason i didn't find the items any exciting. The food is what my mom cooks at home. Nothing special, just a boring home meal with the excemption of msg. Many of the menu items are stewed in advanced, cold soup prepared in advanced, just scoop and served nicely. And after the expensive meal, we were not even half full, we had to stop by to gazale for a full meal. And that was satisfiying food!!! I don't know where the hype is coming....

                        Their eel risotto, was plain rice congee with eel that T&T sells for $5.00 for a big piece. So easy I am planning on making it at home one day!!