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Aug 20, 2009 11:36 AM

sushi - quality and prices

hey... I'm fairly new to Toronto and I'm wondering what the lay of the land is like for sushi. My favourite thing is tuna sushi (a single slab of tuna on a single chunk of rice). My question is, what is the average price you expect to pay for that here? And what do you consider the minimum price to get a high quality piece of the aforementioned? I haven't had the time to do my own survey. However, I was shocked when I went to Ichiban on King West and they were asking $3.00 for a single piece. I had a miso soup and quickly left.

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  1. Ichiban is a low-end sushi chain with slightly more elevated prices than the other low-end sushi places, but those prices seem pretty normal to me. However, are you sure it wasn't $3.00 for two pieces? I don't really visit these places, but you don't often see nigiri coming in single pieces when ordered à la carte.

    Regardless, Zen, which is pretty much at the top of the sushi spectrum in Toronto if you don't consider Kaji (where you can't really order a single piece of sushi), charges $6.00 for two pieces. Taro's Fish, which is technically not a restaurant, charges around $5.00 for two pieces.

    If you want quality, that is what you'll pay. If you want cheap, then either hit up an all you can eat that serves what you want, or compare prices with the low-end sushi places that line the streets of Toronto. As I understand it, you're from Vancouver, but even there you can't expect to get good quality tuna at rock bottom prices.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tjr

      A slight correction - Ichiban is a franchise, each restaurant being running independently, with different menus, prices and quality. But they are all mediocre at best.

      1. re: tjr

        tjr is correct! Almost all Ichiban charges $3.00 for two pieces. For a $3.00 piece, one should expect a blue fin tuna or a lower grade toro.

      2. If you're serious about sushi, let us know. If you just want a fix then you can do a lot of cheap stuff here. You'll find tjr, charles yu, and teep only do serious. Me? I like to think I'm in their league. At least I warm the bench.

        1. I suppose you are talking about big-eye red tuna nigiri sushi which is normally found in Toronto.

          Ichiban (restaurants, not take-out) are indeed charging this kind of price (~$3 each a la carte) for the red tuna nigiri sushi, which do not quite match with the quality they provide. Some Icihiban charges more, some charges less.

          Normal 'a la carte' price (2 pieces) for red tuna sushi in Toronto is from $4.5 to $6 (such as $5.5 at Japango, $6 at Zen, $6 at Hiro, these are some of the better ones in Toronto). However, this is Big-Eye tuna, not Blue-Fin.

          Say if you are talking about Blue-fin o-toro nigiri sushi, it is $18.5 a la carte for 2 pieces at Kumai of Mississauga, good quality.

          4 Replies
          1. re: skylineR33

            I doubt he was talking about bluefin o-toro if $3 causes him to run out of a restaurant. Perhaps he'll return and give us the kind of price he's willing to pay for quality sushi, or otherwise sacrifice the quality and go elsewhere.

            1. re: tjr

              thanks for the overview. i'm not incredibly picky about sushi. i'm just looking for a good balance of quality and price, and i wasn't sure about price norms here. i got worried when the vibe of a place said 'mediocre' and the price seemed high (ichiban). for reference, my favourite sushi restaurant in vancouver has excellent quality tuna nigiri for 1.75 a piece. if i know i can expect to pay a little less than double, that helps calibrate my expectations.

              1. re: clamnectar

                As someone who lived for a few years in Vancouver (in the mid-90s) and discovered a love for sushi while there, I must warn you that low, mid-range and high-end pricing in Vancouver does not jive with that in Toronto. Toronto sushi is a few notches below Vancouver sushi, for the most part. Lower-end fish and prices in Vancouver can't be had in Toronto for the same price. If you pay $4.50 or $5.00 for 2 pieces of tuna nigiri in Toronto, it will probably be on par with the quality of the same items in Vancouver that would cost $3.50. The $6.00 pair in Toronto will be on par with the same quality that would cost $4.50 in Vancouver.

                If you're looking for really nice quality fish, head to Toronto's better places, such as Zen and Hiro. You'll pay for that quality, but it will be worth it. Kaji, for me, was a great night, but I'd love to be able to return sometime and just have sushi and sashimi there. I don't think that's an option, so I'll save it for very hungry nights when I want to have a special occasion dinner that costs a pretty penny. For a mid-range sushi meal in a nice atmosphere, I'd probably head to Takesushi on Front Street. For uber-cheap and cheerful, but with less fish selection, less ambiance and utilitarian plating/presentation, I go to Sushi Garden at Yonge and Heath (in Delisle Court). This is low-end without having to fear for your health, as I might at Sushi on Bloor. Nobody will ever write a review of this place. It is home to $4.99 combos at lunchtime. I usually spend $20 and get a miso soup, green salad (with awesome dressing), and a nigiri, sashimi and temaki combo that has 4 pieces of nigiri, 6 pieces of sashimi and a spicy tuna hand roll. I'm not fond of spicy tuna rolls, so they always do a regular version for me.

                I'm currently living in Windsor, where most of the sushi is of low quality, but mid-high end prices. The restaurants here have priced themselves for a pre-recession American tourist clientele. Windsorites don't know any better and the ones that can afford it pay these higher prices for pretty crummy sushi, much of which gets rolled up into nasty king-size rolls that include tempura items. a few types of fish, cream cheese, special sauces and a price tag of $16.95. Blech. So much for the delicate taste of the fish and the fine art of cutting and plating. I generally reserve my sushi outings for my monthly visits to Toronto to see family and friends.

                I'm reasonably happy with Toronto's selection and range of restaurants, but a trip out to Vancouver makes me sad that Toronto just can't seem to provide the same quality of fish for reasonable prices. I had lovely, generous cuts of nigiri and sashimi at a joint on Cambie Street that served a mostly Japanese clientele. My bill was lower than my average sushi bill at Sushi Garden. A higher end place there has prices to match, but the fish is in a totally different league. I haven't had a chance to visit Tojo. But one day, I hope to try it.

                1. re: 1sweetpea

                  Toronto isn't right beside the ocean and has a less concentrated Japanese community. We don't have the population of average income to support something like NYC sushi restaurants. What do you expect?

          2. Try Sushi Eaton on Eglington a few doors east of Yonge. If you can, order it out (pick up or delivery). There are many bad reviews out there, but they are all focused on the all-you-can-eat menu, which I have tried and is far far worse than the made to order options. From what I have heard, there is nothing in Canada comparable to Vancouver sushi, but I thought the Eaton was a good price/value pick. It is not fine dining, but it's tasty, and in my experience fresh. If you do give it a try, make sure to get an order of age gyoza- they are just amazing!!