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Is there one great Japanese restaurant where the decor, lighting, and service reflect that?

Googs Mar 13, 2012 06:46 AM

Decor and lighting eliminates Zen and Kaji. Note to Zen: If I wanted to perform surgery on my sushi, you'd be the first place I'd pick. Dim the lights already.

Good eliminates Nami and Ki. I took a look at the Blowfish Bay St menu, but it made me wanna gouge my eyes out to make the cliches stop.


  1. Food Tourist Mar 19, 2012 01:07 PM

    Has anyone been to Shinobu recently? I keep hearing they have great, not mediocre, food, but can't verify myself. http://www.shinobu.ca/

    1. Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 11:42 AM

      Googs, I was taken to Kaji on Wed for my big birthday. I was pleasantly surprised by the renovations and open concept. It's not 100% fine dining, but the service was good and the view of the open kitchen and other patrons around the L-shaped sushi bar very entertaining. The food was perfect. Yes, perfect. It is so worth a long drive! Best octopus, sea urchin, scallop, tuna belly, etc. that I've ever tasted in Canada. Cooked food also delightful. Watching the sous chef carve a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for another lucky birthday lady out of humble daikon, carrot and green onions was the biggest treat of all. Kaji's lighting is perfect for those of us who deny needing reading glasses for the menu.

      I also adore Guu Sakabar and went twice since Christmas, both times seated at the bar facing the open kitchen. Entertaining, fun, and most importantly, consistently tasty food. Their one-year anniversary sakura festival is this Sunday/Monday/Tuesday I believe. Hard wooden bar stools and benches, but still good!

      Also recently went to Yuzu on a weeknight. It was almost completely empty of other patrons and still felt "too quiet" even with the hip loungey soundtrack. Food tasty, and much better than Japango which I visited just before Christmas.

      Finally, I also recently went to a birthday dinner at Ema-tei's tatami room. Decent food. We shared a bunch of small plates and then each had a larger noodle dish to ourselves.

      To sum up, I'd recommend all of the above (except Japango), plus Kumai in Mississauga.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Food Tourist
        justsayn Mar 18, 2012 02:01 PM

        I still think Kaji is the best restaurant in Toronto.

        1. re: justsayn
          Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 06:26 PM

          After just seeing the film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi", I'd agree. Kaji reminds me of the sensibility of Jiro according to the film.

          Also, after that post, I decided to eat at Sakabar after the film to satisfy an intense sushi craving. The only bad part of the meal was the yakitori (weirdly cold). Excellent BC sweet shrimp and Australian yellowtail amberjack sashimi.

          1. re: Food Tourist
            justsayn Mar 18, 2012 06:34 PM

            I'm seeing the film on Wed. How was it?????

            1. re: justsayn
              Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 06:40 PM

              Amazing food film. Zen and the Art of Sushi. Makes you crave excellent sushi immediately.

              1. re: Food Tourist
                justsayn Mar 18, 2012 06:45 PM

                Awesome. Thanks. Too bad Hiro dropped the ball.

                1. re: justsayn
                  Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 08:11 PM

                  What happened to Hiro (on King)?

                  1. re: Food Tourist
                    justsayn Mar 18, 2012 08:18 PM

                    O I simply mean the housekeeping and lack of evolution. It was my favourite date spot but I stopped going a few years ago because it was a bit grimy. Has he cleaned it up?

                    1. re: justsayn
                      Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 08:20 PM

                      I haven't been back to Hiro in years either, but I remember going often and really loving it about 5 years ago.

                      1. re: Food Tourist
                        justsayn Mar 18, 2012 08:27 PM

                        Me too. I see you are a Vegas tourist. This looks interesting - http://www.parislasvegas.com/casinos/...

            2. re: Food Tourist
              EVOVII Mar 18, 2012 07:19 PM

              For sushi, Jiro has a much much different style than Kaji. It is 2 different kinds of sushi. There is also a big gap in the sensibility , I would say. I bet if Jiro see how Kaji prepare his sushi, he is gonna shake his head. Having said that, Kaji is the best you can get in here for a Japanese cuisine experience.

        2. justsayn Mar 17, 2012 09:34 PM

          Just curious...what makes Nami not good, to you?

          5 Replies
          1. re: justsayn
            Googs Mar 18, 2012 07:28 AM

            Nami commits the biggest sin of all: mediocrity.

            1. re: Googs
              Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 11:50 AM

              I liked their charcoal-grilled food a couple of years ago.

              1. re: Googs
                justsayn Mar 18, 2012 01:59 PM

                OK I thought you were saying the place was bad and I wondered what could have happened in your experience. I think Nami is easily in the top 7 for Japanese/Sushi combo restos. Their grilled items in particular never fail. The service is always wonderful too. Nami is the only place I will eat sushi pizza (I believe they brought that to Toronto). The black cod, the yellowtail necks are both so excellent! Haven't ordered tempura at a resto in quite a long time but theirs was always the best IMO. Their sushi with quail egg is also very tasty. I would never call Nami mediocre in the grand scheme of things, but compared against our top 3, I suppose it's possible.

                Everyone has their preferences but I just felt the need to ask because I was surprised to hear them called a "not good" restaurant!

                1. re: Googs
                  prima Mar 18, 2012 08:15 PM

                  How is mediocrity worse than murder, Googs? ;-)

                  I'd take Nami's mediocre sushi over Bloor Street/College Street/grocery store/Mandarin buffet/food court sushi any day.

                  Agree with justsayn that Nami's sushi pizza is a good one.

                  1. re: prima
                    Googs Mar 23, 2012 06:44 AM

                    Murder is unambiguous.

              2. Charles Yu Mar 14, 2012 03:55 PM

                Kaji - before or after their renovation??!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Charles Yu
                  Googs Mar 17, 2012 07:08 AM

                  Granted it's been so long since I've Kaji'd that I haven't even seen the renos. Shame on me I know, but it's far. Really, really far for me. Zen's simplicity is more my style most days anyway.

                  Charles Yu, I was kinda hoping you might share your opinion on how the local izakayas compare.

                  1. re: Googs
                    Charles Yu Mar 17, 2012 07:41 PM

                    Izakayas comparison? Food or atmosphere?!
                    Personally. I prefer the food of the J-Town one to all the rest. Not much of a fan of Guu and the one on Eglington. IMO, just like Indian food. Tons of outfits but nothing outstanding!

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      Googs Mar 18, 2012 07:24 AM

                      Compared by food which, I suppose, you just did. I sorta figured it'd be like that with izakayas as it is with any other type of restaurant or art form of any kind for that matter. So many try, only so many succeed.

                2. Googs Mar 14, 2012 07:03 AM

                  Would anyone know how Yuzu compares with Mikado? Would either be capable of a sustainable sushi omakase?

                  Though I love it, Japanese may include, but isn't limited to sushi restaurants. What about any of the izakayas? Less formal sure, but at least it hasn't been McBistro'd yet. I'm thinking specifically of Guu SakaBar and Izakaya Ju. I'd be willing to trade decor for fun. Not that Japanese isn't fun in the first place what with all the eating with your hands and sharing. Maybe not in that order.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Googs
                    jlunar Mar 14, 2012 07:24 AM

                    For decor, Guu wins. Then Fin. Then Ju. Taste-wise, I find Fin slightly better than Guu. I didn't have a good experience at Ju, but it's been a long time. I know there are people here who enjoy it. Fin is usually my top choice - less noisy/boisterous than Guu.

                    1. re: Googs
                      szw Mar 14, 2012 08:51 AM

                      For funfactor I think guu >>>> all, currently.

                      1. re: szw
                        jlunar Mar 14, 2012 09:07 AM

                        Would totally agree with that. Guu has the most lively environment!

                    2. Dr. John Mar 13, 2012 08:40 AM

                      Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto is great for food (presentation and taste) and service (including the tea ceremony). It isn't stunning for decor though, so I don't know if it meets what you are looking for.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Dr. John
                        Food Tourist Mar 18, 2012 11:57 AM

                        At $400 per person (including tax, tip and drink) I'd rather fly to Japan. Who's with me?

                        1. re: Food Tourist
                          Googs Mar 23, 2012 06:40 AM

                          I'm on board Food Tourist. While I'm sure it's fantastic, $400 for what's behind door #2 doesn't really appeal to me.

                      2. jlunar Mar 13, 2012 07:51 AM

                        Yuzu? Sushi there is along the lines of John Lee (Omi) styles that I believe you enjoy. Haven't been in a few months though. Yuzu was consistent for the time I was going there almost weekly (2 years?)... I don't know if it would qualify as truly great though. Good, yes. Sometimes great.

                        236 Adelaide St W, Toronto, ON M5H1W7, CA

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jlunar
                          sumashi Mar 17, 2012 07:04 PM

                          I agree with Yuzu, I had a great dinner there. Really good service and it's pretty nice in there. I sat at the tables directly across from the sushi bar and my only small negative was that the tables are so close together when they're separated into single tables that I felt I was having dinner w my neighbours to the left and right of me. We were definitely eavesdropping on each other's conversations all night so it wouldn't be so romantic if that's what you're also looking for.

                          Guu is definitely fun for big groups so you can order a billion things and the decor is cool.

                          Izakaya Ju has alright food (some hits and some misses) and feels authentic but I'd say the room is pretty plain and sparse. Giant shower curtain entrance and cute plastic hearts over track lighting doesn't seem to fit your decor and lighting req.

                          1. re: sumashi
                            Googs Mar 18, 2012 07:31 AM

                            Plastic hearts over track lighting sounds AWEsome. Really.

                            1. re: Googs
                              sumashi Mar 18, 2012 02:29 PM

                              Well in that case maybe you SHOULD check it out lol. The dishes that the people I went with liked were 1) maguro zuke-don, it's only on the lunch menu but I asked for it at dinner and they said yes 2) gindara 3) gyu tongue 4) BC tuna sashimi 5) osaka fried rice

                        2. haggisdragon Mar 13, 2012 06:53 AM

                          Japango has a certain je ne sais quoi.

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