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Is there good Japanese in Montreal to compare with New York? Juni has good fish, but the Omikase is questionable

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I went for Omikase there a few months ago. It was embarassing. The quality of their fish for sushi has been quite good. I a

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Restaurant Juni
156 Av Laurier W, Montreal, QC H2T2N7, CA

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  1. I hadn't finished my post:
    The fish quality was very good, actually. The cutting of the fish was very good, as one would expect from a Japanese sushi chef. Most people can't tell the difference when a Chinese, Korean or other chef's cut the sushi, but for sushi lovers, there's a major difference. It just tastes so much better. But Juni was the closest to a decent restaurant that I have yet been to. I went to several others, one had Vietnamese and another Korean and another Chinese chefs. There is a very amazing cultural issue. It happens with other foods. One of the best "torchons" of foie gras is made here in the city, and Renoir. While Tom Keller of famed "French Laundry" in Yountville Ca. has a wonderful "torchon", Renoir's is just plain better. So is there a true Japanese Sushi chef in town? Is there a Japanese restaurant that is not trying to North Americanize their food? New York has dozens if not hundreds of authentic Japanese restaurants and incredible sushi, and I would love to find some here. Anyone have ideas?

    8 Replies
    1. re: foodlovergeneral

      Foodlovergeneral, I think the general answer to your 'is Montreal sushi comparable to NYC sushi' is: no. There are a couple of extensive threads on this subject, 1 quite recent IIRC.

      Re: the knife skills of the chef - I have heard this so many times, that the fish tastes different depending on who cuts it. I don't disbelieve it, but I'd love to taste-test this. I.e. have a Japanese chef as well as a couple of non-sushi-trained chefs right in front of me, and try the same fish cut by each of them. That would be fun. But I don't think it's going to happen. :)

      1. re: montrealeater

        Try this; go to New York. Try Yasuda or Gari (less expensive the Kurumusushi), Then try any of the Chinese chefs who make sushi. I am sure you will be able to taste and feel the difference. I was in Montreal at Kaizen. I instantly recognized that the chef was not Japanese. Fish quality wasn't bad, but the texture was not right.

        1. re: foodlovergeneral

          No doubt. I have not been to Yasuda (still on my list) but have been to 15 East which is very good. But really, apples and oranges here. You WILL NOT find that quality of ingredient or chef here. I have been several times to Juni, it is my preferred sushi place in Montreal and although it is good it will never match a high end place in New York. But we don't pay as much either at least.

          1. re: nextguy

            Have you tried "tri-express"? Sounds like a Vietnamese sushi chef; but I haven't been there. Some amazing reviews in Zagat. I suppose if I get over my snootiness, and think of it as a kind of Asian version of Crudo, it might be interesting.

            1. re: foodlovergeneral

              Is there a Japanese sushi chef in town that can match NYC? I doubt it... Tri is very good, but his prices are low. This isn't going to compete with the best of the best, but I certainly find it the top Montreal choice. I don't know his training.

              Is there Japanese restaurant not trying to Americanize their food? Of course: Kazu. But this isn't sushi, and obviously the raw fish offerings are simple and limited. However, there are few in the world with Kazuo's training (we should not forget that he has a Fugu license!), so I think this may be your best shot in terms of technical training with a knife.

              1. re: foodlovergeneral

                I may be wrong but I think Tri-express is far from what foodlover is looking for. I am not judging those that like Tri-express, but it is very very non-traditional and non-classical-japanese in flavour profile and aesthetic (sushi pizza? tri sauce?).

                1. re: nextguy

                  Yes, I think that was meant to be my message, but I lost it before I got to the point. It is not traditional sushi, though good in its own right.

          2. re: montrealeater

            I can't help but do an eye-roll whenever the Japanese chef vs. sushi-chefs-of-other-ethnic-origins debate comes up, which is very often here on Chowhound. But anyways, Montreal isn't known for decent Asian cuisine, except for say Vietnamese. There just isn't enough Asians in this city to have Japanese, Chinese, or other Asian restaurants that are on par with bigger cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and New York. (Yeah, I know Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada.) There are a few exceptions here and there, but really, this city is good for baked goods, French/Quebecois cuisine, meat, and maybe Greek and Portuguese. But East Asian? Indian? Sushi even? I drive out of the city and country for that stuff, and accept ok-but-not-great levels of competency when eating here.

        2. Yeah, no. The answer is simply no.

          But, like, if you wanna try,

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781727

          1. There is no sushi restaurant worth mentioning in Montreal.
            Kaizen is overpriced and not comparable to top restaurants in other cities.
            The only Japanese place that I recommend in Montreal is Kazu. Its really hot right now, his food is fresh but its an Isakaya (snack bar) not a Sushi-ya (Sushi bar). They do make it a fun experience and with a constantly changing menu, good food and delightful staff, I strongly recommend it for people who like Japanese cuisine.
            There is more to japanese food than sushi.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChefUniDave

              It's a bit disapointing being from New York where there are many very wonderful Izakayas. I tried it twice. There are some good things there. There's anothre Izakaya on St. Catherine just west of Atwater. Have you tried it? Had a couple of okay dishes there today for lunch. Stumbled upon it. Also Izakaya style. Service was friendly, but not so efficient. Forgot to order one of our dishes. Beef tongue was much sweeter than any I have had at Japanese restaurants before, and a bit tougher. But I love beef tongue so much, that just the fact that it's on the menu was great. The chicken dish with rice was a bit sweet for me. The cod "gindara" was excellent-beautiful quality fish and well cooked with that elegant silky quality. THe karaage (Japanese fried chicken) was over cooked and didn't have much flavor compared to some but was acceptable. I will definately give them a second chance, as we came it at the end of lunch, and that may have challenged them. The menu was more varied than Kazu with many different other dishes worth trying.

            2. There is authentic Japanese restaurants with real Japanese chef in Montreal:

              Osaka
              2137 Rue De Bleury, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2K2, Canada
              (514) 849-3438

              Azuma
              5263 Boulevard Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC H2T 1S1
              (514) 271-5263

              But I don't think their chef can match NYC's.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MPthedog

                Thanks; I will try them and report.

              2. I agree with looosia. The ethnicity of the chef doesn't matter. I'm rolling my eyes too! It's the training and experience of the chef (regardless of ethnicity or race) that matters. There are even plenty of great caucasian sushi chefs, some of them in the top sushi restaurants. I found this article online: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/a...

                I think Juni does a pretty good job with their sushi. It may not be exactly the way sushi is served in Japan, but should it be? We're in Quebec, and people's tastes and preferences are different.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mochimao

                  I'm pretty sure that the preference of Quebecers is not sub-par sushi... not this Quebecer, anyway!

                  1. re: reelection

                    Good to hear. Thanks.

                  2. re: mochimao

                    Jun I serves very good sushi and IMO is probably Montreal's best sushi restaurant.

                    To reelection, I didn't interpret mochimao's comment about Quebec preferences in a negative way. I see it as a positive - I love the way the local environment has influenced Juni to have a certain French element in his recipes, and especially his desserts. It make his sushi much more interesting than just plain old "authentic" sushi. Reminds me of how Matsuhisa uses his Peruvian experience to come up with some pretty cool sushi and Japanese items at his Matsuhisa and Nobu restaurants in the U.S..

                  3. Folks, if you have suggestions for where to get great sushi locally, please go ahead and post them. But debating whether the chef has to be Japanese or discussing sushi in New York are both off-topic for this board.

                    1. I'm surprised no one mentioned Takara on this post. Chef Sinji is Japanese and as Morimoto said of another chef recently, I feel his heart. I have been eating at Takara for almost 6 years now and it has remained consistently great. Despite its location inside Cours Mont-Royal, it's a pretty understated joint, it's 'clean-cut' but not flashy or pretentious. When it comes to sushi, I generally prefer nigiri & sashimi which never disappoint here as chef Sinji only uses fresh fish - but his s.s.bbq maki creation is outstanding, packed with all sorts of umami goodness and I can't forgo including it in my order every time. Curious to know how it sizes up to your standards, but to me, Takara is one of the best in Montreal and the only place where I'd go for Omikase in the city.

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                      Takara Restaurant Japonais
                      1455 Rue Peel, Montreal, QC H3A1T5, CA

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: tootieMonster

                        I will try it most certainly and report back. I do not tend to love sushi that has been adapted to western tastes, and the bbq maki suggests that. FOr me it's like spoiling something that has been perected over thousands of years. Who would ruin a cheese from Normandy such as robuchon by adding dill to it?

                        In Mexico, chefs are returning and finding that their ancient techniques need no perfection, to site another example. So the "Americanized" Chinese and Japanese I have found to be not nearly as appealing as the real thing.

                        However, in NY, there is a kind of fusion cuisine in which Sushi is presented with a mixture of international techniques. Masa, Nobu and Sushi Gari are excellent restaurants, even with their Peruvian or other stylings. So I am not completely closed minded in my approach.

                        In fact, I am going to NY tomorrow and I am trying a kind of Korean/Japanese fusion cuisine called Yakiniku which even has a kind of nigiri sushi made with beef. The restaurant is called Takashi and is run by a third generation Korean family who lived in Japan. I am excited.

                        I will try Takara with an open mind and thanks so much for the suggestion.

                        1. re: foodlovergeneral

                          The name of the roll is deceiving; being a bit of a purist myself I was put off at first but tried it with an open mind. I can't stand cream cheese in my sushi, I'm not fond of fake crab and the term 'fusion' makes me uncomfortable. But there's nothing bbq about this roll; not in the american sense of the term. It's grilled salmon, grilled eel (I guess where the 'bbq' comes from) cucumber and a lemon rind shaving. It surprised me and I am now a big fan.

                      2. I have not been to NYC but I have been very disappointed with sushi in Montreal (I am originally from Vancouver so somewhat 'spoiled' as to good sushi).

                        Are there any south shore sushi places worth mentioning?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: poloprincess

                          I have too. NYC is great for many different Japanese food types, not just sushi. They have yakiniku, izakaya, kaiseki, robata, shojin, sobayaki, ramen, and yakitori.

                        2. Short answer is "No"

                          The sushi alone is much lower quality for the simple reason that we don't get the same pick as NY does for the quality products.

                          As for japanese food such as ramen, yakitori and all that, it's far behind. Closest thing I found to a ramen place the caliber of Ippudo would be Sumo Ramen in china town but even at that, it's a poor substitute.

                          Kazu is the only good japanese place IMO. But in NYC you can probably find half a dozen spots like it. And compared to Tokyo, the other spots like Big in Japan and all that would compare to train station vendors.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: McAttack

                            I think you are correct. So far, nothing even close.

                            1. re: McAttack

                              There is a great new Ramen place int he Faubourg. You can find it by the sound of the chef whacking the table with the dough.

                              1. re: The Chemist

                                Do you have a name for that one? Home made ramen-I am intrigued.

                                1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                  I Googled and found Yuki Ramen, but it's not that new so not 100% sure it's the same place. Here are a couple of reviews:

                                  http://www.montrealmirror.com/wp/2011...

                                  http://hour.ca/2011/01/13/happy-noodl...

                                2. re: The Chemist

                                  Are you talking about Yuki Ramen or is there a newer place?

                                  If it is indeed Yuki, their noodles are great, but it's not Japanese ramen. It's Taiwanese style.

                                  Restaurant Openings in 2011
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7559...

                                  Chinese hand pulled noodles
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/762627

                              2. I am surprised that this topic still has legs :p

                                In my opinion the issue is that Montreal has a vanishingly small market for the really high end food of any style, but especially "ethnic". From experiences speaking with friends and even some people that consider themselves foodies, a lot have never eaten really REALLY fresh fish prepared impeccably. And not knowing a lot of times means not desiring. That is no disrespect to them but it is the truth.

                                It is indicative that perhaps Montreal's best known restaurant is Au Pied de Cochon that in my travels I find is actually known more in other cities than it is even here. But when I describe the ambience and the menu to average Montrealers (not foodies) they are often turned off.

                                In great cities around the world with histories of fine dining and large populations, a fine sushi restaurant is easily supported. Not so in Montreal unfortunately. Most people I know are happy getting their sushi fix from Sushi Shop or on luxurious occasions at Mikasa. Sad but true.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: nextguy

                                  Seems like you are correct. Japanese in NYC is pretty amazing compared to here.

                                  1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                    Imadake is a pretty good Izakaya (not comparable with New York or Japan) in Westmount. Better than Kazu; more clean and precise. It has many of the traditional Izakaya dishes, but lacks the high quality of Momokawa NYC or Sagakura NYC. It doesn't have the range as well. The wait staff is not really quite together. I didn't have to wait in line (unlike Kazu) here. This is something I will go back to for Japanese comfort food dishes. Pork belly in miso, black cod marinated in miso, grilled tongue (this is really a very good dish), good ramen, Japanese fried chicken, etc. I will not go back to Kazu which was not precise and was more sloppy. I go to Japanese restaurants in part for the experience of the elegant and precise presentation which makes the meal more delightul. This place lacks it somewhat; but Kazu is much worse. Flavor is not the only part of food. Feel is a big aspect.

                                    1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                      I tried every food item at Imadake, I would only eat again 1/3 of it.
                                      Kazu has a larger percentage of good food. It's not a real izakaya though.

                                      1. re: marblebag

                                        Thanks for that feedback. Which dishes did you like at both places? Do you mind taking a minute and sharing that?

                                        1. re: foodlovergeneral

                                          Imadake: (fried) Chicek Karaage is the best in town. There's a thread here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760427

                                          Kazu has 5 iconic dishes: 48 hour pork, tuna&salmon bowl, bbq pork neck, homemade tofu, shrimp pancake.

                                          1. re: marblebag

                                            I would add to that list of Kazu dishes the salmon head and the grilled tuna belly. They're not always available, but when they are they're not to be missed.

                                            1. re: SnackHappy

                                              How big is the portion of tuna belly? It goes for 35$ and I know it's pricey but just wondering what you get for 35$?

                                              1. re: hungryann

                                                You get a lot. Certainly more than one person needs. It's whole belly from one side of a small tuna.

                                      2. re: foodlovergeneral

                                        Is izakaya food supposed to be elegant and precise?

                                        1. re: hungryann

                                          In Japan and in traditional Japanese restaurants even ramen restuarants is very precise and even can have a certain elegance of presentation in my experience.