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Big Meal, a new Japanese all-you-can-eat with table service

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DH took us last night to a new all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant, Big Meal! It’s in a space previously occupied by a short string of Japanese-themed failures (including Jade): 1883 McNicoll Ave., just west of Kennedy (Tel: 416-258-3333)

The dinner menu was a triptych of over 150 items, ranging from a good selection of sashimi, special dishes (baked scallops, red tuna, deep-fried prawn with quail egg), creative rolls, temaki and nigiri, cooked dishes (shrimp tempura, salmon belly, beef short ribs, beef-enoki mushroom rolls, garlic and beef cubes) and desserts (eg mango pudding, fried banana, sesame ice cream, fruit salad). For calorie-counters, there were also 4-5 nice salads (I had the mango salad, see picture). I haven’t been to Ten-ichi in years but from what I remember, the menu is similar but much, much better.

Friday and Saturday evenings, dinner is currently about $23 and that includes unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. My 12yo son was very happy about that. He thinks that paying $2+ for soft drinks at Dragon Pearl and Wasabi is a rip-off.

The quality of the food was excellent. I know a lot of regular Japanese restaurants where the food is not as delicious or as fresh. Table service was very good and the décor was rather elegant. Tables were nicely spaced apart and there was no pressure to eat and run.

We’re planning to host our annual family X’mas dinner at Big Meal. Now that I’ve written this review, I’d better go and confirm the booking before everyone else beats me to it!

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    1. Interesting!!
      Restaurants ( all Japanese cuisine but Chinese own and operated ) occupying this location must have changed hands at least three times within the past few years! Some of them even advertise on Fairchild Chinese TV but none of them managed to survive long due to the 'location'??!!

      15 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        It's a quiet spot with no other businesses open at night. The nearest 'big bldg' is a nursing home. Let's see if this one outlasts the others. Food-wise, it's already ahead of the game.

        1. re: Charles Yu

          I've been to a couple of the previous incarnations over the years. Inferior food with iffy service...no mystery at all why they would fail. I think the location can be quite good...all that's needed is a good restaurant. Who knows, maybe it will be the "Big Meal" (but could they have come up with a worse name for a Japanese restaurant!). Personally, not a fan of AYCE concepts, but this genre seem quite popular in the area, so wishing them the best.

          1. re: T Long

            i too agree with T Long. the service at the previous incarnation (nikada) was pretty bad when it got busy. i don't have high hopes for this new version as the location has been deadly. the pho place that opened beside didn't even last 2 months! it's been a carousel of restaurants for years and years. anyways thanks for the review Aleta, i'll be sure to drop by before it changes hands again lol!

            1. re: blitz

              Blitz, thanks for saying thanks. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, hoping for the best and going back soon. I finally figured out how to upload pictures from my iPhone so they are linked below. Usually when I expect to eat well (as I do in Spain), I bring a proper camera.

              T Long, I agree with you on the terrible name. It reminds me too much of the movie, "Big Night" with Stanley Tucci, which coincidentally is about a restaurant going downhill...

               
               
               
               
              1. re: Aleta

                wait, hold on.

                In the second picture...Is that, could that be...tuna..that isn't WHITE?!

                and tako and is that butterfish? My eyes aren't playing tricks on me are they?

                1. re: .alias

                  Red tuna, octopus and butterfish are indeed listed in the Sashimi section.

                  Why do you think your eyes are playing tricks on you?

                  1. re: Aleta

                    This is the first AYCE restaurant to offer such sashimi to my knowledge. Obviously the quality will be AYCE quality, but it looks like it might be worth a try.

                    1. re: .alias

                      There are many that offer sashimi actually. Aji Sai being one of them.

                      1. re: .alias

                        .alias,

                        I think quite a few AYCE restaurants DO offer sashimi (eg Wasabi, Dragon Pearl et al) but quality is not great.

                        Went again last night with friends from Chicago and another couple whose husband is in the seafood trade. Multiple orders of butterfish, red tuna, salmon and sweet shrimp. Followed that with some made-to-order sushi and giant rolls (Usually I don't touch the sushi at AYCE places becuz it's disgusting). Chicago friends loved the crispy salmon skin temaki. DS was amazed at the quantity and quality of unagi in his 2 handrolls. I appreciated the bonito flakes billowing on top of his tofu karaage.

                        One friend went crazy and had 3 scoops of ice cream: black sesame, matcha and mango. I tried the mango pudding but didn't like it. The owner suggested that we try their homemade baked mochi cake. I didn't like that either. I'm very picky about mochi. The only mochis I'll eat are sakura mochi or yomogi mochi.

                        Looking forward to X'mas dinner... hope a good thing can last.

                        1. re: Aleta

                          I know that most ayce restaurants offer sashimi, but they are usually salmon, white tuna, red snapper, surf clams, etc. Most do not offer octopus, red tuna, or butter fish to my knowledge, in toronto anyways.

                          I think i'll give big meal a try soon. Is it right across from the community center?

                  2. re: Aleta

                    How did you get multiple orders of the red tuna? When I was there, the menu said each guest is only allowed one item from their "specials", which included baked scallop, red tuna, some quail egg dish, etc. The red tuna sashimi was literally a single slice per order.

                    1. re: jl_1978

                      You can get red tuna sashimi at Spoon & Fork and you are not limited to one slice.

                      1. re: jl_1978

                        Jl_1978,

                        Did you ask the waitress? I noticed the menu allowing 1 choice of the specials and asked the waitress for some clarification. She said we could have whatever we wanted. My son had multiple orders of the quail egg/prawn dish while we enjoyed the red tuna.

                        I'm sure that once the restaurant gets busy (or if you go later in the evening), they might have to follow the rules.

                        .alias,
                        The entrance to the parking lot is on Midland, diagonally across from the Mon Sheong retirement centre. Southwest corner of Midland/Kennedy.

                        1. re: Aleta

                          I think you meant to say McNicoll Ave, not Midland Ave. Sounds like the "Big Meal" is trying to make a big splash opening. The trick will be to maintain the initial quality....here's hoping. Btw, down the road on McNicoll at Vic Park, a new Chinese restaurant named "Landmark" is coming soon (at the old Elegantview place).

                          1. re: T Long

                            Thanks, T Long, for the correction. Yes, McNicoll Ave. I often get lost in Scarborough.

              2. Thinking of trying Big Meal this coming weekend with some friends. Does anybody have photos of the menu that they can post up? They have a website but it's only half completed. Thanks!

                7 Replies
                  1. re: loodle

                    Loodle,

                    I DO have 1-2 pictures of the menu, which I took on my very first visit, BUT the restaurant asked me not to take any more pictures. Proprietary concerns etc. Therefore, I haven't posted them on CH. All I can say is that the menu is huge, most dishes are quite good and they are still lots of things I haven't gotten around to trying.... even after more than 6 visits in 1 month!

                    We had our family Christmas Dinner in 1 of the 2 private rooms on Dec 23. The place was pretty full that night, the service was a bit frantic (AYCE + table service = lots of work!) but the quality of the food was still good.

                    1. re: Aleta

                      That's interesting, they don't want their menu to be public? When their main competition has their menu and pricing online for everybody to see:

                      http://www.ten-ichi.com/downloads/din...

                      I wanted to ask, how does this place compare with Ten-Ichi? It used to be our "go-to" for AYCE until recently, as we've noticed quality and service have declined a lot over the last couple of years. By your description Big Meal appears to undercut Ten-Ichi by a buck or two but they are a bit out of the way.

                      1. re: TexSquared

                        I haven't been to Ten-Ichi in years. We used to be regulars until Wasabi opened. After some years of eating there (and still not being happy), I gave up on AYCE Japanese.

                        From what I remember of Ten-Ichi, Big Meal's selection of sashimi is much better (see descriptions and pictures in my post dated Nov 27) and sushi is definitely higher quality. Sorry to say but Ten-Ichi was one of the places where I refused to eat sushi...

                        Big Meal's prices, in relation to the selection and quality of food offered, are a huge bargain. Honestly, I don't know how long they can sustain this... I'm enjoying it while it lasts!

                        1. re: Aleta

                          Thanks for this reply. I'll definitely give Big Meal a shot next time I feel like AYCE (which isn't often!). Maybe Big Meal will hurt Ten-Ichi's business, which would be well-deserved given their complacency in recent years.

                          1. re: TexSquared

                            You're most welcome. All this talk of Japanese food before dinnertime did me in, LOL! Guess where we just went for dinner? :-) I was craving sushi so badly that I showed up before 5:30 pm, expecting to wait at the doors but it was open and people were already eating! When we left at 7 pm, the place was full. I didn't know but dinner service starts at 5 pm.

                            The manager told me before X'mas that they were going to run some ads. Apparently they did...

                      2. re: Aleta

                        Aww that's too bad - would've loved to see what they offer that is unique to their restaurant. Oh well, I'll find out tomorrow. I just made reservations for 7pm just in case - sounds like they're starting to get busy. Have a Happy New Year!

                    2. We were a party of three, and went on just this Monday afternoon (the boxing day). It was quite empty, we were the table left eating at the end..

                      Lunch AYCE (at $11.99) is quite good. The food quality is good. Stir fried udon is oily though, in fact, most cooked foods are on the oily side. And having had so much AYCE this past holiday season, I must say this one has one of the better sushi rices. Why would I rate on sushi RICE? Because if you can believe it -- some serve it WARM. Not only that, some serve regular white rice too.. shameful, I know. So this one was totally higher on the totem poll.. Quality of fish is good also. Portion size is awesome too -- you dont end up overeating just to finish the dish. Cooked fishes come in filets as opposed to whole fishes.

                      Beware not to sit near the window. We should have said something to move .. even with the shutters there, it was quite boiling warm!

                      As with any AYCE restaurant, go now as it's still new..

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jennjen18

                        Jennjen,

                        I agree with you regarding the high quality of the sushi. I used to live in Tokyo and I'm very spoiled when it comes to Japanese food in general. When I go to AYCE, or maybe I should say, IF I go to AYCE, I never, ever order sushi. It's usually bad rice, mashed together, soggy nori, poor quality fish. Big Meal is my one exception. The giant rolls, handrolls and regular nigiri are well-prepared.

                        Some of the smaller types of grilled fish ARE presented whole, not in filets. It depends on what you order.

                      2. One thing this place should get is a pre-printed carbon like ordering menu (like some of the chinese dim sum places) where you can just put qty beside item...."carboned" so I can check off as items are completed.

                        Several times i had to re-order a item because I didn't get it...I was a bit hesitant however to get something like 18 tempura shrimp (6 after each re-order that never came).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                          I took some friends who are in the seafood business and they also made that comment about having a carbon copy. After the New Year rush, I'd like to sit down with the manager and go over a few suggestions, including yours. I have no commercial interest in this restaurant; I would just like to see them succeed where others (in the same location) have failed.

                          There are some basic staff training issues too. For example, I called one day to ask what time dinner service started and the guy who answered didn't seem to be sure! He said, "6 pm or maybe 5-ish". It was 4 pm at the time and I was in the neighbourhood. If I had had to wait 2 hrs, I would've gone home but for 1 hr, I would be able to kill time. In the end, I took my chances and went around 5: 20 pm. There was somebody already eating! They almost lost my business that night.

                          1. re: Aleta

                            Highlights from last night's dinner. Some new specials: fresh scallops on the half shell and creme brulee! Note that 'specials' are exactly what they mean, ie not always available and dependent on shipment etc.

                            Next visit scheduled: this Tuesday to treat a friend from Alberta.

                             
                             
                            1. re: Aleta

                              While the scallops look lovely, the cream brulee looks pretty sad.