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Sushi Couture Vs. Zen Omakase

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I've read several things on couture and zen separately, but it's very hard to get a good sense of how they compare against eachother.

I'm planning to go sometime in the near future for omakase at one of these two, after looking around and reading on several places (Kaji is not within budget).

I like the amount of mixture of cooked and uncooked at couture, but I hear Zen's nigiri and such and fish quality is top notch.

Is Couture's quality very comparable?

Which would you guys recommend?

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Sushi Couture
456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA

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  1. Zen is Japanese owned.
    Couture is Chinese owned.

    Zen wins.

    You might also want to read this:

    http://havesporkwilltravel.wordpress....

    This reviewer rips it apart for poor food and really bad service at a ripoff price. You won't hear such complaints about Zen.

    20 Replies
    1. re: TexSquared

      That's quite a strong review lol.

      I am leaning Zen now, but my friend likes a mix of things, not just nigiri or sashimi..

      However is it true Zen's nigiri/sashimi is /that/ top notch?

      What omakase would you get at zen? nigiri or sashimi? Are they both relatively filling?

      1. re: .alias

        Last time I went I had the Tokujyo Zushi and was quite impressed. As others have told me and having been, now I understand. Once you go to Zen you'll never be satisfied with Chinese or Korean sushi. Chinese sushi is to Japanese food what Taco Bell is to Mexican food.

        1. re: TexSquared

          Zen is one of the best (if not the best) sushi joints in the city, better than others operated or owned by all kind of ethnicities....including chinese, korean, AND JAPANESE. A restaurant should be judged solely on the food it serves and not anything else. I don't check for passports when I try out a new restaurant.

          1. re: T Long

            "Zen is one of the best (if not the best) sushi joints in the city"

            Exactly. The OP's question is as much of a no-brainer as asking us whether to go to Five Guys vs Licks, or Jacobs vs. The Keg. That really negative review (complete with photos) that I linked to was the icing on the cake. High prices, bad service, mediocre food, and Chinese owned = fuggetaboutit.

            1. re: TexSquared

              Have you been to Jacob's? I love it!

            2. re: T Long

              Hello T Long,

              I totally concur with you regarding judging a restaurant by the quality of food and not the passport of the chef/owner. Casing point: One of the best 'French Restaurant' I have eaten in is the Michelin 3* Quintessence in Tokyo. Not only is the chef young , he is also 'Japanese' and he cooked some mighty fine 'French' food!

              nyways, though arguments presented by both sides above each has its own merits, however, no side really gave a deeper and more detailed insight of the 'food'!!

              IMO, based on the number of meals I had in both SC and Zen, I have the following observation to present%3

              - Zen is more 'traditional old school'. The shari ( rice ) of the nigiri sushi is undoubtedly one of the best ( if not the best ) in town. Both the degree of doneness of the rice, the texture and the seasoning is good by Toronto standard. The seafood and fish selection is uber-fresh but the variety is fairly basic and common without any 'more exotic' components. Only standout is their willingness to use the expensive Mirugai. Presentation and dressing of the finished sushi is also very typical and lack of innovation

              - Sushi Couture is more 'new wave'. The chef/owner is willing to go outside the 'toronto box' and present dishes that are a bit more original and innovative ( by Toronto standard ). SC, like outfit such as Inatei, also order special, more exotic varietal of fish from Tsujiki market in Tokyo. That does not always equate to a guaranteed winner but at least they present something 'different' once in a while.

              IMHO, my conclusion for comparing Omakase of the two places is%3

              - Hot food: SC better than Zen ( grilled items and tempura more refined )

              - Sushi: Zen better than SC

              - Sashimi: Depending on availability of fish from Japan. SC is better than Zen. However, exotic aside, Zen is better due to the fact that Zen is willing to give more expensive ingredients like Mirugai, Awabi and Uni. With the current 'Japan situation', the 'exotic fish picture' remains unclear. Outfit like Taro fish in Scarborough is selling a lot of East Coast and European fish these days!

              I've also enclosedf a few photos of the meal I had at SC to illustrate their slightly more innovative approach. I heard recent visits by fellow chowhounders have experience extreme down-grade and 'skimming' of ingredients used! May be SC has become too arrogant due to their meteoric rise and success?!

              ll I can say is,'Good luck and Buyers beware'!!

              -----
              Sushi Couture
              456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA

               
               
               
               
               
               
              1. re: Charles Yu

                From what I've seen I believe a lot of omakase experiences at SC did not match up to yours Charles!

                If I were to go sometime in July/August would I get a more exotic and wider variety of fish? I don't want to stick to the basics too much, however it seems that complaints of SC say that the fish is too basic and not worth the money?

                Zen seems very traditional and great for sushi and sashimi itself, which I enjoy, but my friend prefers the 'new wave' stuff. I'm caught inbetween aha.

                1. re: .alias

                  You need to ask Charles if you would get that same meal if you went to Couture or if that's the secret menu....

                2. re: Charles Yu

                  I have to disagree about the cooked food. I went to SC after people started to rave about it and was terribly disappointed. The tempura was oily and not light and crisp as it should be. Zen tempura is one of the best in town...and I order tempura in every single Japanese resto I go to!

                  For sushi, it's not even a question...Zen hands down.

                  1. re: ctl98

                    Wow! SC must either be overly complacent nowadays or they must have gone really downhill due to staff changes...etc?!
                    Although, IMO, there are no outfit in Toronto that does Tempura as good as the ones found in Japan ( like Fukamachi in Tokyo, where all ingredients are thinly battered and lightly fried in high-quality sesame oil and the oil temperature closely monitored to ensure the soft morsels have a crisp, fragrant coating), the tempuras that I had at SC when they first opened was greaseless, has the lightest of batter and are more than decent! How things have changed with time?!
                    Guess a better comparison of Omakase should be Zen or Aoyama?!

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                    Aoyama
                    2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      How is Aoyama? I just realized its quite close to my house!

                      SC hasnt been getting great reviews lately :x

                      I tried cafe michi, which was very good as well, but their omakase does not look that impressive.

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                      Aoyama
                      2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA

                      1. re: .alias

                        I had the omakase at Aoyama about a year ago and I was happier with it than the omakase at SC. The weakest dish was the tempura but the sushi and everything else was above average to very good.

                        My suggestion would be to go to Zen and order the tokujyo sushi plate ($30) then order a few cooked dishes to share. Of course, if you budget weren't an option the sushi omakase at Zen would be the way to. It's $50 though, so with other cooked dishes, the cost could go up considerably.

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                        Aoyama
                        2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA

                        1. re: .alias

                          Actually, the Omakase I had at Aoyama about nine months ago was pretty good. There were a few stand out dishes that tasted very delicious. The marinated Bonito in Yuzu and the Sauteed lobster tail were memorable. The aroma of the later was particularly enticing!. As ct198 eluded to, tempura, with its thick batter was their weak point.
                          Whilst making your reservations, may be its a good idea to mention you are having the Omakase and enquire whether the chef will be willing to provide something more exotic for a premium. For $5 more, I recall having a really marbled Wagyu beef sushi! Believed we pay around $60 for our Omakase.
                          I've attached a few photos of that meal for you to compare.

                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                           
                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            Thanks for the photos Charles!

                            Aha, your omakase at SC did look very good, but I think not many people get the same quality.

                            Aoyama is a consideration! They have a good variety of dishes that aren't just sushi and would satisfy my friend. I am going to be sure to give Zen a try sometime though either way.

                            -----
                            Aoyama
                            2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              Wow the Aoyama omakase never seems to change. I've gone there twice for omakase and they served the exact same dishes both times!

                              -----
                              Aoyama
                              2766 Victoria Park Ave, Toronto, ON M2J4A8, CA

              2. re: TexSquared

                @Tex2: Have you visited Sushi Couture?

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                Sushi Couture
                456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA

                1. re: TexSquared

                  Zen > Sushi Couture

                  1. re: Bobby Wham

                    There's really no comparison to be made here for many of the reasons mentioned above.

                    Sushi Couture is by far my favourite sushi spot in the Annex, but certainly not one of the top sushi spots in the city.

                    Many sushi enthusiasts will stipulate that the owners and chefs of a good sushi restaurant in Toronto should be Japanese. That said, Omi, which is Korean owned, has at times produced some of my most memorable sushi experiences in the country.

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                    Omi
                    243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                    Sushi Couture
                    456 Bloor St. W., Toronto, ON M5S 1X8, CA

                    1. re: dlw88

                      I think that after a great opening, Sushi Couture has settled into the realities of competing for business on the Bloor McSushi strip. It was a shame to see them empty despite the lineups at neighbouring joints, but in the end, you have to serve what the customers will buy.

                      Unfortunately, those early glowing reviews are a bit outdated. I think it's still better than the other options in the area, but the standards are much closer to Sushi on Bloor than to the higher end places in Toronto now.

                  2. re: TexSquared

                    Folks, we've removed a number of posts debating whether it's better to go to restaurants run by staff of the same ethnicity as the cuisine. That's a topic that's been addressed many times on our General Topics and Not About Food boards, but which is too broad for our local boards.

                  3. The decision seems quite unanimous!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: .alias

                      Please report how much you enjoyed Zen! Have fun!

                    2. After all this, I have to say there are two Japanese cuisine restaurants I will willingly travel to:

                      - Le Cafe Michi
                      - Sushi Kaji

                      Now I am going to try Zen out soon and see if I add it to my list. :)

                      I have tried SC twice, and it was pretty good, but it was pretty good in relation to its neighbours. I don't have any urges to go back there, especially after reading these reports that they might have gone downhill. And SC is WAY easier for me to get to than either of my other two favourites.

                      1. To people speculating as to whether or not Sushi Couture's quality has faltered I have to say that being a regular there (I go at least once a week) their quality is the same as it's ever been if not better. They've streamlined their operation and gotten better with the wait times for food as well.

                        I recently had fresh Awabi (abalone) sushi there with a sauce made from it's own liver which I have only ever seen in Japan. They're certainly still heads and tails above all of the other Sushi offerings in the Annex.

                        I still prefer Zen to SC as I am an Edo-Mae Sushi Otaku. That said SC is of great value at $40 for a mixture of cooked offerings with Nigiri Sushi.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          How's awabi sushi ? Is it hard to chew or tender ? Is the cut thick or thin ?

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            The awabi was well done. I'm not sure what kind it was, maybe Megai Awabi. The cut was maybe a little less than half an inch certainly not thin but not as thick as say a Sashimi cut of Awabi at Kanesaka. It was very tender. Ken said that he steams them as opposed to how I'm used to having them simmered or braised.

                            The sauce made from its own liver tasted like a traditional preparation of Abalone liver to me. Maybe mixed with miso and some wine/sake/mirin. I'm not saying that that is what Ken uses for his version but it did taste similar.

                        2. You can also consider Yuzu's omakase, it is the same style as Sushi Couture (more newer style instead of traditional), $70, good and more consistent.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: skylineR33

                            +1 for Yuzu. I eat there a looooot.
                            http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=yuzu&...

                            -----
                            Yuzu
                            236 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5H1W7, CA

                            1. re: jlunar

                              jlunar, do your April and May 2011 sets consist of a la carte selections, or do they represent omakase meals?

                              1. re: Wench Foraday

                                All a la carte - sort of. We just ask for x orders of nigiri and have them bring whatever's fresh. And just as a note, each month consists of several meals, probably three or four per month.

                                1. re: jlunar

                                  Wow - you do go a lot, then!

                                  That's a great way to ensure a fabulous meal. Thanks for the info.

                              2. re: jlunar

                                Wow, Yuzu's plating looks amazing. Does the quality match up? I'm really pulled in by the aesthetic pleasure of their food right now.

                                agh, so hard to make a decision!

                                -----
                                Yuzu
                                236 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5H1W7, CA

                                1. re: .alias

                                  Please do keep in mind that I do go ridiculously often and I always sit at the bar and ask them to serve what they think is best - so the quality is usually good-to-excellent. Uni is less-good every now and then, and the rice has been consistently good in the last 6-8 months. Just some FYI's.

                                  When we take people who've never been to Yuzu we usually order a round of oyster shooters for everyone. If you do the omakase, you should let them know ahead of time.

                                  -----
                                  Yuzu
                                  236 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5H1W7, CA

                                  1. re: jlunar

                                    I'm planning to do the omakase, which is 70 i believe?

                                    i'll definitely call ahead of time, and I assume I will also get what is best with the omakase.

                                    I think I may just head to yuzu.

                                    1. re: .alias

                                      Have no idea what the omakase costs any more - I had it only once (http://flic.kr/s/aHsjqumwVr) about a year ago and it's a mix of nigiri and cooked food. What you're seeing in my stream is almost all nigiri, if that matters to you.

                                      1. re: jlunar

                                        Did it have a decent sized sashimi course and a nigiri course?

                                        I'm hoping to have at least one sashimi course and one nigiri course in the omakase, with a mix of the cooked foods.

                                        the nigiri and sashimi looks good though!

                                        1. re: jlunar

                                          Is that flickr set all from one omakase meal?

                                          1. re: .alias

                                            Yep, all from one omakase meal!

                              3. If you want new style sushi I have to agree with some other Hounds and say Omi. John Lee's work is extremely creative and playful. He's served spectacular omakase's over the years including, if you wish, a sustainable seafood version. On one occasion his work was so over the top that another diner came over and asked to take pictures.

                                If you want traditional, then Zen is the way to go. The highest possible quality seafood served minimalist style to let the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. And you can go bowling and see strippers in the plaza next door afterwards. How many sushi joints can you say THAT about?

                                -----
                                Omi
                                243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Googs

                                  I heard poor things about Omi on another thread!

                                  -----
                                  Omi
                                  243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                  1. re: .alias

                                    There tends to be more controversy relating to his heritage than the impeccable nature of his work. If you sushi a or sushi b there, it's pretty much the same as anywhere. If you omakase there, you'll be blown away. More for me if you don't go.

                                    Some of these shots are nice%3

                                    http://www.spotlighttoronto.com/site/...

                                    http://eatdrinklovelife.blogspot.com/...

                                    1. re: .alias

                                      Here's my suggestion. Go to Zen first. Then use that as the standard by which to compare all the others.

                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                        What is a budget for omakase at zen? It seems to be one of the best regarded options in Scarborough, and yet I've never gone because of my fear of the unknown.

                                        1. re: non sequitur

                                          $50 for nigiri or sashimi omakase, nigiri comes w/ a miso soup, sashimi doesn't.

                                          $5 surcharge for real wasabi + powder mixture. Nigiri usually comes with 13 or 14 pieces. If you're a big eater you'll want to add more pieces or some cooked food.

                                          If doing omakase, call for a reservation at the bar, you'll be served piece by piece w/ nigiri. I wouldn't recommend a party bigger than 2 or 3 at the bar.

                                      2. re: .alias

                                        Omi isn't bad, it just isn't at the same level as somewhere like Zen. I guess it depends whether you prefer authentic, fresh sushi that is basically unparalleled in Toronto at an odd location, or garlic oil drenched butterfish at a more convenient location.

                                        -----
                                        Omi
                                        243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                    2. Tentatively going to Zen, will report on my experience.

                                      Anyone tips for first time for zen?

                                      Also does anyone know how many days before I have to make reservations and what the price is now? Going to get the omakase and maybe some other small orders if we're hungry

                                      We're planning to go next week!

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: .alias

                                        I'd say the bigger your group the earlier you should reserve. It's not a large restaurant at all.

                                        Glad you made the right choice! Try the best first, then see how the others measure up...

                                        1. re: .alias

                                          Reserve seats at the bar, if possible.

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            I'm going with one other person, so i'll reserve soon and i'll try to get it at the bar!

                                            I'm just wondering when i should make the call!
                                            Anyone know the prices now?

                                            1. re: .alias

                                              If you know when you're going, then there's no reason not to make the call sooner rather than later. Also, you can ask whoever answers what the price of the omakase is. I haven't been for a bit, so I don't know.

                                              1. re: .alias

                                                OK, to help you out here's their take-out menu. Prices are the same as they charge inside.

                                                 
                                                1. re: .alias

                                                  The omakase is $50 (or $49), the jyo sushi plate is $22 and the tokujyo is $30.

                                                  The prices really just account for the differences in the choices of fish in each set. For instance, the jyo will have the usual suspects (ebi, hirame, salmon, scallop sometimes, etc) plus tekka maki. The tokujyo will have "upgrades" such as unagi, chutoro, ikura, and the roll is a bigger tuna roll with shiso leaf. The omakase will have the best selection...otoro, amaebi, anago, etc, depending on what's good for the day, and it ends with a negitoro hand roll which they give to you once you're done with your plate.

                                                  I've never had the sashimi omakase there, so I can't comment on that.

                                                  My suggestion is not to split sets because you won't be able to try all the types of fish, as you only get one of each kind. And if you cut the nigiri into two (which I've seen people do when sharing the omakase) I think it takes away from the perfect balance of fish and rice that makes a great nigiri.

                                                  Hope you enjoy your trip to Zen! We are there 2-3x/month...needless to say, we are fans :-)

                                                  1. re: ctl98

                                                    We'll be getting our own sets for sure!

                                                    I'll call in soon...I'm excited!

                                                    I'll be sure to report back on it!

                                            2. Does Zen take debit and credit?

                                              It's not cash only i presume.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: .alias

                                                yes debit and cc are ok