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JaBistro- wow

Had a fantastic dinner at JaBistro tonight.

The menu is currently a "soft opening" menu, and the grand opening should be in December.

We shared:
the snack of the night- squid balls and fried blue fin
JaBistro roll (snow crab, salmon, tobiko, uni, with the uni blowtorched before being served)
7 pieces sushi combo (salmon roe/fish liver pate, horsemackerel, sea bream, shrimp, toro, urchin, one other fish, and a bonus slice of tomago)
the "Caesar"- a spinach salad with battered shrimp, tomato, egg
a special request, off the menu order of miso soup (which turned out to be the most nuanced miso I've tasted in TO)
pear compote with ice cream & jelly

Best sushi and Japanese seafood I've had in TO in years, and very similar, if not equal quality to Sushi Kaji. Just to be clear, I haven't been to Kaji in years. I liked this meal a little more than my more expensive feast at Kaji, probably because I had a little more control over the order.

Service was attentive and friendly. Our meal came to just over a hundred dollars, including taxes, not including drinks, not including tip.

We'll definitely be back to try more on the menu.

Online reservations are possible through their website.

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  1. Wow, high praise indeed. Sounds great. I'm a big fan of Guu, in all their incarnations. I've got a reservation for this weekend - should be a perfect double bill with the new Bond film.

    1. Great review. Thanks!

      1. nice!! thanks for the preview! XD And I think you were just complaining about the defacto boring miso soup everyone serves in the other thread. :)

        1. I hadn't heard of it before... interesting, thanks.

          Some links - website:

          Write up in Toronto Life:

          Address - 222 Richmond St. W (between Simcoe and Duncan).

          Too bad there are no "tags" in this forum so I will mention Roy Thomson Hall, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Royal Alex, Princess of Wales and Entertainment District for search purposes :)

          2 Replies
          1. re: ylsf

            I think you meant between Simcoe and Duncan

            1. re: midtowngirl

              yes, I did. Thanks for catching that before my "edit window" elapsed. Fixed!

          2. What are the noise levels like? Is it possible to have a conversation without yelling at other like at Guu? Thanks in advance!

            3 Replies
            1. re: buttertartz

              It was quiet last night from 6-7:30 pm. Nice mix of music, some interaction with the Chef, manager, servers. Our server Roland was attentive and down-to-earth.

              I don't think JaBistro will stay this quiet for long, but it was more quiet than my last dinner at Yuzu.
              Nice ambiance, nice furniture choices.
              Jlunar, there's a $50 sashimi that comes with lobster, and miso soup.

              Agree, this is a great option before theatre, opera, concerts, etc. Just a few blocks north of the Royal Alex, and less than a 5 minute walk from the SE exit of Osgoode Station.

              1. re: prima

                Ja Bistro is totally on my radar right now. XD Thanks prima!

                1. re: jlunar

                  You're going to love it, j.

                  By the way, the SW exit is the closest Osgoode exit to JaBistro Just noticed my earlier typo now!

            2. Thanks for sharing I look forward to dinning here.

              1. I was there on the same night.

                This is heads and above anything available downtown right now. It sits between Kaji and Zen in terms of fusion vs tradition.

                I had the $55 nigiri option, sat at the bar so it was served piece by piece. Shari was seasoned well and cooked perfectly, you can taste each individual grain. The shoyu is brushed on and has a delicate sweetness to it. Real wasabi was used, and the alcohol selection is quite on point.

                It's run by the former bar manager of the Guu on Bloor location and the sushi chef (Koji) of said same location. The space is very serene, beautiful, even though it's lacking any windows. Music was Nujabes, falls into the Guu style.

                The best thing about this place? The awesome saba oshizushi from Guu on Bloor makes a triumphant return here.

                Best meal I've had in Toronto this year. Just go.....

                10 Replies
                1. re: aser

                  All these reviews are making me salivate. Does one need to make a reservation or just walk in?
                  What selection of Beer do they have?
                  Having a penchant for real wasabi it is really tempting to go there sooner rather than later.

                  1. re: elvisahmed

                    They have the usual jp beers but also Dieu Du Ciel Rosee d'Hibiscus on tap! They also have mad tom ipa in bottles and a few others.

                    1. re: elvisahmed

                      Walking in would have been fine on Wed night, especially around 6. If you want to do a walk-in, walk in now over the next few weeks, while you can, because I have a feeling walk-ins will be more difficult once the grand opening takes place, and once the restaurant critics start publishing their reviews.

                      That being said, I rather have a reservation, when I have a choice. I like restaurants to know in advance, that I thought of them in advance.

                      1. re: prima

                        Not so lucky today (saturday). Tried to make a reservation around 6 for any time during the evening but they were fully booked.

                        1. re: szw

                          Too bad. It's a pretty small space, so it wouldn't take too many reservations to fill it. The Wed night I was there, there were 8 guests in the restaurant between 6 and 7:30 pm. It looked like the restaurant might be able to seat around 30-36 people, total. If I recall correctly, around 10-12 seats are located at the sushi bar, and around 20-24 at the tables. Maybe the next person who visits can count the exact number of seats available.

                          Good luck getting a reservation in the near future.

                          Maybe try going midweek, if you can.

                          I didn't have a problem using their online reservation system, which sent me an email confirmation shortly after I made the reservation.

                          1. re: prima

                            Unfortunately, they were crushed last night. We had a reservation for 7:00 and arrived on time. The place was about half full when we arrived, but full by 8:00.

                            The kitchen and the servers were not up to a full house (which is why it's a soft opening). But the service was abysmal. We ordered by 7:15 (a lovely sake/ginger cocktail to start for me and an on-tap Sapporo for my date). Drank our drinks, had some sake (a selection of 6 or 8 sakes). Started getting looped because there was no food served before 8:15. Some tables were getting 5 or 6 dishes; some tables (like ours) got none. The server came by around 8:10 and asked if we received our starters (calamari and the duck salad) -- no. Then our sashimi arrived, simultaneous with both starters, and simultaneous with the torched sushi. All at once, it barely fit on the table. No apology, no attempt to hold anything back. No water, no asks if we wanted more drinks. The table beside us complaining re similar issues.

                            The sashimi was the standout dish by far: fresh, beautifully presented. The torched sushi was good but at least half of the "dressings" were far too sweet, killing the taste of the fish. The squid was inedible for being overcooked (it was battered and deep-fried - I think when they realized the dish hadn't been prepared, it was cooked on the fly and waaay overcooked. The batter was very dark brown).

                            $140 before tip, with one cocktail, one pint of beer, and one 10 oz carafe of sake. Fair prices for the quality.

                            I will return because the fish is stellar. But, off-hours, for sure. It's a very good thing they are not opening until December. A lot of kinks to work out.

                            1. re: EarlyDrive

                              <It's a very good thing they are not opening until December. A lot of kinks to work out.>

                              So does this mean they're offering everything at a discounted price>soft opening??

                    2. re: aser

                      Aser, do you recall what fish you had on the $55 nigiri?

                      1. re: aser

                        the oshizushi is back on the menu at Guu

                        1. re: aser

                          OMG! I can't wait to check this place out

                        2. I am amazed by all the positive reviews. My partner and I went to JaBistro last week specifically because of Notorious PIG's gushing review in a different thread, and we had a quite bad experience, food-wise and service-wise.

                          1. We had two cocktails: one was a Sake cocktail with egg white which was much, much too watery and bland, the other was a lime and ginger cocktail which was also far too watered-down, but slightly more interesting.

                          2. We had the 30$ sashimi option -- perhaps the more expensive sashimi plates are decent or even good, but this one was not. Except for the two pieces of Toro we couldn't enjoy any of the other fish (the horsemackerel even had a bone in it). This sashimi was honestly at the level of the usual Bloor places--- and I don't mean Sushi Couture.

                          3. The waiter actually suggested a squid pizza dish-- and this was truly frightening: naan bread topped with salty dried squid and some kind of orange cheese (cheddar? velveeta?) It may be the worst dish I have ever been served in a restaurant. If anyone else has eaten this, I would love to hear whether you agree that this was revolting.

                          4. Pressed sushi - Mackerel. I was intrigued by the pressed sushi style. I actually thought this dish was pretty decent, but it had two major problems: first, the blowtorch leaves a butane residue of some kind, so there was an unpleasant petroleum odor on the sushi. second, the pressed rice block came apart as I lifted each piece into my mouth.

                          5. The JaBistro roll: this was my favourite item in terms of originality of intrinsic taste and texture. It suffered the same petroleum odor as the pressed sushi above, and it was, for some reason, too oily.

                          Perhaps because they have just opened and the restaurant was almost empty while we were there, we were continually pestered by two servers, who essentially stared at us from opposite sides of the room as we ate. It was annoying and awkward.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: mgualt

                            I went in last Monday before the TorontoLife post came out, and it was pretty quiet. Two of us we both had the kyukyoku, the $55 option for sushi. It came with 8 pieces served in sequence, plus a bowl of lobster miso soup. Sushi was definitely the best I've had in this city (I have not been to Kaji yet).

                            Their special of the day was a chicken liver pate, which we ordered but I no longer recall. Also we ordered the duck salad and the demi katsu. Duck salad was decent, but I did not enjoy the demi katsu, it was tonkatsu smothered in this demi-glaze that tastes more like barbecue sauce, sandwiched between soft white bread. But I personally don't like barbecue sauce, and there was nothing in the sandwich to really balance the cloying sweetness.

                            Koji was really nice, he kept asking us on our thoughts and suggestions. He asked where did I hear about them, I told them Chowhound, which he had never heard of. I told him certain member (Notorious PIG) already consider him on par with Kaji and Sei-san! He laughed, said no way, and said he's still learning.

                            Had the roll cake and the matcha puff for dessert, the roll cake was surprisingly good.

                            Yes, because it was quite empty the servers would often "hover" around asking questions, but I didn't find that too annoying, it is their "soft opening" after all.

                            I am concerned with how serious of a sushi restaurant this purports to be. Not because of the Koji, but because of the location, the decor, the music and how it advertises itself as "modern Japanese". The music was the same soundtrack I heard at Ki: tepid corporate lounge music. And the decor was quite sterile. I hope the sushi won't go downhill as their attract a more corporate and club-going crowd.

                            1. re: Inkou

                              you say you have not been to Kaji. Your post however suggests that you have been to Zen (what with calling the itamae Sei-san and all). It seems therefore that you are flatly suggesting you had better Nigiri here than you have had in Zen. care to say more about the comparison? I ask this of everyone who has been to both on this thread.

                              1. re: shekamoo

                                Yes! I too would like to know more as well!
                                With daily flights to and from Tokyo ( and thus accessibility to Tsujiki market ) Its easy for almost all sushi restaurant to get fresh fish/seafood. However, IMHO, the most important part of sushi is the Shari (rice). Rice varietal, water to rice ratio, seasoning, temperature...etc all needs to be perfected to create the ultimate companion for the neta.
                                So far here in Toronto, I have not experienced really good Shari. Not from Hiro, Aoyama, Solo sushi-Ya, Michi, Zen or Kaji!! In fact, some of the aforementioned places have really 'horrible' Shari!!

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  I would say that Zen, Kaji, and JaBistro all have good shari. Good, not great. I am 100% sure that a lot of the chefs here are capable of great shari but because of lack of ingredient availability, lack of equipment, and lack of interest, will never bother to produce it.

                                  That said, I still stand by what I've said before that Koji is on par with the top guys in the city. and I echo Aser's statement that style wise, he sits right between Kaji and Sei San. Not as much fusion as Kaji and not as Edo Mae as Sei San and to tell you the truth the little things he does and comes up with surprise me and put a smile on my face more than both.

                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                    What? I've never been to Zen, I can't drive so I never venture outside of downtown for chow. I call the chef Sei-san because that was a direct quote from Notorious PIG in another thread.

                                    Now, on the shari, Koji actually asked us specifically on how the rice was. Honestly at that moment I couldn't find any fault with it, perhaps the temperature could've been slightly warmer (the shari I had at Tsukiji's Sushi Dai was slightly warmer).

                                    Now, Sushi Dai is probably the apex of my sushi experience, I've been to high end places in Hong Kong and several non-starred places in Tokyo. Jabistro certainly didn't falter for my standards in sushi.

                                2. re: mgualt

                                  Dang! Sounds like your experience was wack as hell. I can't relate honestly because mine have been the polar opposite of yours. I do sit at the bar and request the Kyukyoku sushi set which is served to me piece by piece so maybe try that if your opinion of the place hasn't been totally annihilated.

                                  1. re: mgualt

                                    I'm not surprised that the pizza would be disappointing. I wouldn't choose to order pizza in a Japanese restaurant, even if a server was to encourage me.

                                  2. We liked it alot, mostly.

                                    We started with the snack. Fish was moist, juicy and tender. Egg was likewise, tender, firm and flavourful. Didn't like the battered fish with tartar sauce (not a fan of the flour type batter in general). Daikon rash and cucumber salad was lightly vinegared and crunchy, cool. Liked the dish but would replace the battered fish with something not flour-battered.

                                    Liked the smoked duck salad (Kamo). I like eggs runny in general, so the barely poached egg with spinach, crispy burdock on smoked duck went great together. Never had smoked duck before, it was tender, firm without being chewy. The burdock was crispy without being oily. Nice dish, was polished off quickly.

                                    Nama and Salmon Oshizushi went great together. So much so, we ordered a second salmon - wayyy tooo full afterwards. Didn't sense any residue from the torching. Found the rice warm, firm but did have to be fairly careful picking them up to prevent structure disintegration.

                                    Ordered the ika expecting something light with starch coating. Did not like what came out. Too heavily battered and oily. Would not order it again as it's not to our taste. (In general, don't like heavily battered things, but do like the coating used in Magic Wok's spicy, salty deep fried oyster,...Fish and Chip batter at Olde York Fish and Chips, light, non-oily)

                                    Next, the carpaccio. It was okay. Other dishes stood out more.

                                    Lastly was the soft shell crab. Liked the coating. Too full to appreciate it fully. Crispy, warm, light flavour.

                                    Complementary chocolate truffle was rich and very chocolately without being sweet. Wish I had more.

                                    Definitely looking forward to going back.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Yimahaji

                                      Why did the chef put 'Green Stuff' on EVERY Neta of the Nigiri Sushi?? Never seen this type of approach in Tokyo or even NYC! ( Jiro, Sawada, Saito...etc, Yasuda, Gari....etc ). Does this green addition make them ' modern Japanese '?? Won't they impede on the 'pure' fresh taste of the Neta ingredients especially when fresh seasonal fish is involved??

                                      1. re: Yimahaji

                                        Wow luvly pictures thanks for sharing I will try for sure.

                                      2. i would never return here unless it was on someone else's dime.

                                        i think i misread how much the $55 nigiri option provided you and upon learning that it would be 6-8 pieces (no soup as per someone else's post) was incredibly concerned about how much i would be spending to feel satisfied. we did receive 8 pieces and while these are supposed to be from the best sections of the fish, i think that the o-toro we get in toronto is nothing near the quality it should be and shouldn't be served here at all considering the cost. while i enjoy shiso and wasabi, it was dressed a touch too much for my liking with it and the shiso with a sea bream was completely overpowered (from the girl who regularly gets fluke/umeboshi maki from yuzu). the quality of the fish handling was great as well as the texture. the monkfish liver was wonderful compared to my other experiences in TO. the rice was on the better side for toronto but still only fine. oddly enough, i think they use too little rice in their nigiri. i think their soy sauce glaze is a little too sweet.

                                        the saba oshizushi had COLD mushy rice and was loosely packed. the makerel itself was handled quite nicely with the torching and the marinated daikon topping but i do wish they gave it more of a vinegar marination to really emphasize what this dish is about. the texture was great except for one piece which was a little tough.

                                        matcha puff was over baked - dry and hard crust - but the cream and custard filling was quite nice and the candied chestnut a nice complement. good flavours overall.

                                        after sharing those 3 dishes and a 300mL bottle of sake.... i walked away only being 1/2 full for $75 all in.

                                        we went to momofuku after and got noodles.

                                        there are definitely moments of high quality happening here, but it's not consistent across the board. i'm still not entirely sure how that was a $55 plate. i know the problem for me is that they're in this peculiar spot of being better than yuzu/japango but lower than kaji and for the price difference, just not in the running for consideration any longer.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                          So I should stay on the east side with Zen? What IS your current fave for sushi pinstripeprincess?

                                          1. re: Googs

                                            i'd stick with Zen. i don't have a current fave per se. it's been a while since i've been able to do the rounds around town to check-up on everyone so i'm typically between japango and yuzu now. these two satisfy my proximity and value requirements the best currently.

                                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                              I think downtownfoodie's soft shell crab description below sealed the deal. I can't even imagine the pairing let alone think of putting that in my mouth. Zen it is. My time just got a whole lot freer, psp, so perhaps we can catch up over some fresh catch.

                                        2. So we went. verdict is that Jabistro's Koji is no Koji Sawada. But he knows how to make nigiri.

                                          His shari was excellent, very correct temperature. Nori was also right on point, the right mixture of crispness and subtle flavour. He obviously also has access to the right resources for the fish in the neta. the fish selection in the 8 piece set has already been discussed here, I wont repeat except to say that fish was on par with other good places in Toronto, though zen on a good night has much better variety and exotica on display.

                                          Time for criticism. I think the itamae is catering to a perceived audience that is incapable of appreciating the sublime minimalism of high end sushi (it may well be). We were served uni that was entirely drowned in lime juice (oh how I missed the taste of the sea as I downed the uni nigiri that tasted of rice and lime). in almost every piece there was some (albeit subtle) trick that aimed at masking the raw beauty of the fish, pandering to the uninitiated palate. This made me sad.

                                          This is probably the best place for sushi in downtown toronto right now. I am not entirely convinced that is THAT much better than Japango, but then I hold Japango in high regard, perhaps a tad too much so due to personal taste.

                                          Zen remains the undisputed master of traditional (aka true, authentic, correct) nigiri in the GTA. Kaji remains the best Japanese over all.

                                          btw, we also had jabistroll (ok) and the carpacio (hamachi, it was buried under onions for some reason). The 'parfait' for dessert was AWESOME.

                                          P.S. Mrs Shekamoo insists that I make it clear that we think this is the second best place in GTA for nigiri. So there you have it.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: shekamoo

                                            i'm not sure why this part of our (as in me and my dining companion) meal was so different, but our nigiri was barely touched with garnishes. besides the shiso and itsy bitsy lemon piece on one, the marinated daikon and green onion on the monkfish and the same on the makerel with some having a charred cornflower-ish threads on top instead.... the rest was lightly brushed with their soy mixture. that's it. nothing overpowering, most pretty naked.

                                            1. re: shekamoo

                                              We went back a week or so ago. Once again, the premium nigiri set was really good. My reservations regarding the western-oriented-tweak were mostly alleviated this time around as we were served more traditional, 'simple' nigiri. I still think Zen has better variety, but honestly, I think Jabistro is getting very very close to their standards, if still not quite there yet.

                                            2. Had another incredible dinner at JaBistro last night. At this point I believe that Koji San is the true master of sushi in Toronto. The kyokyoku set is full of delicacies and totally worth the $55 price point. They are having their Grand opening on January 1st and will start serving lunch on the 2nd, I was having a discussion with one of the waitresses about the lunch menu and it sounds unique and interesting. looking forward to it, it's one of the most exciting restaurants in Toronto right now in my opinion.

                                              1. we went for dinner on thursday night after reading the good reviews on here. what a disappointment...

                                                i had the spicy celery sake cocktail that tasted mostly of overly-sweet ginger without a hint of sake. not unpleasant, but i would have believed you if you told me it came of the virgin list. gf had the shiso smash with bourbon, that was also too sweet. we later followed these with a draft sapporo and a very small pour of a very forgettable albarinho

                                                the pork belly "snack" was tasty, but not memorable. the accompanying shrimp toast was the best part of the dish.

                                                there was nothing terribly wrong with most of the sashimi sampler that we had. most of the fish was respectably fresh, and the variety was refreshing for toronto. the geoduck and uni were of good quality and a nice change from the standard offering, but the cuts on the toro and mackerel were inconsistent, while the sea bream was completely butchered. it was literally a tangled mess that looked like someone had gone after a beautiful fish with a pair of dull children's scissors.

                                                the last dish was the biggest disappointment. i love soft shell crab (even enough to order it out of season) but Ja's version was overly battered, excessively oily, and served with "chili". silly me for thinking chili would be some sort of chili sauce. silly server for not explaining that it was actually chili. the type with beans. it was actually a decent white chili, but not a good pairing with oil soaked fried crabs, and definitely unexpected.

                                                the server also extolled the virtues of "fly fish eggs" at one point and couldn't answer questions about what was on the sashimi plate without going back to check twice.

                                                in summary, it felt like an amateur effort at best. which would be fine if the price point was lower ($150 all in for 4 drinks and 3 small dishes).

                                                i would not return

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                  since we're not supposed to discuss in the "Best of 2013" thread, i figured i would post here instead.

                                                  clearly i didn't really enjoy my meal at JaBistro, and others seem to have had inconsistent experiences there.

                                                  i was surprised to see it pop up so often on the Best of thread. what are everybody's recent experiences there? did i (and a couple of others) just hit really off nights?

                                                  1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                    We've only been there once and enjoyed most but not all of the dishes. We enjoyed the torched items mostly. We usually don't order sashimi at a new spot, so can't compare sashimi quality against Kaji, Zen or Mikado (our go to place). It may be that we hit a good torching night.

                                                    1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                      I don't think you and other disappointed Chowhounds necessarily hit an off night.

                                                      I noticed that some people who haven't liked JaBistro ordered different dishes than I ordered. I also noticed some people who haven't liked JaBistro have had more upscale sushi experience than me, or are more particular than me when it comes to sushi. Apart from Sushi Kaji, this is the best sushi I've had. It was better than Yuzu for me. It was also the best miso soup I've had. I haven't been to Zen.

                                                      Sorry you didn't like your experience. What's wow for me is going to be meh for others. Splendido was a mediocre experience for me, but a favourite experience for others. Mileage varies.

                                                      Keep in mind JaBistro is also a new restaurant. I knew I was visiting during a soft opening, and I wasn't expecting a perfect experience. I was impressed by the taste. I'd give them a few months to work out a few kinks.

                                                      1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                        for me, it's purely a price point issue. the "mistakes" i had were ones that other spots make at times as well and their fish quality was high compared to toronto downtown spots, but it would cost me twice as much to feel as satisfied compared to my regular spot and the quality difference is no where near that high.

                                                        as another note, i'm not sure how they're picking and training their servers. i had a weird awkward moment at the front door when they seemed desperate to make sure they took my coat and the server was clearly very new to japanese or sushi restaurants.

                                                    2. Has anyone had lunch here yet? I'm headed there tomorrow and wondering what to get.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. Finally had the chance to try this place
                                                        here is my input
                                                        Making a reservation was easy as it can be done right from their website. On the day of the reservation I got a call from the JaBistro confirming my reservation and in addition they asked me whether I wanted to sit at the Sushi bar or at a table. I decided to go with the table as I wanted to converse with my guests.
                                                        I arrived a bit early, the exterior is kind of nondescript and I wonder what was at this location before as I am sure I have passed by it many times.
                                                        Since my guests were not here I decided to sit at the bar which is separate from the main dinning area. I ordered a Sapparo draft and chatted with the bar tender a bit about their Sake list , the bar tender had his hands full with making all the drinks but was informative.
                                                        The interior is modern and has a very clean straight finish. When my guests arrived we were seated immediately.
                                                        I kind of knew what I was going to order so waited for my guests to decide.
                                                        We ordered a whole bunch of items some were cooked and some were from the Sushi/Sashimi. They were apparently out of some ingredients and we could only get one of the roll we wanted.
                                                        Sashimi Platter. Beautiful presentation and icing on the cake was they had real wasabi grated on the side. Very fresh, one of the better sashimi platters I have had. It even had some prized items like geoduck sliced paper thin, just right IMO.
                                                        JaBistroll: this one hit it out of the park. The uni was very creamy and balanced out the delicate tastes here. I am not a big fan of rolls but this one was good enough for me to convert. I wish they had enough ingredients so we could get two of these.
                                                        Aburri: 7 Pieces of Sushi finished with blow torch. The trend for aburri is on the rise though it can be hit or miss, IMO the white fish benefit from this style of sushi. Decent but not spectacular.
                                                        Nama: We ordered two of these and they didn't disappoint. 7 Pieces of excellent sushi. Nice rice to fish ratio. High marks here. There was a hand roll that was also good and not overloaded with rice. Deep fried shrimp heads provided a nice contract to the sushi items.
                                                        Now for the cooked items this is where the experience started to falter.
                                                        Tori nanban: battered chicken that was served with tartar sauce! and covered with salad with miso dressing. The meat was soggy and devoid of the crispness one seeks. Thankfully they used dark meat but it still didn't save this dish. Disaster IMO.
                                                        Kani: Deep friend softshell crab. Nothing special here again. Below average IMO. Not crisp/crunch one craves.
                                                        Gindarra: I didn't try this dish. Though it was well liked by fellow diners.
                                                        The Sushi and Sashimi is very good even at the higher price point they have here. I would say 4 stars for that. The cooked items need an overhaul or if you can live without ordering those I would advise you refrain from ordering those. 2 Stars for the cooked items.
                                                        A tricky rating here for me as it is a 4 star sushi/sashimi experience. 3 Stars overall due to the sub par cooked items.

                                                        1. They are having a special menu on Monday as per this email I got would be interesting to try this out. Pity is it requires 6 people
                                                          Dear VIP member of JaBistro

                                                          On Monday, January 28 join us for the first fisherman's day dinner.
                                                          Try some of best seafood picked by the chef, and prepared by our professional culinary team.
                                                          Fisherman's platter including appetizer/grilled fish/sushi/dessert for 6 people.
                                                          $300.00 per table before taxes and gratuities. Additional food and drinks are not included.
                                                          Reservations will be open to the public Wednesday, January 23 at 9:00 pm.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. A positive (3/4 stars) review from Amy Pataki in the Star: http://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine...

                                                            1. Went with my wife last night at the height of the snowstorm. Enjoyed the whole experience enormously. Very welcoming staff right down the line and a smartly designed room: Japanese-flavoured, but not cliched.
                                                              Ordered three "bistro" plates, all beautifully presented and wonderfully tasty: deep fried shrimp, soft shell crab and pork belly. The belly was a bit lean for me, but with good flavour.
                                                              Went on to a 7-item sushi sampler. Found it high quality, but not as blown away as some people.
                                                              Big surprise: great desserts! Special of the day was a kind of jellyroll involving black sesame seeds and chocolate. Sounds weird but proved wonderful. And their signature matcha puff, with sesame custard was another wow.
                                                              Service throughout was very sweet, friendly and helpful.
                                                              Wife enjoyed a house cocktail, bottle of Sapporo and a plum wine after. I loved the green tea mojito.
                                                              Would go back again in a minute, but probably more for the bistro dishes than the sushi. Dinner was $150 with tip, 3 plates, 7 pieces of sushi, 2 desserts, cocktails, beer and digestif. A different dining experience, but worth it if you're going to the Four Seasons or RTH.

                                                              1. For all the criticisms of her body of work, the old gal still has it.

                                                                1. CNS of the Globe didn't love it so much, his twitter intro to the review was
                                                                  @cnutsmith: If you like eating extinction-bound fish, cut sloppily, served blithely, have I got a place for you!

                                                                  Wonder how his review would have been without the Spanish bluefin being served

                                                                  18 Replies
                                                                  1. re: ylsf

                                                                    Another unimpressive review by CNS.

                                                                    1. re: ylsf

                                                                      I take everything CNS writes with a shaker of sea salt.

                                                                      Most restaurants serving sushi offer varieties of fish that are "extinction bound". It's up to the customer to order sensibly (by becoming familiar with Oceanwise and other seafood watch programmes), if the customer is concerned with extinction/aquacultural issues/ etc.

                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                        Spoken like a true Canadian. We shouldn't HAVE to check our notes. It isn't up to the consumer to know every single detail of every single thing they come in contact with. That's lobbyist speak for 'keep your hands off the company I represent'. This is compounded by gov't officials who blithely say its up to the consumer to study up on all products they purchase before buying.

                                                                        Its up to the companies we interact with to behave responsibly and be a good corporate citizen. Where necessary, its up to the gov't to create standards that protect and thor-ough-ly inform the consumer. I'm not saying we're without responsibility, but clearly it shouldn't be all ours.

                                                                        I can eat damn fine sushi without doing any harm. Even the tradition-bound Zen has seen the light. In his day, John Lee of Omi provided what I believe was the very first sustainable omakase dnners in Toronto. It was an eye opener and fantastic. If the JaBistro chef feels the need to serve bluefin, he's either lazy or lacks creativity. I'll see you all at Zen when the hype dies.

                                                                          1. re: Googs

                                                                            i respectfully disagree on this point--prima's sentiment is spoken more like an american than a canadian. americans would say let the consumer decide for themselves, whereas your opinion is actually more canadian--let there be a level or layer of regulation to enforce commercial standards that match a particular moral stance that you feel we should all share.

                                                                            while i don't necessarily disagree with your underlying belief, i did find cns' review to be shoddy journalism. he used a moral quibble as the basis for undercutting a resto review--that's pretty petty or juvenile imho. take away that one (imo, unfair) caveat, and the review reads like a much higher rated dining experience.

                                                                            bottom line, cns comes across as a hack.

                                                                            1. re: afong56

                                                                              I'm happy I went to JABistro before reading his review. I came across a hint of a suggestion that Zen people might open something around Yonge and St. Clair. Anything else out there on that?

                                                                              1. re: afong56

                                                                                Also spoken like a true Canadian. There was a time when that was true, but now the Canadian gov't trusts that we're not paying attention. We delude ourselves into thinking our standards are higher and more tightly regulated when, in fact, they're not. We're dumped on regularly by American firms with products that have been banned or severely limited there.

                                                                                I am astonished that we cap or ban the fishing of depleted stocks in this country while allowing the import of extinction bound stocks from others. We shouldn't have to have this discussion at all. This fish and many more shouldn't cross our borders in the first place.

                                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                                  without getting overly political, i agree that the levels of consumer protection may have slipped.
                                                                                  but, what are the limits to your argument? at what point does regulation actually become too intrusive and restrictive? like i wrote before, i don't necessarily disagree with your underlying concept, but once we bring morality into the equation, we lose a level of objectivity and ultimately credibility, imho.
                                                                                  i think we can all agree that protection of health through food regulation is something canadians need. but does that necessarily extend to promulgating an agenda of conservancy, or sustainability, or environmental activism?
                                                                                  who gets to decide this?
                                                                                  and where does this social activism end--does this also mean that the cpp, which we all contribute to, should practice ethical investing since it acts on behalf of all canadians?

                                                                                  if as patrons and consumers we are true to our beliefs, we will let jabistro and other establishments know through our feet. having seen the mob mentality that tars all gmo and lionizes all that is organic (neither are 100% correct, imho) i would prefer thoughtful objectivity, not morality.

                                                                                  my original comment about cns' review stands: he's a hack, and to use politics to downgrade a resto review is weak sauce.

                                                                                  1. re: afong56

                                                                                    I take no issue with your dislike of CNS. His tarring of CH'ers as one homogeneous ignorant and illiterate group leaves me cold.

                                                                                    I have no right to have an opinion since I'm not Japanese, but to me the hallmark of great Japanese cuisine is integrity. Integrity of the ingredients and integrity of the execution. The review suggests it fails on both counts. CNS notes:
                                                                                    - aburi sushi of ocean trout and shrimp "soft and flabby tasting"
                                                                                    - gristle in a bluefin piece (poorly cut)
                                                                                    - an oyster that leaves shell shards in the mouth (poorly shucked)
                                                                                    - and then CNS comments on the Spanish bluefin
                                                                                    - oh and glacially slow service.

                                                                                    From a politcal angle, it has nothing to do with morality. It's a question of tariff or no tariff to put its pricing on an even playing field with our own. If I were an east coast fisherman, I'd be pissed that I had to endure limitations to my income while other nations are allowed to import (and cheaply so) endangered species. "Cheap and available" the chef was quoted as saying. Now there's a standard.

                                                                                    Who among us doesn't make informed choices every day whether its the eggs we eat or the meat we don't eat? Why does this place get a pass?

                                                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                                                      on the review--if the listed criteria are to be believed, then the review should fall at least into the 2-3 star range, but for his political diatribe. he clearly makes it the focal point of his review, attributing it as his "greatest issue". . .this is scoring cheap points by pushing a moral issue that is a hot button for some readers.

                                                                                      as for the economic angle, that's a new one that you previously didn't discuss, and has more merit, imho than the simple moral/ethical one you previously espoused. there is no question that one of the side effects of supposed 'free trade' has been that canadian industries have suffered deleteriously as result of foreign companies not playing by the same rulebooks we have for domestic companies. i would agree with you completely on that point. our fishing industry is but one example of that.

                                                                                      on your last point, about 'informed choices'--this place doesn't 'get a pass' on making informed choices, but we also don't get a pass when we choose to patronize restaurants that serve endangered fishstock. ultimately, we are the ones that have the control over what does or does not get consumed.

                                                                                      whether it is choosing 'fair trade' coffee (which most of us make a point of seeking) or buying fair trade chocolate (which few of us seek out) or consuming sustainable fishstocks (which only a minority of the minority of us that eat seafood on a regular basis do), we as consumers have ALWAYS been the first and main gatekeeper of ethical sourcing.

                                                                                      if you, me, or cns chooses to make that the standard by which to base a decision to patronize a restaurant, then that is of course fair. however, to identify that standard as 'the greatest issue' in grading down an establishment in a restaurant review (which funnily enough, does not mention ethical sourcing in its listed criteria) is offside, imho.

                                                                                      cns himself admits as much when he confesses that he should have refused the piece of bluefin when offered. i am fairly certain if he had explained the reason for doing so, an appropriate substitution would have been found, his karma would have been unweighted, and tashiro would have made mental note of this objection.

                                                                                      1. re: afong56

                                                                                        To be clear, my view hasn't shifted. To me it's a morality issue. However, there's no correlation between politics and morals (anymore). The only argument for intervention is to protect our own standard of limiting or refusing to harvest endangered species.

                                                                                      2. re: Googs

                                                                                        It doesn't get a pass, it's all individual experiences. I truly had the best meal of 2012 (for Toronto) dining here. There's no contesting that because it's an individual experience for "me". I do not expect anybody else to have had the same meal as I.

                                                                                        Maybe I was lucky?

                                                                                        Opinions boil down to assholes......

                                                                                        1. re: aser

                                                                                          Chris Nutall Smith is a troll. I pay him no mind.

                                                                                          Here's a picture of him trying to eat his keyboard... hweird.


                                                                                    2. re: Googs

                                                                                      If it's truly important enough for you to eat sustainable fish, do some research. This information varies/changes wildly by the year. Involving a sloth-like governing body to "protect" our eco-system is a bit lazy imo. Vote with your wallet.

                                                                                      Knowledge is power. I do not need a governing body to guide my beliefs.

                                                                                      CNS's CN Tower esque soapbox is hilarious, dude needs to come down a peg or two. Review the restaurant, save the environmental piece for a separate full fledged article.

                                                                                      1. re: aser

                                                                                        The issues of politics and morality and ecoconscious dining and JaBistro are all kind of bound up in this sub-thread, so we're not even going to try to untangle them. But we do think that this discussion is getting pretty far afield for Chowhound and from discussing this actual restaurant.

                                                                                        We hope people will either let this tangent go, or start another thread in a more appropriate category so that this thread can remain focused on the experience of dining at JaBistro.


                                                                                  2. re: Googs

                                                                                    This is the crux of many of the issues we are experiencing in the world today. There is no way we should trust organizations that have no incentive to do the right thing ... such as serve nutritious food or select their ingredients based on the larger impact to the environment. I don't want to turn this into a political rant but I appreciate CNS raising this issue as part of his review. I go to restaurants that I think I can trust to at least think about the food they are serving me.

                                                                                2. re: ylsf

                                                                                  Thanks for your post. Not being much of a sushi eater (I love Michi Cafe and Aoyama though), I was not aware of the severity of the Bluefin tuna issue. Reminds me a lot of the sharkfin soup debate and thought reasoned and interesting responses were stimulated on both sides of the issue. Much better read than the restaurant review section of a certain local paper!!

                                                                                  1. re: ylsf

                                                                                    CNS on the "omakaseā€ sushi selection: "its fresh sea urchin with salt and lemon is a standout."

                                                                                    He means the piece that actually does not taste like uni at all, because its all lemon and salt. The piece that is a sad waste of a perfectly decent cut of sea urchin. THATs the one he likes best.

                                                                                    And yet he claims the knowledge and credibility to publish a review of a sushi restaurant.

                                                                                    This one sentence tells me all I need to know about the merits of his views. I'm not a sushi expert by any stretch of the word, but I still do not need him to tell me where to eat sushi.

                                                                                  2. Has anyone tried the set menu? We are celebrating a friend's birthday there and they said because of our group size that we will have to order from the set menu, any tried it?

                                                                                    1. Well the better half went for lunch and her four word review:

                                                                                      Really not very good

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: bytepusher

                                                                                        I've had lunch there too and wouldn't recommend it. Too expensive, somewhere below "meh"

                                                                                        The omakase I had at dinner was good, but not beyond that.

                                                                                      2. For once I kind of concur with CNS assessment!!

                                                                                        So-so food and over-price!! For raw stuff down town, I think Sushi Coulture can offer similar fresh and varied sashimi seafood selection but at least $20 cheaper!!