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Good fancy Japanese restaurant in Toronto?

Hi Guys,

My girlfriend's birthday is coming up , I am planning to take her out to a Japanese restaurant since she loves sushi. I’ve been reading a lot of reviews on the CH board and there seems to be a lot of people recommending Sushi Kaji. I am thinking of booking a reservation for this coming week.

Aside from Kaji sushi, would there be a nice fancy Japanese restaurants you guys recommend with exceptional food, a nice environment etc. I guess romantic and sushi doesn’t really go together? If so, please do suggest.

Thanks in advance

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Sushi Kaji
860 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z1N7, CA

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  1. Zen. Search the board for numerous reviews of the place.

    2 Replies
    1. re: TexSquared

      thanks for the suggestion, any more recommendations?

      Thanks

      1. re: Kjaii89

        If money's no object (other than flying to Japan of course) there's Hashimoto....

        Search the board for "best sushi" or "best Japanese" and you'll get the same answers. You'll consistently get Hashimoto, Kaji, or Zen (ordered alphabetically, not by preference), with the occasional recommendations for Aoyama or Hiro.

        I know it'll ruffle a few feathers (as it invariably does), but if it's a special occasion, stick with authentic Japanese places run by Japanese chefs and staff. Don't ruin her birthday with the usual Chinese/Korean "Monster Truck Rolls". IMHO if you order a Monster Truck Roll a la carte you paid too much.

      1. Zen is my favorite Japanese restaurant in Toronto but Kaji feels more celebratory, maybe because it's a mutlicourse meal so it's longer and feels more special. If you want just sushi though, Zen is the place to go. Since it's a special occasion, sit at the bar and order the omakase ($50). Seichi-San and Jackie will serve you the sushi one by one and it's feels much more special than getting one whole plate at the same time.

        I have to warn you though that Zen is located in a non-descript strip mall (come to think about it, so is Kaji). So ambience is not the most upscale for either one even of the food is certainly top notch.

        Wherever you end up, have a great time!

        1. You will have no problem proposing to her after treating her to a Kaji Omakase meal!!
          Enjoy and have fun!!

          36 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu

            Great suggestions guys, will def. check out the suggested when I get a chance.

            As for Kaji and Hoshimoto, I will see if I can get a reservation, though Hoshimoto is 1 week advance, and the dinner is this saturday. I think I won't be able to get a spot, but I'll still try. I'll call Kaji on wed to see if I'm lucky to get a reserve. Thanks!

            1. re: Kjaii89

              Kaji is excellent, Kjaii89 -- ask to sit at the sushi bar. Also, cracks me up that the last time you posted was October 2010 when you were also looking for a place for your girlfriend's birthday. Have a great time!

              1. re: EarlyDrive

                Thanks! will definitely! Haha yeah .. when it comes to indecisive decisions for food places, CH does it!

                Thanks guys, cheers

              2. re: Kjaii89

                Hashimoto is NOT a sushi restaurant - it's Japanese though - not sure what you are really searching for.

                1. re: estufarian

                  Yeah , just realized when I went to their website. I think the girlfriend will enjoy Kaji more, since shes more on the sashimi and seafood side.

                  1. re: Kjaii89

                    omg! you guys would not believe it , both kaji and hashimoto are closed for this week and next week !!!! wow talking about right timing ..... one is in renovation , the other is on a trip !!! can you guys please suggest the next closest thing ?

                    1. re: Kjaii89

                      I'd suggest Zen then if Kaji is not an option. Just make sure you get seats at the bar. If your girlfriend likes sushi and sashimi, I'm sure you guys will have a great meal there!

                      1. re: ctl98

                        I like Nami on Adelaide downtown - lovely decor and very good food/sushi

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                        Nami
                        55 Adelaide St E, Toronto, ON M5C1K6, CA

                        1. re: gharris

                          Thanks guys for the suggestions, I think I have gone to Zen with my gf before recalling from the pictures I've seen. What about kaiseki-sakura or hiro?

                          I heard some good feedbacks for hiro but also bad ones as well. And not sure if kaiseki-sakura is still up? Heard it has been closed down?

                          Thanks

                          My budget would be around 200-300 include tax and tip.

                          1. re: Kjaii89

                            Yuzu

                            Omi

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

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

                            1. re: iMarilyn

                              thanks for the inputs, well I'm kinda leaning toward the omakase at Aoyama now since both of my planned destinations are temp. closed.. or maybe even omakase at omi. Any experiences? Which of the 2 would you guys prefer?

                              Thanks

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

                              1. re: Kjaii89

                                If you are willing to travel up north, Aoyama is a pretty good choice, though they tend to get quite busy and the place is a bit run down. However, foodwise, its better than a lot of Korean/Chinese run places that opens on Sunday, downtown. You will find photos of my Aoyama Omakase a while back., herewith:
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/791353
                                If only sushi and sashimi you are looking for, with cooked food a lower priority, there's also Cafe Michi on Sheppard and Pharmacy. Book a place at the sushi bar, its a bit more cozy.

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  Thanks, will check out their website for details.

                                  1. re: Kjaii89

                                    Also, I realized that not alot of people mentioned Hiro or Nami sushi yet (other than textsqaured and gharris), I saw the pictures and they seem pretty nice. I'm deciding to call one of them with my final decision later this afternoon to book a reserve.

                                    which one would you guys prefer to be a good choice? Thanks

                                    1. re: Kjaii89

                                      Neither is really a good choice. Hiro is hit and miss, but the REAL miss is the atmosphere. Not a place to take your lady for her birthday. Well-worn bordering on shabby.

                                      Nami has lovely decor, but it's sushi for people who don't understand sushi. A simply fantastic place for a date with lovely little nooks and a stellar sushi bar area. If you think it's romance, not food, you'll be paying attention to this is your place.

                                      If you arrange your omakase at Omi in advance with John Lee discussing budget and preferences, his work is mind-blowing. If you instead order when you arrive, I hate to say it, but it's gotten kinda cookie-cutter. He really needs to spend more creative and less business time.

                                      I have no thoughts on Aoyama since I haven't been, but if Charles Yu recommends it your odds of enjoying it just went up.

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

                                      Nami
                                      55 Adelaide St E, Toronto, ON M5C1K6, CA

                                      Omi
                                      243 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                      1. re: Googs

                                        Thanks Googs for the compliment!!!

                                        Never experienced the 'full potential' of a Hiro meal since like most authentic Japanese restaurant, special attention, treatments and perks are only given to Japanese or regular customers. I guess if I have the TIME and money to eat at the sushi bar a few times, my experience will be totally different from that of the past??!!

                                        Nami IMO, is like a version of NOBU with much inferior food! Hip, expensive, nice decor and over-reaching, modern take of some Japanese cuisine. Chinese owned with Japanese cooks scattered here and there. I haven't been back for years since we have an Akasaka up here in Richmond Hill which is pretty similar. Talk about Richmond Hill, if it wasn't for the inferior shari of the sushi, an omakase at Inatei can be quite enjoyable too!

                                        Like Googs eluded to, a meal at Omi has to be planned ahead with John Lee in order to be really enjoyable. My impromptu omakase a while back was very ordinary and border-line enjoyable!!

                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                          @ OP. If you don't mind the drive, there's always Solo Sushi Ya in Newmarket. Of all the restaurants that open on Sunday. This might be your best bet for a nice cozy dinner.
                                          http://solosushiya.com/solo_sushi_ya

                              2. re: iMarilyn

                                Went to Yuzu early Wednesday evening before a show. Place was nice, service was friendly and timely, and the food was fresh, however this was the most poorly prepared meal I've ever had in a Japanese style restaurant. The dumpling filling was dense and the wrapping was falling apart and sticking to the plate. The sushi rice was extremely crumbly and made it impossible to eat easily.

                                There were two younger people preparing the sushi (1M + 1F) so I'm putting it down as a bad night for "the crew".

                                1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                  Hey guys,

                                  Thank you all for the suggestions. I have to admit it was my fault for picking the wrong restaurant after all the suggestions you guys gave! In the end, I have chosen Yuzu for the omakase. I have carefully read the reviews, seen the pictures. Everything seems to be nice. But tonight when I was at the place, I had a different experience, and it was not what I expected. I actually paid an extra $30 on top of the original $70 requesting for an upgrade and emphasize on a special creation of uni and seafood lobster because it’s my girlfriend’s favourite.

                                  So I called 2 days ago to book the reservation, and called today to reconfirm just in case. I asked the waitress if my request was in their book, and they positively said it was and they guarantee it will be really “special” for my gf.

                                  Don’t get me wrong, the décor and atmosphere wasn’t bad, very friendly service. The sashimi and sushi looks fresh because we were sitting in front of the chef with their sushi creations. But the omakase…. Not sure if it’s my first time and my lack of experience, but wow paying $270 for that meal was totally NOT worth it.

                                  The restaurant that night was pretty full, but the delay between the dishes were ridiculous! My girlfriend and I thought that it was because the time needed for the creations of those special dishes. But wow, we were totally wrong, seriously we had 8 dishes in almost 3.5 hours. And with those creations of the omakase, we were so disappointed.

                                  We had 8 dishes including dessert, only TWO of them were the mixture of the fusion creation of sashimi and sushi.

                                  First dish was the oyster shot, I think that was okay, pretty good as my girlfriend and I enjoyed it, so we thought the rest of the meal would be good. But nope.. as each dishes arrive, it went downhill fast. Second dish was some steam egg, we thought it was okay for appetizer.

                                  Third dish we had was basically divided by 3 sections on 1 plate. We had mixed squash and carrots inside a tomato pouch for one section. Eggplants and eel on one section, with eggplants and chestnuts. The eel was so salty, I had one and passed.

                                  Fourth dish was decent, it was a mixture of different types of sashimi and seafood. I thought this dish was decent but it didn’t give us the “wow” feeling.

                                  Fifth dish was a mixture of different types of sushi. To be honest, this was the ONLY dish we thought that was good, because there were some fishes that we did not try before. The particular fish we thought that were good was the aji sushi, had a fresh taste. The uni was pretty good as well.

                                  Sixth dish was the pan fried cod wit potatoes and carrots as fried dish. The taste was okay, but not special.

                                  Seventh dish had a mixture of deep field okura (I think that’s how you pronounce it) , a type of flower stem that was deep fried served with seared pork. The pork was soo chewy, my girlfriend gave me the rest of the plate after a bite.

                                  The eighth dish had two round balls (size of golf balls). One was the fried chestnut wrapped with shrimp meet, and the other was fried sweet potatoes with chestnut. It was really hard and dry, took a bite and gave in.

                                  The miso soup with lobster was extra because I ordered the lobster extra for the omakase, the soup was so bitter and salty that we only took 2 sip, and we just gave in.

                                  The last dish was the dessert which we had which was the green tea tiramisu. The cake was pretty good, enjoyed it with green tea.

                                  Well, either way.. I have learned my lesson. Promised to bring my gf to Kaji once the renovation is done to make up for tonight's dinner for her birthday, good thing the cake I bought was good, at least this scored me some points.

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

                                    1. re: Kjaii89

                                      Sorry to hear about that!
                                      All the positive reviews that you read were about a year ago. Guess a lot can wrong in that time. Reason why no body gave you a solid recommendation here?! Besides, for really reliable good Japanese, I tend to stay away from big, commercial outfit that's owned by non-Japanese. That's a reason why all the great sushi restaurants with multiple Michelin stars in Tokyo or Osaka are all small outfit with less than 20 seats. Quality control!!!
                                      Looking forward to your Kaji review!!

                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                        Having recently visited Kaji I was slightly disappointed that his menu did not reflect the cooler climate. A lot of cold dishes were served including a cold grilled cod (I have no problem with cold grilled cod, but if it's cool outside and the menu says "grilled" cod and it appears warm, it's an "alarming" sensation to the buds if it's cold)! Apart from that everything was excellent. His sushi offerings have much improved IMO.

                                      2. re: Kjaii89

                                        Was that $270 after tax and tip or before?

                                        Either way , you could have done just as badly and for much less at almost any nice place in Toronto.

                                        My suggestion for next time. Get an assortment of oysters, enjoy them at home. Make tasting notes. Then see how many work.
                                        As you stipulated in your opening post, you'll get "romantic, nice environment, etc."

                                        1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                          Thanks for the heads up guys, will definitely take those suggestions for considerations in the near future.

                                          Not sure if Bruce was there that night, but one of the chef who prepared us the sashimi sushi plate was Jacky I believe? very friendly chef. It was $270 after tax and tip.

                                          1. re: Kjaii89

                                            Bruce is the owner and head chef. If he wasn't there that night, it could explain the lesser quality.

                                            1. re: iMarilyn

                                              If the Sous chef cannot maintain the quality of the food during the absence of the executive chef, then IMO, the restaurant has serious consistency issue??!!

                                              When David Lee was busy with the planning/opening of Note Bene, his Sous, Trevor ran the kitchen of the old Splendido with such precision, one cannot tell for an instant that the Master was actually absence from the kitchen!

                                              Likewise with Colborne Lane, when Chef Claudio Aprile was away attending to Origin....etc. The tasting menu was equally impressive.

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                I couldn't agree more, Charles Yu. Given the promise made and the price agreed upon and paid, his understudy should have been capable of delivering. Simply unacceptable that the OP is out money, time, and especially the good memories he wished to share with his gf of her birthday.

                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                  You are so right. My BF has been a sous in fine dining for some time now and frankly, he most often runs the show in terms of ensuring the food quality that going out to the patrons tables.

                                                  If a sous's not doing that, time to hire soemone new!

                                        2. re: PoppiYYZ

                                          Interesting. I had a great lunch at Yuzu a couple weeks ago. Bruce was there that day.

                                          The sushi rice was just fine when I was there. The quality hadn't slipped since my last visit. I was happy with everything I ate. I haven't ordered the omakase at Yuzu.

                                          The only omakase I've ordered in the past 5 years was the bronze level omakase at Kaji, which was very good. Even though I enjoyed the food at Kaji, I don't feel comfortable spending $120+ tax + tip on myself for omakase. I'd rather spend that $120 bucks on 3+ smaller, quicker, less posh, less creative, less sophisiticated, less inspired sushi meals elsewhere.

                                          Yuzu is my go-to for sushi when I'm downtown.

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

                                          1. re: prima

                                            When one is talking about a $100 per person 'pre-arranged' Omakase dinner, expectation is naturally much higher than a simple lunch. I believe the OP had no qualms about the sushi/sashimi components of the meal, its the remaining 7/8 that he had problem with!
                                            I once paid an additional $15 over and above the normal Omakase dinner at Aoyama ( ended up about $70 per person ). We were given King crab meat salad, marinated Bonito, Wagyu beef sushi, sauteed lobster as well as some high end neta ( topping ) that include Mirugai and Toro for the sushi!
                                            For about the same price, Gyo san of Solo sushi-Ya also provided some special dishes that commensurate with the price we were paying such as grilled live scallops and roe on the shell, stuffed baked conch, steamed egg full of different seafood and mushroom morsels...etc
                                            IMO, whether the food tasted good or not, the $100 per person Omakase our OP paid was clearly a rip-off! Thats very unfortunate for a special occasion! Sigh!!

                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                              Is Bruce the chef with glasses? I think he came out a couple of times explaining some of our dishes.

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                Charles, I understand that most hounds would have a higher expectation for Omakase than a simple lunch. Fair enough. I also know that when I have higher expectations, I'm more likely to be disappointed, than when I go into a restaurant with managed expectations.

                                                When you consider $100 included a $30 surcharge for the lobster & uni upgrade, and there were 8 courses provided, I'm not convinced I (personally) would consider that meal clearly a rip-off. That sounds like a fair amount of food & labour for $100. Considering how many mediocre Italian restaurants are charging over $24 for $5 worth of pasta and sauce, I don't think $100 for omakase, consisting of fresh seafood, served in downtown TO where the rents are much higher than the rents Kaji or Zen pay, could be that much of a rip-off (for me). YMMV.

                                                Sorry to hear it was a disappointment to the OP.

                                                1. re: prima

                                                  I think from our 'foodie' perspective, the main issue is not so much about price but rather 'taste'!

                                                  In my case, sometimes, I don't mind paying extra, even a lot extra, for something that tasted out-of-this-world, even though I know full well the ingredient cost is only a fraction of what's being charged. A fine example was a plate of Linguine with Scampi from a small Italian Trattoria in Hong Kong called Da Domenico! They charge a whopping US$85, citing all ingredients were from Italy!!! But man!! did that pasta taste goooood!!

                                                  However, what I found to be disparaging was to hear that our OP mentioned about the $30 extra he paid for the lobster which turned out to be so salty, its beyond palatable. That is indeed money down the drain!

                                              2. re: prima

                                                Yuzu is my favorite place for sushi in the downtown area also. Actually the OP doesn't mention any complaints about the sushi portions of his omakase. I've never had Omakase anywhere, but if I ever take that plunge, I think it would be at Aoyoma in North York.

                                                1. re: T Long

                                                  True, the OP doesn't mention any disappointment re: the sushi. What I wrote re: sushi rice was in reply to PoppyYYZ's comments about a somewhat disappointing lunch, with problematic sushi rice. I replied in response to her reply ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8116... )- but for some reason, it ends up appearing lower down on the list, so it isn't too clear that I'm replying to PoppyYYZ. Sorry! ;-)

                                                  1. re: prima

                                                    Oh, thanks for the clarification. I should have noticed that....

                          2. Highly recommend Gill Japanese in Delisle Court (Yonge & St. Clair). They opened last summer and we've had fantastic experiences there. The owner and Sushi Chef are both from Hokkaido.
                            We lived in Tokyo for 4 years and Gill ranks up there with the best.
                            http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/E...