'Upgraded' Omakase at Sushi Couture - Elegant, Exquisite, Extremely Enjoyable!!
- Charles Yu Sep 22, 2010 04:23 PM
Yesterday evening, fellow 'Nipponphile' foodie skylineR33, myself and our spouses had a wonderful mini-chowmeet at Sushi Couture. Not only the company was great, the food was equally fine to match!
Prior to our gathering, skylineR33 called ahead to arrange with chef Ken for an upgraded $60 Omakase for the four of us.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted by a modern, chic and cozy space/decor. Service was friendly, smiling and efficient. A hospitable chef also came out to greet us. He also informed us that instead of 7 courses, he will be serving us 8! Yippeee! When the meal began, chef Ken also payed us regular visits to describe some of the more exotic ingredients and dishes of the night.
- 1st course was the house signature 'oyster shooter'. Raw quail egg, sweet ponzu marinated ikura, ponzu jello all atop a briny Corville Bay oyster. 'Cholesterol galore'! But whose counting?!
- 2nd course, the first of two cooked dishes, was an immaculately grilled Aji (smelt) paired with a duo of tempuras - East coast sea bream paste sandwiched in Shiso leaves and European sea bream paste embedded in eggplant. The Aji was very fresh, texture was firm and void of any bitter innards taste. The lightly battered tempuras were equally tasty.
- 3rd course was the first of a few sashimi adventures. A trio of ultra fresh ( arrive only the same day ), Hamachi (Yellow Tail), Hata (Garoupa) and Kurodai (Sea bream from Greece).
Both 'freshly grated' wasabi and the more potent wasabi/horseradish paste were provided. The enhanced soya sauce was sweet, not too salty and infused with pleasant smokey Bonito essence. Since the skin of Sea bream is normally tough, chef Ken used the flame torch to crispened up the skin. A nice 'tasty' touch.
- 4th course was a duet of Madai ( sea Bream from Japan) sushi and sashimi. The beautiful plate presentation was typical 'authentic' Japanese with the food arranged next to a 'curled up' fish skeleton, head and tail still attached. The bright, clear eyes telling the patrons we have one super fresh fish here!!
Shari size was 'spot-on'.Dainty and small, they resembled morsels normally found in top sushi restaurants in Japan. The rice was also packed just right. Only criticism was that the rice was a touch 'under-seasoned'!
Diced sashimi morsels were housed in two hollowed out lime halves.
- 5th course was whole East coast Lobster sashimi. Again, the cut up lobster tail meat was presented along with the rest of the lobster, head, claws, tail and all. Can't get any fresher than this, since the beast was still alive a few minutes ago!
- Then came four more pieces of nigiri sushi. Wild sea bream from Boston, Blue fin Maguro, Unagi and O-Toro Tataki. Again, fish were very fresh and the B-B-Q eel nicely cooked with a tasty sweet glaze. The diced up O-toro tataki wrapped with nori was smokey. However, personally,I would prefer just a simple untouch piece of fish.
- The second of the hot dish - lobster udon came next. Using the head and claws of the sashimi dish, the resulting lobster, daishi, bonito,and seaweed soup was amazingly flavourful!! Wow!!
- Lastly, the dessert. A combo of tempura banana and chocolate drizzled green tea icecream. This was an 'anti-climax' to an otherwise wonderful meal!! Cannot understand why Japanese cannot come up with more innovative desserts?!! Sigh!
OVERALL VERDICT: Sushi Kaji aside! At $60 per person, this must be one of the most enjoyable, tasty and beautifully presented Omakase I have had in Toronto. Better than Zen, Sushi Hiro, Omi, Aoyama, Solo-sushi Ya, Cafe Michi....etc. ( except for may be a few cooked dishes from Aoyama or Solo-sushi-Ya ). Next time, may be I'll have the chef prepare a few more 'cooked' dishes for evaluation??!!
One last observation. Even though the blackboard indicated ' newly arrived Uni'. However, we were not served any. The reason being, this is not Uni season in the Northern hemisphere. Uni was from Chile which was a bit 'inferior'. This approach by the chef reflects his knowledge and professionalism as well as his respect for his 'foodie' patrons!
Bravo Chef Ken!!
456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA
Nice detailed write-up, Charles. For the price they charge, it is really a very good quality and value omakase in Toronto ! I hope they will get more business. The dinner is enjoyable, except the wait time between courses are quite long. But I can see the effort they put in each course to make it a good meal. Well, they have only started for a month or two, hopefully it will be improved. One minor correction, I think the tuna sushi we got is seared albacore.
Booked Sushi Couture for a 31 person party today. It was greatly enjoyed by all to say the least.
I've shared my opinion on their sushi in the past however, I really must commend them on their cooked dishes. Really nice job across the board on all of the cooked items. Had the grilled Shishamo with the chopped aji sandwiched between two pieces of shiso and fried in tempura batter. Also had Clams in a broth with citrus peels and Mitsuba, and a Giant Scallop cooked in its shell with shallots and melted cheese.
Another great time was had by all and I'm pretty sure they've gained 30 return customers.
What a way to start the morning, reading a review like that and now I am drooling all over my work desk. Thanks for sharing your meal with us, looks like a new go to Omakase within the city!
I can't tell you how happy we are to have this place in our neighbourhood. We went the other night and loved it. It's not a major shlep to Japango, which is our usual go-to, but this place will be great for quick dinners when we want to stay in the immediate neighbourhood. Fantastic that we now have a place close by that is not Sushi on Bloor!!!!!
122 Elizabeth St, Toronto, ON M5G1P5, CA
Ahh! I've been saving up for their $39 omakase...now it looks like I should keep saving for this upgraded version!!
Thanks for the review, Charles, there were a couple of not so good ones on the board recently, but now I am craving some omakase!.
do you know if they serve the 2 course lobster outside of the "upgraded" omakase menu?
I WANT SOME!!! :D
I will try this update as soon as possible. hopefully they will agree to do an upgrade for anyone who asks
Went to Sushi Couture for a late lunch on Saturday with friends. We had 4 orders of the lunch specials;1 tempura, 2 salmon teriyaki and 1 chicken teriyaki. We also had 4 orders of unagi nigiri (unagi had the right combination of sweet/salt/smoke), 4 orders of tako nigiri (tako was meaty and tender).
Everything was fresh, juicy, and flavourful. Tempura batter was crisp and not soggy. Lunch specials were very reasonable at $7.99 each. Each lunch special included salad, 2 gyozas, vinegar dip for the gyozas and rice in a bento box plus miso soup (good, but too salty)
We also got a complimentary salmon (cooked)/avocado roll(melt in your mouth yummy) from the chief.
Zen is my current go to place for Japanese food, and I would say that all of the food (except the miso soup) I tried were at par with Zen's (may be even better? ) in quality, freshness, taste and presentation.
Decor was modern and clean.
Service was pleasant, friendly, but somewhat relaxed.
I will definitely return, and this would be a regular hang out for Japanese food if it weren't out of my way and parking is not an issue.
456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA
Went tonight - soooo fresh and tasty! No time to post pics now, but I'll post a full review with them sometime soon. In the meantime, I thought I'd attach the menu in case if anyone is interested. Had the omakase, but I want to go back for lunch!
*Edit - well that was fail. Not sure how to unattach the photos below, so instead I just uploaded the images here, on my website: http://www.cookiesandtomatoes.com/p/d...
Click to make them bigger.
Great night, glad that it's getting a lot of attention :3
we had the $60 omakase. 8 courses in all. service was excellent, but the wait between courses was a tad too long. I enjoyed most of the dishes, except for the 'grilled cheese scallop' that was IMO a miss, although an interest attempt. the dessert was nothing special either. the oyster shooter was great and the tempura course was very well done.
would I recommend the $60 omakase? Yes
does it replace Kaji (price difference and all)? NO. I find the level of technical sophistication in executing the cooked courses not on par with Kaji's more exotic dishes.
does it replace Zen? absolutely not for me. the key being one word: Shari. our selection of nigirizushi was very good but the shari just was not seasoned as well and was a bit on the dry side. (this could be due to different techniques, osaka vs tokyo style?)
also, comparing my dinner to zen's nigiri-only omakase is a bit of apple/orange comparison.
all in all, very good, but will not replace either zen or kaji for me.
Yes, Kaji's cooked dish is better and at another level of technical sophistication. But there are still rooms for improvement at Kaji as I do get occasional over-cooked fish. I have to drink a full glass of water after getting home to clear the thirsty effect of the bowl of noodle soup I had at Kaji. However, the lobster soup I had at Couture does not have that effect on me. But yeah, still, the cooked dishes at Couture are not as sophisticated. It is kind of expected though when we are comparing it to the all time Toronto favourite Kaji,
Regarding nigiri, I do prefer the one I get at Couture over Kaji's eventhough the rice is better at Kaji. Couture has a more consistent and a better form, a better rice/fish ratio too with the one I sampled, but I am not sure if they can keep that form all the time. Couture uses real wasabi (not freshly grated though) but Kaji uses faked wasabi on the nigiri. But for nigiri sushi, Zen is still the best in Toronto area. But they do use faked wasabi from time to time in their omakase.
I have resolved the Zen wasabi situation once and for all. I spoke to them a while back and they told me that they will always have fresh wasabi available for the omakase at a $5 extra charge, but if you order a la carte, they will use fresh wasabi automatically and free of charge.
since then, every time I go to Zen, sit at the bar, and order omakase sushi, I add that I want fresh wasabi for the extra charge. every time they grate the wasabi before my eyes. they have never been out of wasabi roots since I started ordering them with my omakase. so in my personal experience, Zen's nigirizushi has for some time included fresh wasabi as a matter of course.
the last time I was at Kaji, I sat at the bar and watched him use fake wasabi :(
Sadly, I've only been able to go once (for lunch), as I now have a little one to occupy most of my time. I didn't call ahead, I didn't request anything: I got food, ate, and ran.
I was slightly disappointed, to be honest. The fish was fresh, but the selection was average. The shari was at the same level as many of the other Japanese restaurants in the city (not so vile as the cheap places, but as good as somewhere like Solo or Michi). This wasn't a "style" difference; it was just not good. Normally, I wouldn't post this, but this was my exact same complaint.
I'd like to go back and try an "upgraded" omakase, but I don't really have the time at the moment. I'll reserve full judgment until I have a chance to see the range of skill, but I was a bit disappointed (not at the price -- which is more than reasonable, but after reading the comments here). At this point, though, I wouldn't say that Zen or Kaji have much to fear. I'll go back and call ahead as soon as I have the opportunity though.
So I think my additional link to my site for the menu was a Chowhound no-no. Please ignore the earlier post with the link to the menu - that page changes all the time. The menu is now one of the pictures in the post that goes along with this review.
A couple things first:
- Thank you Earlydrive and Charles for posting about this! Head exploded =)
- Answer to Earlydrive's deleted question: No liquor licence yet, they said that they are working on it - I hope it comes in soon.
Course 1: Sake Shooters
Uni (Sea Urchin) with a ponzu-sherry sauce, Raw quail egg, Ikura (salmon eggs), & Green onions in a mixed sauce made from sake and (I think) niri.
We took a good look at this shot before downing it as instructed. It was a tasty and unique blend of flavours. The oyster imparted a strong taste, the urchin was smooth and sweet, and each little ball of roe that popped in my mouth gave a burst of flavour. The yolk added a nice consistency and we both agreed that we would do this again.
Course 2: Manila Clams
Fresh Asari (Manila clams), sake-steamed served in a flavourful broth
Next up were tasty Manila Clams which were very fresh and flavourful. My friend commented that the sake-flavour of the broth was quite noticeable and I found myself spooning it up long after the clams disappeared.
The clams were perfectly cooked - not at all rubbery and they had a very clean flavour. Yum.
Course 3: Sea bream, mussels, shitake, grouper
It came with a bowl of tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce) and I appreciated his careful plating.
Working from left to right...
- Shiso leaves & Sea Bream
Neatly sliced in half, sea bream paste sandwiched between 2 shiso leaves. Battered with tempura and deep fried, this was a nice start.
- Broiled Mussels with Butter Sauce
The mussels were broiled in a butter-seaweed sauce, and arrived on a bed of sea salt. The butter sauce was tangy and flavourful, but didn't overwhelm the fresh taste of the mussel.
- Shitake Mushrooms
I really liked the sweet flavour and texture of the shitake mushrooms. Marinated with soyu, they had a good, firm bite to them and were very enjoyable.
A fresh, crispy slice of organic cucumber arrived. The seeds were scraped away and the "cup" was filled with hata (Boston grouper) and olives mixed with a bit of olive oil. My friend is not a fan of olives so this wasn't her favourite, however she did note that the cucumber had a different taste than the typical supermarket cucumber.
I enjoyed the combination of flavours, and it was a nice, clean finish to the course.
Course 4: Sashimi
- Hamachi (Yellow Tail
)First on my plate was hamachi with a shiso leaf for presentation. Fresh fresh fresh.
- Kurodai (Sea Bream from Greece)
Blowtorched, it had a nice charred flavour with the fish. Just enough to taste, but not to the point where our mouths were filled with a burnt flavour.
- Uni and Ikura
A second round of sea urchin and roe, except inside a lime-bowl instead of a shooter. No complaints about the repeat appearances, because this is honestly the freshest and tastiest uni that I've had since the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. It was nice and sweet on its own, and we enjoyed the bits that mingled the lime. Points for fun presentation and wonderful taste.
This was my favourite cut of the plate -it was decadent and delicious, with a very light touch of searing on the side. It was topped with crispy slivers of fried green onion.
Also worth noting are the soy sauce & wasabi:
Along with pickled white ginger, we were provided with 2 different types of wasabi - the typical powdered paste as well as root wasabi.
Course 5: Fish Cheeks/Jaw (kamaha?)
If someone can identify this fish, please let me know! I believe Chef Ken said something along the lines of "kamaha" but I wasn't sure. Anyways, he explained that this traditional dish is cooked in soyu for 2 hours to make it soft and very flavourful. It was complimented with a mushroom cap, also cooked in soyu, and two pieces of carrot. The fins made for wonderful presentation (not edible!) and he traced along his jaw line when explaining what part of the fish this came from.
Course 6: Nigiri
I'm not sure why, but I found it much more delicious in nigiri form.
- BC Albacore Tuna
- Madai (Sea Bream from Japan): Like the sea bream from Greece, it was also torched.
- Tempura Unagi: Torched unagi (eel) in tempura batter and avocado on top of a strip of seaweed was the last item on the plate. The unagi was sweet and was lightly glazed, so the flavour of the eel was still there with the sauce. Yum.
Course 7: Sushi Couture Roll
You will either love it or hate it. While sushi "purists" might find this too heavy - it was flavourful and filling. Topped with salmon and tangy mayonnaise, the roll was nicely firm with crab and cucumber inside. Chef Ken explained that it was topped with maki sauce, broiled, then torched again. He called it batayaki - which means butter fried, and he smiled when he said "sushi barbecue"!
Course 8: Dessert
Green Tea Cheesecake
Japanese cheesecake was a yummy finish to our meal. What was even more surprising was when Chef Ken explained that it was flown in from Japan. Made by a French pastry chef, it was light and creamy. He also added that once in awhile, they order different cakes from Japan so I guess this will change on a regular basis!
The freshness and quality of the meal was outstanding, as was the service. I was very happy with my first omakase experience, and after looking at the menu I will definitely return for lunch. My friend said that this was better than her experience at Sushi Kaji at a far lower price so I am very pleased with my decision! Both Chef Ken and his wife are doing a wonderful job, and I suspect that Sushi Couture will soon explode with popularity especially once their website is up and running. With Kenzo and Guu also on their way, the Annex is quickly improving its offerings to hungry foodies and students alike :-)
860 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z1N7, CA
138 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON , CA
398 Church Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2A2, CA
456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA
In fact, I was originally aiming for the $39 for the standard omakase but the double exclamation marks after Charles' post title convinced me to try the $60 one :P
I may be wrong, but I believe the clams, 2-hour cooked fish (no idea what kind! I hope someone does because it's the only thing I can't identify and I'm curious), and the roll were the extra 3 dishes.
I should add that this was my first omakase experience - I regret not trying it when I was in Japan. Anyways, I can't really compare it to other omakase places but I thought it was wonderful and I have 2 friends who have tried Sushi Kaji and they are sticking to Couture from now on due to the value & freshness.
860 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z1N7, CA
If the $ target is around $100, I will head out to Kaji instead. Much more refined and BETTER COOKED FOOD!! As for 'fresh fish'. I once informed by Gao San of Solo sushi-ya that the good Japanese restaurants in town such as Hiro, Kaji, Solo, Aoyama, Zen....all get their special fish from the same source. Especially, toro and O-toro from blue fin tuna which they 'split and share!
2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA
I made a mistake to try out this place on my Birthday and had the ABSOLUTE WORST experience ever in my life. They now charged $70 for the omakase but both the quailty and quantity was not there at all. We did not expect a WOW experience but at least something similar to what Charles had? Nope. There simply were not enough food. When I saw how small portion everything was (especially the super tiny pieces of sashimi), I knew that night was gonna be a disaster. Everything served were minature. There were no lobsters, no rolls, no special fish (just hamachi, tuna etc). And the wait between the courses were super long too.
My hubby and I were gonna just walk right out but I decided that this was just not right, I gotta talk to the chef (which I did). He just explained that oh every night is different menu, etc.... but my main point was how come a cheaper omakase from just a month ago had way more food and bigger pieces of fish than the now-more-expensive menu? Another group of four people were also leaving the place as I have done voicing my opinion to the chef, and they also felt being cheated. it was not even enough to fill up an average female like me.
I definitely would not step into this place ever again, as I told the chef so too. I made special arrangements for babysitting, and came all the way to celebrate my birthday and it was a terrible disaster.
On a side note, I finally visited Inatei at Richmond Hill tonight to celebrate my father's birthday. We had the 60$ omakase and it was NIGHT AND DAY! Way more food, quality and selection of fish was MUCH better, way more worth the money for sure. Of course you still cannot compare it to Kaji but we were all happy at the end of the meal. i might post photos of that pathetic meal at Sushi Couture here...you will see how pathetic it was....everything in miniature!
456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA
re: Charles Yu
My husband and I decided to try Sushi Couture on a Friday night around 7:30-ish. The place was busy but not packed and definitely no line up out the door like across the street at Sushi on Bloor.
We had a pretty simple order - tempura appetizer and 4 orders of some simple rolls. Little did we know this meal would last over an hour and a half! It took about 20 min. before any one came to take our order, and then another 20 min. to get tea, soup and salad.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw an order of tempura headed our way but the waitress walked right past us and placed the order on another table that had just recently arrived. The people at that table called her back and said it was not theirs. She picked up the tempura off their table, wandered around the room looking for the correct table, then walked to the back of the restaurant so she could fake like it was just coming out before she placed it on our table. Little did she know we were watching her. We were just so hungry that we didn't really care so we just ate it.
Almost 45 minutes of waiting our first rolls arrived, and then it would be about 10-15 min. between each roll arriving seperately. I don't really get that considering there were 3 chefs working behind the counter. With the arrival of our last roll at 9:15pm, I also asked for the bill at the same time. There was no complimentary rolls or dessert offered, although the table next to us was offered free ice cream when something they ordered was sold out. I know this because the tables were so close to each other that the guy sitting next to us pretty much molested our food with his eyes as he stared at everything that we got. Too close for comfort.
Overall price for the appetizer and 4 types of rolls was $50 (including tax and tip). I would never go back considering there are definitely places where the service is faster and the sushi is better. We thought the sushi was just okay...nothing special or worth going back for. The slowness really left us disgruntled. We should have just joined the line at Sushi on Bloor. We probably would have been done eating sooner.
456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA
I found the value of the "upgraded" omakase to be extememly unfair. The amount of food you get over a 2 hour period is pitiful. For $70 you could get way more value for your money ordering rolls and à la carte, Sushi couture is delicious but the upgraded omakase is way to expensive for what you get, we were no where near full when we left and let the host know this, it's called SUSHI Couture, and in the whole omakase we got 4 pieces nigiri. they need to include a lot more for your money.