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Stay away from Sakana-Ya @ J-Town !! Unfresh Sashimi

I walked by J-Town recently, went into their fish store "Sakana-Ya" and saw a big selection of Uni "Sea Urchin" in the fish counter. There are selections from Voucouver and Hokkaido Japan. They look ok from the packaging.

The uni from Voucouver are out of season at this moment, so I picked up a tray of the Japanese Uni as I have a strong mood for it at that moment, after tasting some of the super fresh uni just arrived from Boston at Kumai of Mississauga the night before. However, the taste of it is not so fresh, even worst is when we finish the first layer of Uni, those in the second layer does not look right as the colour is uneven and kind of dark with a loose texture, we tried a little and found out they have a smell of chemical with a bitter taste !!

We threw the rest to the garage bin and I swear I will never touch any fish at Sakana-Ya.

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  1. They sold you one product that should have been flagged by appearance or smell. Even by you, as a discerning customer.

    And now you condemn the store.

    Have you contacted them? Maybe they would replace the box.
    There have been good reports about the seafood store that replaced Toro.
    I think they deserve a chance to prove themselves worthy of their location.

    5 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      What do you mean, have you ever bought a tray of uni ? The uni are stacked up on top of each other in a tray. Please read my report one more time. I said the first layer looks ok, and the bad ones are in the second layer. I returned and showed them the bad uni, they only said 'sorry' but refused to refund/exchange. They have proved to me what kind of customer service they have.

      I am not impressed by the fish at Sakana-Ya but they were ok, as shown in some of my post before, but now, it is done for me. There are also some negative reports on Sakana-Ya and now I can further confirm it.

      1. re: skylineR33

        I understand the second layer problem, and wish that some of these places would not pack this way. But you should have caught a bad scent and returned it right away.
        And they should have better customer service.
        I think they will learn from this experience, but I am not sure that you will have an open mind.

        1. re: jayt90

          With an open mind, I am not sure why I have to return after having enough 'not-so-good' to 'bad' experience with them. I have posted multiple negative post regarding Sakana-Ya in the past and it seems to me it is getting worst there. There are better places out there. The sashimi there is clearly not handled well, maybe I will return if they change management.

          The bottom line is the uni is not good as well as their customer service. I did return it right away after I caught a bad scent that is unbearable.

          1. re: skylineR33

            With an open mind, I am not sure why I have to return after having enough 'not-so-good' to 'bad' experience with them. I have posted multiple negative post regarding Sakana-Ya in the past and it seems to me it is getting worst there. There are better places out there. The sashimi there is clearly not handled well, maybe I will return if they change management.

            The bottom line is the uni is not good as well as their customer service. I did return it right away after I caught a bad scent that is unbearable

            I am confused.You indicated that you threw the rest in the garbage.Then you said that you returned it to the store and recieved terrible customer service.If you returned it to the store immediately and they denied satisfaction I am in agreement with you.But if you removed it from the garbage and took it back I can understand their point.This is where my confusion lies.

            Also,and please take this as a gentle reminder.If you are disatisfied with a food product then you have every right to post about it as a warning to other's.It is appreciated here.Remember this though,posting multiple negative reports about an establishment while continuing to frequent them usually results in the reader not taking your concerns,however valid they may have been,as factual.


            1. re: Robinez

              I returned it but they did not take it back, with the tray of uni on my hand, if I do not throw it into the garbage bin, what should I do ? Have you been to J-Town ? There is some seat for eat-in on the other side of the fish store and I was eating there. When I returned it, I show them the bad uni over the fish counter and they did not take it back. Is it this hard to understand ?

              I have like 3 posting on Sakana-Ya. Two of them are 'not-too-good' but bearable. But this last one is unbearable, you got it ? I did not frequent it, but still go to it for a quite fix once a while because it is close to where I live, dude, but I guess not anymore.

              Also, please take this as a gentle reminder. Do not make any assumption when you are not sure. I did not say I frequent Sakana-Ya.

    2. Hello skylineR33.!

      Thanks for the heads up. The few times I visited S-Y, i was never impressed by their products, be it presentation, freshness or variety. A lot of times I ended up buying nothing, turned around and head down to Taro fish on Sheppard instead!. Prefer paying a bit more for better qualty/products!

      9 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        The one time I bought some sashimi there it was very bland, haven't bothered since.

        1. re: Charles Yu

          No problem !

          That' right, even it is not close, it well worths the drive !

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Hello, where is Taro? Do they sell sashimi ends like at J-Town? Thanks.

            1. re: jtamin

              Its at 800 Sheppard avenue east across from Canadian Tire. They are higher end than Sakana-Ya and sell more superior products. Havn't seen Chirashi from them using sashimi ends like J-town's el-cheapo version..

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Yes, Taro is much better for sashimi than Sakana-Ya. The blue fin they have is good quality compared to J-Town which is a joke (and they claim it is Hon Maguro !!). The people at Sakana-Ya do not even know what wasabi they are selling when I ask them one time, they told me the mixed wasabi they sell is from 100% real wasabi.

              2. re: jtamin

                I recall Taro was amazing when they were at their old spot where Sakana-Ya is now. Their sashimi was second to none and I am talking about places where you can spend a lot of $$$. Rolls and sushi were ok. I still remember the hotate and ika sashimi I got from them. Matc it with real wasabi you can get from J-Town and you are in business. I haven;'t been to their new location yet but I am sure they have kept up with good quality.

                1. re: elvisahmed

                  Taro does have fresh wasabi roots. They are wrapped on little trays, in the fridges, around $10 per. The prices are definitely at the north end of high for the sashimi. Apart from the place on Baldwin, is there any where else in town that you can get good sashimi cuts?

                  1. re: Snarf

                    Jeez I can't think of any. I have read good things about Scallops at McEwans which I am sure they can cut sashimi style but I doubt they are priced lower than Taro. Galleria has good uni once in a while and their Salmon is reasonable. Tuna and other items are no way near Taro's quality. If you factor in what you would pay at High end Place to get the sashimi what you buy at Taro I think its still a good Value.
                    Can I know the name of the place at Baldwin you referred to?

                    1. re: elvisahmed

                      I think the name of the place on Baldwin is Seaway on the south side. You'll know it by the smell (complete lack thereof), and the fridges on the left with the sashimi cuts. They will also cut in front of you, should you wish.

            2. Appreciate the review as I've always been interested but never actually bought anything in there because it's never looked great. I don't understand why these people are saying you have to give them a second chance, especially when you told them about the problem and they did nothing about it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cutehinano

                I don't understand either? He has a genuine gripe and they're busting his balls about it?

              2. I prefer Taro; last time I was at Sakana-Ya, I bought some fish and it was okay. Post-Taro move, S-Y was awful, but they seemed to be getting better. I don't shop there very often, but it's pretty bad that they won't take it back. Didn't someone mention this uni-packing (darker, lower grade uni on the bottom, where you can't see it), at Diana's as well? It's a shame!

                Sorry for your bad experience! I don't think I'll buy anything from them in the future, since it's never my first stop for fish anyways. What a shame...

                1. Folks, we've removed several posts that were getting increasingly personal. Please keep any further posts focused on the quality of the seafood and not on the poster. Thanks!

                  1. I had uni from Sakana-Ya this weekend as part of a chirashi-don, and it was so delicious. Sweet, and wonderfully fresh. I'm glad I had a different experience than skylineR33, to say the least!

                    1. UN-FRESH anything , YUCK ..specially raw , uber YUCK..poison

                      1. i bought a pack of sashimi (3 types - salmon, maguro, and hamachi?, each has 3 - 4 slices and the price was around 8.99) and took it back home.

                        after i opened the cling wrap, it smells.....
                        it's NOT fresh. and I took that package from the fridge. I don't know how the fish are like if they are just lying on the counter.

                        Also, I ordered a box of sushi (small box, 4.99) from them. They tried to look for the exact same box from an ice box, and they don't have exact sushi that i wanted. the 'chef' just took out the pieces that are not matching and put new ones in.....not even want to make me a brand new box.

                        thumbs down. I will never buy from this place.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: phylao

                          Personally, I would prefer driving the extra 15 minutes to Taro fish on Sheppard. Compare to Sakana-Ya, quality is night and day!!

                          1. re: phylao

                            I wonder how Sakana-Ya can still in business. I shake my head every time I walk around this fish store, whenever I visited the Cafe for Tonkatsu, or shopping for groceries. It is pretty awful, packs of raw fish lying on the counter for god knows how long, tuna turns gray in the freezer .... Do we, in Toronto, really have such a low standard for Japanese food that people still support this kind of operation ?!

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              Not just the fish! The shari of their sushi was aweful too!! Big huge rectangle block of hard, tasteless rice! Yeeuuck!! Sushi chefs from Jiro, Kyubey or Mizutani will cry when they see this quality standard sushi being sold to the public!!! Ha!
                              Even Chinese run sushi bar. like the one in the 'Yang's' plaza on Bayview can do a much better job!!

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                Agreed. Those sushi bars are more professional and competent than Sakana Ya.

                          2. We've bought sashimi & uni from Sakana-ya several times and we are not going to buy anymore from them. Their quality isn't stable, mostly bad. Their uni are not good. Sometimes they have good ones but I wouldn't try my luck with them~

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: hidekazuki

                              Seeing all of the very negative reviews of this place, I felt compelled to comment on my experiences with their product. I cannot disagree with the many raw fish connoisseurs who have posted negative reviews, but I do want it to be known that it is possible to enjoy extremely fresh sashimi from Sakana-ya. However, there are a few important caveats that I must mention.

                              1- I have their sashimi about once a year (I am very fortunate to be spoiled for choice by living in close proximity to Taro’s fish, Mikado and now Nigiri-ya). My boyfriend is Japanese and his mom places the order well in advance for our traditional Japanese new year’s meal.

                              2- This year, she ordered a platter of sashimi to feed 5 people (it easily fed 7 of us) for about $250 and asked for them to select the freshest fish. If you are not picky about what kind of fish you get, this is probably the way to go. We were treated to amazingly fresh sea urchin, yellowtail, sweet shrimp, salmon, fatty tuna, snapper, and a few fish we didn’t recognize, as well as the special delicacy of cod sperm (I’d seen Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern rave about this stuff). The platter was huge and garnished with the head, tail and fins of a cod fish, which were intended for use as a meal/soup stock afterward. If you would like to see a picture of this platter, let me know and I will see about posting it somewhere.

                              3- Bf’s mom said that their fish is flown in from Japan every Wednesday. We ate it on new year’s day (a Saturday) and it was still unbelievably fresh; so much so that I’m considering getting sashimi from here for my wedding, however, I would definitely have my bf’s mom place the order.

                              4- My dad also served us a small amount of sashimi just a few days prior to this Japanese feast and he claimed to have gotten it from Sakana-ya also. Comparatively, it was lacking in both presentation and quality. There was an excessive amount of grated carrot, and the bland sea urchin looked as if it had been mashed up with the carrot, ruining it’s texture (although my dad might have actually done this). I’m sure that he did not place an advance order and he is a very budget-conscious consumer, rarely experiencing top tier sashimi.

                              Overall, I would say that Sakana-ya is not doing themselves any favours by providing two tiers of product. They should always be serving up the freshest fish to all of their customers, and unfortunately, it seems like a lot of you have not had their best effort. I must say, when it’s good, it’s really very good.

                              1. re: 0ntar10

                                I always visit J-Town area to have ramen, yakitori at the Izakaya or get the meat from Famu. I always have a walk to the fish store Sakana-Ya. 10 times out of 10, I see they have tuna all turn gray in the fridge, botan shrimp on ice which the head all turns black, and raw food bento laying on the counter for god knows how long. So I think yours is truly a exceptional case.

                                Also, don't tied up too much with the term "fresh fish flown from Japan". Japan is a hub with fish from all over the world. It does not mean you are getting fish caught in Japan. You are getting toro which is caught in Australia or Indian Ocean which restaurant or fish monger labelled them with "fresh fish flown from Japan". For Uni, probably you don't want them from Japan. You better off getting uni from BC or California or Boston, unless you are getting them directly from Hokkaido on a 14 hours freight. Otherwise, it will not be fresh. With the $250 for 5 or 7 persons you spent on your sashimi plate, I doubt you are getting premium uni actually from Japan.

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  Hay skylineR33! Last weekend, whilst browsing in Taro Fish on a Friday evening, I noticed Taro San putting some fresh uni onto a huge piece of 'leaf' before putting them in his counter fridge'. Seeing that, I ordered a few uni sushi from him. Huge 'orange' colour looking, they are sooo sweet and without a hint of fishy taste or smell! So rare in Toronto!! Forgot to ask him where they are from !! Schucks!!

                            2. I've gone a number of time after work for their discounted items. From time to time, their sushi boxes and rolls are deeply discounted (50% off). I find them tolerable and is fairly decent for the price. You run into an 'iffy' piece from time to time, but for the price after the discount, it's not the worst. Paying regular price for the same or slightly better quality fish does seem a little much as their quality is not the greatest.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: ragged25

                                I wouldn't recommend that anyone follow this suggestion.

                                1. re: tjr

                                  Agree with tjr!!
                                  Paying discounted price at the end of the day for 'cooked food' might be acceptable. However, for raw fish left outside, unrefrigerated for up to 7-8 hours! NO WAY!! Also, the shari will be hardened by then!!

                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                    I had a bad experience with some tuna nigiri that was discounted and on the counter, unrefrigerated. The colour looked good, but after opening it, it was dry and the texture was mushy, rather than firm and "crisp". I like their grilled mackerel and had one very good experience with the sashimi in one of their bento boxes (super fresh!), so it appears that their quality is inconsistent. In my opinion, selling questionable quality raw fish, even at a discount, isn't a good sign for any purveyor. This made me question the quality of the mackerel, before they grill it - perhaps, I've been lucky the few times that I've bought it.