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

a
Aleta Nov 26, 2011 05:46 PM

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!

  1. TorontoTips Feb 20, 2012 01:21 PM

    Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents on behalf of Aleta...
    I've visited Big Meal a number of times now, and I find the quality of sashimi, and the overall food to be a step above most AYCE sushi joints.
    Yes, I get better quality sashimi elsewhere if I pay $2 or $3 per piece, but nothing I've found comes close to this quality as far as AYCE is concerned.
    Ten-Ichi is in my never-again category for all the same reasons already outlined by others, and I do also enjoy popping into Matsuda and Sushi 168 on occasion, but I will have to visit the other place recommended herein to compare.
    Cheers,
    .James.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TorontoTips
      Charles Yu Feb 20, 2012 06:04 PM

      You should try the 'new' FUSHIMI on Woodbine and Denison, where the old Taste of Japan used to be!!
      Much, much better plate presentation than Big Meal! The way they presented the chicken yakitoris were quite 'surprising'! Excellent hot food and equally fresh fish for sushi/sashimi. Biggest surprise was, they actually give you a 'whole' crab when you order the tempura soft shell crab!

    2. p
      Pigurd Feb 10, 2012 06:53 AM

      Didn't know where to eat on thursday so decided to try this place to see what everyone is talking about. I havent had AYCE japanese for a few years, but I think this place is pretty good. Compared to what i remember, the sashimi selection is a bit larger with things like squid, big eye tuna, supposed sweet shrimp and octopus (i kept ordering squid and octopus and it never shows up... eventually asked about it and they said they were out, wish they just tell you that when they noticed you ordered it)... quality of the sashimi is not bad for AYCE, though salmon was a bit bland for some reason, yet still seemed fresh. The chef's special on the menu says 1 item per person, but they allow you to order as much as you like. The specials were crab legs, salmon roe sushi (not very fresh) , baked scallop thingy, red tuna, shrimp with quail egg... the cooked beef items like beef rolls and short ribs aren't very good... desserts so so, sesame ice cream weird blue colour and didnt taste like black sesame... service was not as slow as everyone said, though only 6 or so other tables... i also noticed the plating isnt as nice as the pictures you guys took, so maybe they are going for speed rather than fancy plating now...all in all not bad, if i had to eat at an AYCE resturant in toronto again i would probably go back... thanks Aleta for recommending it

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pigurd
        d
        DVT78 Feb 10, 2012 08:54 AM

        I thought I would comment since I wrote a pretty positive review on another website www.yelp.ca shortly after they first opened. I also want to mention I live right around the corner from Big Meal, so I usually go about once every two weeks since I live close by.

        I was thinking about writing an updated review because I feel Big Meal is not keeping up the standards they initially had when they first opened and this happens to a lot of new restaurants that open but not all. A big part of this is attributed to the fact they are never really busy, I have gone numerous times for lunch and dinner whether it be the weekend or weekday and the busiest I have seen the place is 1/3 full. As a result I feel they are cutting costs in terms of food quality, availability and staffing. As some of the chowhounders have mentioned that specific area is a terrible place to do business for restaurants, so many restaurants and businesses have gone out of business over the years.

        Here is my findings:

        Food quality: The sashimi quality has gone down which was quite good initially and can be hit and miss. As others have mentioned a lot of times they don't have items available listed on the menu which can be quite frustrating. The grilled foods was always average with some items being hit and miss. One thing that stood out for me was the plate presentation for an AYCE but now that's not always consistent either. One thing I mentioned on my review was it was pretty good for an AYCE and I don't think it's fair to compare it to Zen or say Cafe Michi but rather to it's counterparts in Markham i.e. Sushi on 7 or Yang's Kitchen.

        Service: The service was never really good, only average at best. Initially they would always have two servers but I'm thinking due to their lack of business, they now only employ one server most of the time and it really shows. The servers are nice but slow in attending to your needs and the delivery of the food.

        Overall, I still think they are probably only one notch above their competitors but due to their lack of business they are cutting back in a few areas which is really starting to show. I sometimes wonder if Big Meal will survive in the long run because AYCE Japanese buffets make money based off volume (customers) and from the numerous times I have been their, they have never been more than 1/3 full.

      2. m
        minto Feb 5, 2012 07:31 PM

        I just tried Big Meal for the first time. I am not one for AYCE japanese food but I was longing to try this new restaurant based on all the positive reviews here. I'm not sure if I was expecting a big wow because of the reviews here, but I was greatly disappointed and do not have plans to return again.

        Yes, the presentation were nice and hoping to eat into something scrumptious , I was constantly disappointed.

        The fresh sashimi was not so fresh and tasted quite bland. I had the salmon, red tuna, butter fish and shrimp.

        I tried 2 different rolls which were also tasteless.

        Had some unagi hand rolls, though the filling was nice with a good portion of unagi, avocado, cucumber... it was really tasteless.

        We had some baked mussels as well, which did not taste fresh.
        Our grilled beef ribs were very chewy and tasted like it was just boiled and then grill marks were placed on them.

        The tempura shrimp and vegetables had a "hard" batter that made it difficult to bite into.
        I should mention that we ordered the tempura when we first arrived and after about an hour, we inquired about it and they quickly brought it out to us afterwards.

        This place is understaffed hence the slow service, but the ladies are trying to do their best.
        They are continuously apologizing for the slow service in getting the food out or in clearing the plates.

        I think the best part for me was the sesame seed ice cream.

        Originally I did not want to write a negative posting and was holding back because of all the praise it was getting on this post... I was wondering if it was just me...
        but really, I can't see myself returning as I really felt the food was tasteless.

        12 Replies
        1. re: minto
          Charles Yu Feb 5, 2012 07:48 PM

          @ Minto,
          Interesting how after a whole slew of positive reviews, the negative ones like those from gateau7, myself and now yourself start coming in fast and furious?!! Sounded like your experience was the worst of all!

          1. re: Charles Yu
            T Long Feb 5, 2012 08:31 PM

            Based on the all the reviews above, I would expect an above average if not excellent AYCE Japanese experience at the Big Meal, but not expect the level of a good menu place like Zen, Michi, or Yuzu which would be reflective of the variance in the price you pay. Like the OP has stated, "we get what we pay for and it's really not possible to compare a $23/per person dinner with a $40-$50 one." If you've had any experience with AYCE places, you will have a certain standard in mind which is this restaurant's comparable. If you are expecting Zen comparable, be unrealistic and be prepared to be disappointed. I still need to try this place sometime.

            1. re: T Long
              m
              minto Feb 6, 2012 07:30 AM

              As mentioned I'm not into AYCE Japanese but felt the urge to try based on this post.
              I was not expecting Zen-like quality, but was expecting something with freshness and taste, both of which I did not experience.

              1. re: minto
                T Long Feb 6, 2012 01:42 PM

                For a perspective, have you found any AYCE Japanese restaurants recently in the GTA that meet your freshness/taste criteria?

              2. re: T Long
                a
                Aleta Feb 6, 2012 08:25 AM

                T Long,

                Thank you for your noble attempts at preserving some level of equity and logic throughout this pathetic thread. I started out with the desire to share a little gem that I had found in Toronto. Although I live here, I hardly ever contribute to this forum since my interests are in Europe and Asia.

                From my second or third posts, I had already mentioned some problems with communication, service and specific dishes I didn't like. I DO think it's important to be realistic and yes, I did say, "we get what we pay for" and "it's not possible to compare". Unfortunately, this forum has members who compare anyway. From comparing Big Meal to The Mandarin or to Zen, it's pretty ridiculous.

                This will be my last post regarding this restaurant. I am not a touter nor a hater, just a real person trying to share some genuine intel. I don't have a big ego that I need to feed. Next time I find something special, I'll keep it to myself.

                1. re: Aleta
                  p
                  plug Feb 6, 2012 08:57 AM

                  priceless....i still think u should post though.

                  i'm gonna try this place regardless with tempered expectations.

                  1. re: Aleta
                    T Long Feb 6, 2012 02:05 PM

                    Aleta: Don't be discouraged by some of the feedback here. It's the nature of the beast so to speak; CH'ders or food geeks as I and some others like to self identify are all passionate about what we eat and sometimes forget that others' views are just as valid as their own. Strong personalities and big egos for sure in many cases, but it's just about food and where else can you learn, contribute and have discourse (moderated too) about one of our passions and where we are all experts! This is a good community (really) and it would be that much better with your continued participation.

                    1. re: Aleta
                      t
                      TexSquared Feb 6, 2012 03:00 PM

                      And thank you for telling it like it is. If I tried to say what you said in my own words the mods would delete it.

                      1. re: TexSquared
                        c
                        caitlink Feb 6, 2012 04:43 PM

                        You should keep posting. You need a thick skin to post for Chinese/Japanese restaurants.
                        I like Magic Wok but gets slammed when I say how much I enjoy it compared to the other places that get high praise for wok hay.
                        It would be worse if we all had the same tastes. Then it will be the same folks and long lineups at the same old places. So keep posting.

                      2. re: Aleta
                        Charles Yu Feb 6, 2012 04:58 PM

                        I have re-read every single one of the postings on this thread. Frankly, based on my interpretation, I did not notice any posting that particularly stood out that reflects ' strong personalities and big egos '. Furthermore, I did not see anything wrong with fellow chowhounders expressing their 'true' personal experiences pertaining to ' fish that is not fresh or tasted bland' during 'recent' visits!! Afterall, fact is fact! If thats the case, then so be it!! Furthermore, I do not think the lack of fish selection was an issue since I believe every one is aware of this fact!
                        Lastly, it is not uncommon to see a highly praised restaurant becoming complacent and subsequently go down hill after opening. Sushi Coulture is a prime example!!!
                        I'm not trying to pour gasoline over open fire! Just expressing my 2 cents opinion!
                        BTW, some of the exchanges on the Japan board are even more heated! This is how things are on a 'discussion forum'!
                        Were you around when someone trashed the old Splendido and commented its the worst and most 'overly rated and rip-off' restaurant in town??! Nothing is new!!
                        So, do stay!

                        1. re: Aleta
                          g
                          gateau7 Feb 7, 2012 10:58 PM

                          Aleta,
                          To be honest, I was hesitant as well to post a bad review when all the other reviewers (especially yours) praised the restaurant so highly. I don't think there's anything wrong with negative reviews- don't all restaurants have a mixture of both?

                          I'm not sure why you think that all the negative reviews are unrealistic. I feel like you are judging us unfairly, assuming that all the negative reviews are unrealistic comparisons. I based my comparison with other AYCE japanese restaurants I've eaten at.

                          That said, I'm glad you did post about the place, so don't let this hinder your future posts! I like trying new restaurants and this was a good excuse for gaining that extra 5 pounds =p

                        2. re: T Long
                          g
                          gateau7 Feb 7, 2012 10:32 PM

                          I do eat a lot of Japanese AYCE and know what type of quality to expect but the salmon really didn't taste that fresh at all. I do agree that this ayce is above average but was disappointed by the assumptions I made on the quality based on the reviews above. Like I said, maybe the fish quality changed the day I went...

                          Actually, the ayce place I recommend is cheaper than Big Meal. Give it a try sometime, it's called Ichimoto by chalmers and hwy 7. As expected, the maki aren't that great but they have a good variety of sashimi and their grilled food isn't too bad either.

                    2. g
                      gateau7 Feb 4, 2012 03:14 PM

                      Went for lunch and dinner on a weekday night. Not crowded at all. We were actually one of two tables for lunch. And it was less than half full for dinner. Overall I was not impressed based on what I read in the reviews here. That is not to say it wasn't good.. I just expected too much =p

                      The biggest disappointment was that the salmon sashimi was not as fresh as the reviews here stated. Not sure if it was just a bad night but the salmon was pretty bland (didn't have that fresh taste), though the butterfish and other fishes were ok. Was disappointed I didn't see the half shell scallops (that picture won me over!). We were allowed to order as many of the chef's special items as we wanted (there were 6 things I think- prawn with quail egg, alaska crab legs, octopus sashimi, red tuna sashimi, salmon roe sushi, baked scallop). The baked scallop was actually pretty small.. the majority of it was the cheese. Sadly, the maki rolls suffered the same fate as most ayce- too much rice/cucumber/tempura bits in comparison with the actual meat. They did have a lot more interesting rolls than most ayce places though.

                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                      6 Replies
                      1. re: gateau7
                        t
                        TexSquared Feb 4, 2012 05:45 PM

                        Here's my question to you and everybody who has been there.

                        I do not eat Monster Truck Rolls. Avoid like the plague.

                        So, ignoring that part of the menu and only judging the rest of it, how does it compare to the competition? Quality, value, etc.... Any recommendations on what to order (or fill up on) in order to get maximum value out of the dinner price?

                        1. re: TexSquared
                          g
                          gateau7 Feb 4, 2012 11:18 PM

                          Honestly, I don't really live in the area so I can't really answer your question. It was one of the better ayce places I've been to though, so I'd say quality isn't too shabby.

                          Sashimi usually gives you the most value out of dinner price, although the quality wouldn't be on par with non-ayce restaurants. I had no idea that butterfish and red tuna sashimi was so rare at ayce until i read the above reviews. And definitely get the scallops if you can. The place I frequent actually does have scallop sashimi, but they don't come in the shell like the picture in the above review.

                          If you want the best value, eat more of the chef's special items as you can't find those in most places. Next stop, attack the meat. Grilled ribs is usually a favorite...

                          1. re: gateau7
                            c
                            caitlink Feb 5, 2012 06:03 AM

                            gateau 7, what is the AYCE place that has scallop sashimi? that's pretty rare.
                            thx.

                            1. re: caitlink
                              g
                              gateau7 Feb 7, 2012 10:14 PM

                              Yea I haven't found another one which offers it. Don't quote me on this but I think they also serve red tuna and butterfish as well. My go-to place is called Ichimoto, it's located near chalmers and hwy 7 (opposite yoga tree if you know where that is). If you do go, you definitely need to try the chicken wing yakitori (i think they just called it grilled chickenwing) too! They also have golden shrimp, which is deep fried shrimp wrapped in thin shreds of sweet potato- it's pretty interesting, but I rather have tempura lol.

                            2. re: gateau7
                              t
                              TexSquared Feb 5, 2012 08:43 AM

                              Thanks, that's pretty much my strategy already (I figure, sashimi and grilled meats means less cheap rice as filler) but since this place does serve some of the better fish rather than the cheaper substitutions, that's what I need to load up on.

                              Monster Truck Rolls are how sushi restaurants use up the cheapest ingredients they have and charge a premium price for it, for the clueless to dunk in Yoda Bath. Yuck....

                          2. re: gateau7
                            Charles Yu Feb 5, 2012 03:23 PM

                            Thank you gateau7 for your posting. I am glad that someone finally produced a review that reflects the 'other side of the story'! Having been an active CH member for almost a decade, I have seen my fair share of accolades and praise bestowed to new restaurants. However, never did I recall seeing so many 'over the top' praises and constant recommendations given to such an average establishment....and a Chinese operated AYCE Japanese at that.!!

                            No doubt, Big Meal is a shining star amongst the myriad of mediocre par or sub-par AYCE Japanese restaurants in town. The relatively refined plate presentation indeed is a step above many others. However, be that the case, the inconsistency in food quality and the lack of service by the wait staff, IMO, is enough to deter Big Meal from receiving all the non-stop praises and recommendations!!

                            When it comes to the food, the 'Baked scallop' touched on by gateau7 is a great example of a 'mega-miss'. As previously eluded to, the morsels underneath the sauce is so minute, one really suspect whether it is just a partial chopped up portion of a bigger one?! The tiny pea size morsel deliberately camouflaged by smothering it with a thick layer of greasy and cloying creamy cheese sauce. And they limit this to one per customer! What a joke!!
                            During our meals there, the fish were also barely acceptable, lacking the shiny lustre usually associated with fresher and better products. However, in our case, the biggest frustration came from the fact that they keep on telling us they have sold out on the more exotic ingredients, thus forcing us to order and replace our choices with mediocre ones! eg.,To run out of amaebi early on a weekend is no excuse!!! Half shell scallops sashimi?! I think its a ploy or gimmick?! Apart from the OP how many of us have eaten that at Big Meal??!!

                            During the course of a meal, if good dishes are constantly off-set by bad misses, then IMO, one should give the place a thorough second thought regarding recommendation and re-visits! Just my 2 cents worth!

                          3. b
                            baby_tran Jan 31, 2012 10:20 AM

                            Tried this place for lunch on Sunday. Pricing is fair at $11.99/adult. Decor is kind of bland. Service was a bit slow (only 1 server on duty)...there was a total of 5 tables or 13 customers. The food was pretty good and there was a fair selection...our favourites were the fish roe sushi, ramen, shrimp tempura and deep-fried bananas. They serve canned pop (not the tasteless fountain pop). They also have non-AYCE options (bento boxes, soup noodles) that range from $6-9.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: baby_tran
                              c
                              caitlink Jan 31, 2012 12:40 PM

                              Did u not try any other sushi or the rolls? Usually we feast on salmon rose, eel sushi, roe sushi, spider rolls, etc.
                              Been meaning to try this place but surprise that you are not recommending the fish /sushi related items.
                              Still waiting for more positive reviews before I make a visit. In the meantime, sticking to Zen.

                              1. re: caitlink
                                Charles Yu Jan 31, 2012 03:18 PM

                                I don't think its fair to compare quality and selection of Big Meal's sushi/sashimi with Zen!!
                                Its like comparing Toronto dim sum with Hong Kong dim sum!!

                                1. re: Charles Yu
                                  c
                                  caitlink Jan 31, 2012 05:49 PM

                                  Big Meal is close by and I've been meaning to try. But reviews still seem lukewarm. So I think I will spend my money somewhere else for now.
                                  Also been meaning to try Tenichi as well. But most reviews mention how crowded it is. So staying away from AYCE for now.

                                  1. re: caitlink
                                    t
                                    TexSquared Jan 31, 2012 06:42 PM

                                    Take a look at this review (with photos) of Ten-Ichi and you might change your plans now and save yourself the trip:

                                    http://eatherenext.blogspot.com/2011/...

                                    Also read comments here and elsewhere about poor (and worsening) service. They were OK pre- AYCE, but that restaurant is way too small to handle AYCE effectively... Slow service and missed orders are frequent complaints (and then after ignoring you for awhile they try to kick you out so they can turn the table).

                                    1. re: caitlink
                                      a
                                      Aleta Feb 2, 2012 08:04 PM

                                      Caitlink,

                                      You wrote, "Big Meal is close by and I've been meaning to try. But reviews still seem lukewarm." Lukewarm? I think not! I've been raving about it and eating there since my first post in November. For the price you pay, you really get a lot of high quality food. Lunch is truly a steal; what is the price of a hamburger meal at MacDonald's these days? Isn't it more than $8? So for a few dollars more, you get sushi, sashimi, salads, yaki dishes, shrimp tempura, beef rolls with asparagus or enoki mushrooms, free non-alcoholic drinks, dessert etc.

                                      They should change the name of the restaurant from Big Meal to Big Steal. For once, it'll be the customers doing the stealing and NOT the restaurant!

                                      If you haven't tried Tenichi yet (after all these years), you're not missing much. Tex Squared has provided you with detailed reasons to 'save yourself the trip'.

                                      1. re: Aleta
                                        t
                                        TexSquared Feb 2, 2012 08:40 PM

                                        Yeah, and I hope that Big Meal finally beats Ten-Ichi into submission, make them clean up their act. (and you're helping, thanks!)

                                        The "drinks included" policy at Big Meal is unique, how many AYCE places in Toronto offer that? Mandarin bills for EVERY drink, no free refills. As does Ten-Ichi.

                                        Given how bad their food and service are, anybody who still patronizes Ten-Ichi regularly belongs to the category of "sheeple".

                                        1. re: TexSquared
                                          a
                                          Aleta Feb 3, 2012 05:50 AM

                                          TexSquared,

                                          "Sheeple"! I had never heard of this before. At first, I thought it was a Yiddish term that I didn't know, so I googled it. ha ha ha

                                          Thanks for teaching me a new (and useful) word. I owe you dim sum at Elegant View. That's where I'd like to go this morning but friends have chosen the old Ruby. ho-hum. I don't even know what it's called these days.

                                          1. re: Aleta
                                            T Long Feb 3, 2012 05:28 PM

                                            The Elegantview is long gone, replaced by a busy discount dim sum place named Landmark and the old Ruby's space has been taken over by a Scarborough member of the Regal chain....but you know that already if you went today. Btw, stop your constant praising of the Big Meal. Keep it up and it will be unbearably busy when I get around to going;)

                                            1. re: T Long
                                              a
                                              Aleta Feb 3, 2012 08:47 PM

                                              There is such a plethora of Chinese restaurants in Toronto. To make matters worse, their English names are often quite similar. Your comment has spurred me to check online (thanks). Turns out I meant Elegant, on Hwy 7 east of McCowan.

                                              http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/10/151757...

                                              I was stuck at the Regal chain member today. All through the meal, we were talking about Elegant! My aunt (who had chosen the Regal whatever-it's-called) commented that the food at Elegant was very high quality but a bit pricey. After several fantastic dinners there, I think I should search on this forum for previous threads. If there isn't one, I might start one about Elegant. Then you don't have to worry that Big Meal will be too busy when you finally get there.

                                              I don't think I was 'constantly praising'. After my post of Jan. 17, 6 other people posted and 2 weeks went by before I wrote in again on Feb. 2.

                                              1. re: Aleta
                                                T Long Feb 3, 2012 09:06 PM

                                                Aleta: I enjoy your posts...my comment was made with a smiley face. No flaming intended....cheers!

                                          2. re: TexSquared
                                            s
                                            szw Feb 4, 2012 11:38 AM

                                            A lot of the smaller AYCE Japanese places used to offer free soft drinks, however not sure if that is still the case.

                                            1. re: szw
                                              c
                                              caitlink Feb 4, 2012 02:42 PM

                                              i am pretty sure Yangs and Sushi on Seven still do. Unlimited. Except I think Sushi on Seven gives you canned drinks - Coca Cola. not the no-name brand.

                                    2. re: caitlink
                                      b
                                      baby_tran Feb 1, 2012 01:52 PM

                                      We did try salmon sushi, spicy salmon sushi and the salmon rose. The salmon sushi was good, the spicy salmon sushi was barely spicy and the salmon rose was kind of small (I'm used to 2 pieces of salmon around a centre of rice and this place only used one piece of salmon). We ate everything we ordered and there wasn't anything we detested. I would go back.

                                  2. TorontoTips Jan 29, 2012 04:55 PM

                                    Hi kids!
                                    I've been a few times now to Big Meal, and personally, I like it very much - very good quality sushi and sashimi for AYCE, nice variety of specialty dishes, and very friendly service with no line-up every time I've been there.

                                    Contrary to the comments above, I've never found the place more than 3/4 full at dinner, and I've never had a lost or forgotten order from the charming (mom & daughters?) servers, thus far.

                                    Matsuda had become my go-to place, and I do still like some of their unique dishes a lot (killer chicken satay skewers, great handrolls, fantastic 'golden shrimp', etc.) but Big Meal edges them out for quality of fish, some great 'specials' and for a more relaxed atmosphere.

                                    Another goofy tip: if you're in the neighbourhood, check out Sushi 168 at Dufferin & Steeles just for fun. Largest menu of non-sushi items I've seen at an AYCE place, including some cantonese specialties, all of it decent for AYCE, and I can't help but love the uber-tacky decor that feels like a 1980's disco, including purple walls and flashing runner lights :-)

                                    Cheers,
                                    .James.

                                    1. q
                                      Querencia Jan 16, 2012 04:57 PM

                                      Sounds like the Japanese version of The Mandarin, of which we had many happy Toronto memories. My husband once asked me where I wanted to eat on my birthday and I said The Mandarin, so we went there, and we lived in Chicago. 48 hot Chinese entrees, a Canadian buffet with Prime Rib of Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, a salad bar with shrimp, a dessert bar, a waffle station, six kinds of soup and ten kinds of ice cream...they have a website with pictures BTW.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Querencia
                                        a
                                        Aleta Jan 17, 2012 09:33 AM

                                        I wouldn't describe it at all like the Japanese version of The Mandarin. First, The Mandarin is a buffet style ie serve-yourself place. Food is prepared and left for people to pick through. The sushi is extremely poor quality; little fish content and rice that has been pressed too hard into a gutball (wrong kind of rice too). Next time you visit Toronto, please try Dragon Pearl, Wasabi or one of many other AYCE Asian restaurants. I don't eat sushi at any of them but imho, the general food quality at The Mandarin is ....not great. The only thing these 2 restaurants have in common is probably their price.

                                        Big Meal is a restaurant with table service. If you look at the pictures uploaded by CharlesYu and me, you'll see that food presentation is completely different. You don't have a plate that is piled up with an assortment of food from the hot and cold buffet tables. Each dish is made to order and served directly to you.

                                      2. Charles Yu Jan 8, 2012 07:04 PM

                                        When it comes to Japanese food, I am kind of 'spoiled'. As such, I never pay much attention to AYCE Japanese postings. However, this constant raving of a 'Chinese operated' Japanese AYCE really caught my eyes. Tonight, out of sheer curiosity, my family decided to give it a try.

                                        The verdict: As an AYCE, the menu is pretty varied and diversified, food quality was fairly good. However service was on the slow side with only two waitresses there to look after over 10 tables! All in all, the good balances out the bad!

                                        Stand outs of the evening were the Steamed egg, Asparagus wrapped with beef, 'first round' of Tempura (when the oil was still fresh), tofu dishes and the Yakitoris.

                                        Disappointments were the tasty but ' very oily' garlic shrimp skewer, the greasy and mushy octopus balls, the very gamey garlic beef cubes, very greasy and 'tiny' baked scallops and 'SOLD OUT' of sweet shrimps, eggplants and creme brulee dessert.

                                        Sushi and sashimi selection was on the 'cheap' side, typical of AYCE offerings. Slightly more exotic ingredients like Ikura, Tako, Maguro...etc was restricted to only 'one choice' per person. Freshness was acceptable, considering its a Sunday. BTW, lots of rolls were available to attract and fill up the patrons fast!

                                        A couple of things worth mentioning are that they actually use the more expensive tobiko rather than the cheaper Masago.and the Shari for the sushi was actually pretty well seasoned and nicely textured!

                                        Overall, for people who love AYCE Japanese in Toronto, this is for sure one of the better establishment out there. However, for me, I'll stick with my Michi or Zen for better fish and seafood selection sushi/sashimi.

                                        Attached are photos of a small selection of food ordered.

                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                         
                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: Charles Yu
                                          c
                                          caitlink Jan 9, 2012 06:40 PM

                                          unable to find website for this restaurant. Does anyone know pricing for weeknight dinner and if there is a senior discount? thx.

                                          1. re: caitlink
                                            t
                                            TexSquared Jan 9, 2012 06:55 PM

                                            Go to http://www.bigmeal.ca

                                            Site is very incomplete but does have hours and pricing.

                                            1. re: caitlink
                                              Charles Yu Jan 9, 2012 07:01 PM

                                              Dinner: 5.00pm - 10.30pm
                                              Monday to Thursday
                                              Adult $20.99; Seniors (65 and over) $18.99

                                              Dinner:: 5.00pm - 10.30pm
                                              Friday - Sunday and Holiday
                                              Adult$ $22.99, Seniors $20.99

                                            2. re: Charles Yu
                                              a
                                              Aleta Jan 10, 2012 11:23 AM

                                              CharlesYu,

                                              Thanks for 'coming down' and trying an AYCE, LOL! Your detailed report and comments will undoubtedly benefit both future patrons and the restaurant management.

                                              I agree with your take on the takoyaki (octopus balls) but think you were rather harsh on the sushi and sashimi. Comparing Zen to Big Meal is like comparing a 2 star Michelin to a Bib Gourmand. To some extent, we get what we pay for and it's really not possible to compare a $23/per person dinner with a $40-$50 one.

                                              1. re: Aleta
                                                t
                                                TexSquared Jan 16, 2012 08:51 AM

                                                "Comparing Zen to Big Meal is like comparing a 2 star Michelin to a Bib Gourmand."

                                                More trying to compare the steaks at Ruth's Chris with the steaks at Mandarin....

                                                1. re: TexSquared
                                                  T Long Jan 16, 2012 02:48 PM

                                                  When did they start serving steak at the Mandarin?.... the prime roast beef I had there many years ago was quite good. I thought Ruth's Chris was a rip-off.....

                                                2. re: Aleta
                                                  Charles Yu Jan 16, 2012 04:01 PM

                                                  Knowing it is an AYCE establishment, I was psychologically prepared for the quality and choice of the sushi/sashimi. As such, I was not 'harsh' in that respect. However, I was truly upset to see them restricting the slightly more exotic ingredients to only one per customer AND THEN to inform us they even SOLD OUT on those!! That was indeed like being promised a bit of Michelin star experience but giving us Bib Gourmand instead!

                                              2. l
                                                LUV_TO_EAT Dec 31, 2011 10:21 AM

                                                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
                                                  a
                                                  Aleta Dec 31, 2011 04:49 PM

                                                  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
                                                    a
                                                    Aleta Jan 8, 2012 11:30 AM

                                                    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
                                                      j
                                                      JennaBean Jan 10, 2012 07:53 AM

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

                                                2. jennjen18 Dec 27, 2011 03:34 AM

                                                  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
                                                    a
                                                    Aleta Dec 29, 2011 08:11 AM

                                                    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. l
                                                    loodle Dec 26, 2011 10:03 PM

                                                    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
                                                      T Long Dec 27, 2011 11:00 AM

                                                      Link to uncompleted website:
                                                      http://www.bigmeal.ca/

                                                      1. re: loodle
                                                        a
                                                        Aleta Dec 29, 2011 08:06 AM

                                                        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
                                                          t
                                                          TexSquared Dec 29, 2011 11:07 AM

                                                          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
                                                            a
                                                            Aleta Dec 29, 2011 01:51 PM

                                                            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
                                                              t
                                                              TexSquared Dec 29, 2011 05:15 PM

                                                              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
                                                                a
                                                                Aleta Dec 29, 2011 05:34 PM

                                                                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
                                                            l
                                                            loodle Dec 31, 2011 09:18 AM

                                                            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. Charles Yu Nov 26, 2011 07:02 PM

                                                          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
                                                            a
                                                            Aleta Nov 26, 2011 07:46 PM

                                                            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
                                                              T Long Nov 26, 2011 07:49 PM

                                                              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
                                                                b
                                                                blitz Nov 27, 2011 03:16 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  a
                                                                  Aleta Nov 27, 2011 05:35 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    .
                                                                    .alias Nov 27, 2011 09:35 PM

                                                                    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
                                                                      a
                                                                      Aleta Nov 28, 2011 07:06 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        .
                                                                        .alias Nov 28, 2011 08:44 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          justsayn Nov 28, 2011 08:47 PM

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

                                                                          1. re: .alias
                                                                            a
                                                                            Aleta Nov 29, 2011 02:02 PM

                                                                            .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
                                                                              .
                                                                              .alias Nov 29, 2011 10:01 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                        j
                                                                        jl_1978 Nov 29, 2011 11:15 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          s
                                                                          sbug206 Nov 30, 2011 05:17 AM

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

                                                                          1. re: jl_1978
                                                                            a
                                                                            Aleta Nov 30, 2011 11:24 AM

                                                                            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
                                                                              T Long Nov 30, 2011 03:22 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                                a
                                                                                Aleta Nov 30, 2011 04:04 PM

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

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