Seriously Curious about Sushi Yasu. Any reports?
- shekamoo Jun 12, 2014 06:14 AM
Very reasonably-priced omakase. $80. Lots of fish flown in from Tsukiji. Quality was rather good; shari was just okay. Well-cut fish. Hotaru-ika was the best bite, but they should have just served it as is, minus the shari (which detracted from it). Ikura temaki was boring. Most of the other dishes were pretty good (scallop, fukko, uni, hamachi, saba...), but again, I didn't find the shari to be that great. Toro wasn't great, neither were the two varieties of eel served (unagi and anago). Tamago was barely passable.
Small, sterile venue. Most of the other people at the bar seemed, well, you won't come here for the atmosphere. A lot of Chinese food bloggers and whiteys who have no clue what they're eating.
They've been open for about a month.
Overall, it's definitely worth going. Better meal than say, Sushi Couture (recommended recently in another thread, though I'm not sure why). Don't expect perfection or anything mind-blowing, but it was a good meal.
I like Zen. The omakase at Zen is cheaper than at Yasu. That being said, I can almost fly to New York in the same time it takes me to get to Zen...
I've also been to Zen probably 20 or so times, and I've only been to Yasu twice. Zen is very consistent. Yasu? In two visits, less so. Then again, they haven't been open long. Zen consistently has really decent shari, will produce real wasabi (unless they have none), and has very good quality neta. The cuts are overall well-done. Offerings are generally quite good.
Yasu is a 10-15 minute walk. Price is higher, shari not as good, fish quality is quite good overall, knife work good to okay, not necessarily as consistent course-by-course.
That being said: they should probably hit their stride before it's critiqued too heavily.
I'd echo all of yakionigiri's comments. Shari was average which is unfortunate for the decent neta they've sourced (actually fell apart a couple of times). That said, I would have preferred a bit more non-fish variety (hotate, tobiko and anago were the 3 exceptions - was craving any kind of shrimp or ika etc). We actually got shima-aji twice. Tamago was dry, bland and unimpressive. Standouts were the hotate (fat medallion that was lightly torched but still permitted a bit of sweetness) and what I believe was marinated akami that had a nice dense, fulsome flavour. Curiously, the chef only mentioned the names of the neta in halting English. We had to clarify what part of tuna in one instance.
I don't want to sound overly negative. It was quite good value for the amount of food you got (about 20 "courses") but it's not the reverent temple of sushi I was hoping for. Zen is still tops in my books but it's indeed quite a drive for downtowners or west-enders.
A quick comment on service: there was only one host/server who was very sweet but very scattered. While she was unfailingly polite and gracious, she rarely refilled our sake, didn't offer more water, and forgot my tea. She seemed a bit frazzled to deal with only 10 diners, or 4 groups. That said, there was a rowdy group of 4 at one end who seemed fairly demanding. They provided much of the volume in the room which is otherwise small and intimate. I think they gave license to the rest of us to talk louder than we otherwise might in the gallery-like space (which frankly I was ok with - I prefer buzzy spots which is why I'm partly nervous about a Hashimoto outing).
I'll go back but with my expectations in check.
Your details were very well put and aligned with my experience... except that I would rate the Shari below average quite bland + it feel apart for me too. I also enjoyed the non-fish varieties more and I did receive the ebi and ika during my visit.
Overall, a couple standout flavour combinations but overall it was underwhelming. I would not be in a rush to go back nor would I recommend to friends as a must-have sushi experience.
I was there yesterday. 16 pieces of sushi, a negi toro hand roll, egg, and dessert. Overall the quality was good, ingredients quite fresh. The uni came out of the shell instead of the usual plastic tray.
Would have preferred several of the dishes sashimi-only, so we wouldn't be so full by the end. They used the torch for maybe too many of the items. The fish selection was good but not really any varieties that I haven't seen elsewhere.
Seems like a good competitor to this meal is the kyukyoku at Ja Bistro, not sure if this is better or not. Definitely a quieter environment and the fewer seats could mean more attentive service.
Globe and Mail review: http://bit.ly/1sAKfzg
It appears the writer (Chris Nuttall-Smith) knows more about sushi than the average Toronto food critic. He likes the sushi-focus setting, as compared to Kaji where you can smell your neighbours' food while eating your sushi. No walk-ins allowed as fishes are brought in just enough for the reservations.
I agree with CNS' assessment. Laser like focus on all the necessary small details (except perhaps the tamago). Toro was not the best, every other piece was a pleasurable piece of art. Once word gets around, it wouldn't surprise me that this place would have Kaji-like waiting lists.
It was one hell of a birthday meal, even my well-behaved 2 year old had a great time! (only 2 other diners were there)
One weird thing was they wouldn't let us in even 5 minutes before our 8:30 reservation time, they kept the door locked and just smiled at us.
Wow everyone is pretty harsh on Chowhound about Yasu. I just went there this week and I loved it. Perhaps they have improved since everyone's first visits but it was full on the Wednesday night I went, there were three servers for the 12 patrons and personally enjoyed that not each piece was served plain and had some creative elements to it.
Admittedly, I haven't had the omakase set at Zen (just a meal and it was average) or had a chance to visit Sushi Kaji. But, have tried out many other places in Toronto and Jiro in Japan.
For $80 I thought the quality and taste was more than satisfactory. The variety of tastes was great - there were pieces that were subtle, refreshing, creamy, rich and strong.
Perhaps give it another chance because they may have just improved.
If you care to see what I ate in detail and my thoughts you can refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.ca/20...
Great review of Yasu. I will try to give it a try soon. I recently had a lunch omakase at Zen and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It consisted of 12 pieces and had a few of the same varieties at Yasu. I believe it was $52.50 plus tax/tip. Similar value when you factor in the additional pieces and dessert.
I'm having dinner at Yasu this weekend and I have a question.
The omakase experiences strikes me as formal, if not almost severe in terms of the attitude "I make it, you eat it, and if not you disrespect the chef." Maybe I'm influenced by Jiro Dreams Of Sushi in thinking that. (Am I wrong?).
It seems likely that uni will be on the menu. I'm generally adventurous but there are certain items that I just can't enjoy (e.g. anything organ/liver) and uni is one of them.
I've tried it a few times, including at Hiro, and in a very high level sushi restaurant in Tokyo and every time I had to stop from gagging. I know uni is "one of those dishes" that people love or dislike, and it looks like in the latter camp, to the point of it casting a pall on whatever I eat afterwards.
If uni is on the menu, should I expect to be accommodated in asking for a substitute instead? Or will this be a "no soup for you!" inducing type of faux pas?
We've been twice now and the last time felt it was definitely more laid back than the first. I got the sense that Yasu is more comfortable now as he was more engaged with the diners.
I don't find the attitude 'severe' in any way.
My approach is something like - life is what you make of it. By that I mean, that both times we were there some in group kept to themselves without any comment, while our group seemed more vocal. We asked questions, and Yasu was very obliging and engaged with us.
As far as the substitutions, why not just call them ahead of time and ask what the policy on that is?
The first time, one at our seating asked and was obliged with something different but otherwise there were no issues that I was aware of. If I recall, I think he does ask upfront if their are any allergies, etc.
Either way, it's far from a "no soup for you" kind of attitude.
Relax and you'll have fun and enjoy. Everything was delicious!!!
I'm still looking forward to Yasu tomorrow night, with one minor bit of apprehension. I wonder if any other chowhounders have this dilemma.
I love fresh sushi.
Henceforth, a minor rant:
The only tastes I know I dislike in the world are animal organs, horseradish, and as mentioned not a fan of uni. Other than that I'm good.
It's not the heat or spice, I love spices. It's the distinct flavor of horseradish that is to me the condiment equivalent of adding battery acid to a meal. To those of us who don't care for horseraddish, we often get "oh, the mayo has only a little bit of horseradish in it" or from a sushi take-out place "It's ok, we've just placed the wasabi on the side, not in the sushi." That to me is like saying "we've only put a tiny bit of battery acid in your food" or "we've only left a dollop of battery acid beside your food, for your food to inevitably come in contact with it."
Why is this supposed to mollify someone who hates the taste at all? I don't want ANY battery acid with my food! Any addition of it works to ruin the food for me.
I've also never quite got the wasabi thing with sushi either. Here you have this beautiful, delicate, fresh and usually delicate tasting morsel, upon which you put a firecracker of spicy paste, which often seems to obliterate the whole
experience of the subtlety of the flavors. I always have to sort of "taste around" the wasabi to
try to get at the flavor of the fish.
So, tomorrow I know the chef is going to be putting wasabi on most of the food. Which is one reason that, despite my liking sushi, I've been a bit reticent to go for these omakase sushi experiences. I know that asking for no wasabi is not going to go over well.
Does that mean I'm set to not enjoy the meal? Heck no! First of all, as I understand it, much of the wasabi I've experienced in cheaper restaurants is actually colored horseradish, and real wasabi, harder to come by, wouldn't taste precisely the same. Maybe I'll find it less disagreeable.
Secondly, I want to experience the food as the chef means it to be eaten. I trust an excellent chef, and very often their skill in balancing flavors has led me to enjoy foods or combinations I wouldn't' otherwise have enjoyed.
So, I'm still excited about tomorrow. I just hope I can get around the wasabi issue to fully enjoy the meal.
I don't know if anyone else relates to this one at all, but there it is. Will report back after our meal!
They do not use real wasabi on every piece, only on the premium pieces (toro, uni, etc). Best to ask for it on the side if your dislike is that strong.
The chefs are Yasu are pretty laid back, they will not care. In fact, asking for a sub for uni actually saves them money as that's one of the most expensive neta items.
I would suggest you to at least try the fresh wasabi pieces once before you cast judgement. You can ask or you can also tell when they grate the root on a shark skin grater. Fresh wasabi is preferably used asap as the flavour and aroma dissipates after 10 mins or so. It is fruity and floral, far less in your face than dyed horseradish.
As to why wasabi is so important to edomae sushi, well I need not regurgitate what you can find on wikipedia. I suggest you give it a read for curiosity's sakes, there is a lot of history involved.
Finally, I find they're rather light handed w/ the wasabi to begin with @ Yasu, at least with the main chef that served me. I personally prefer more but this will suit your tastes.
Dinner at Yasu last night was terrific.
My contribution to this thread won't help many of the truly sushi-experienced here. Like many I eat sushi often, however my Omakase-level sushi experience is quite limited. I've had terrific high level sushi in Tokyo (where I was first introduced to the transcendent experience of great otoro by my rich brother-in-law who lived there and would treat us to the best places).
I also dined at Hiro a few years back. But it's been to few and far in between experiences to allow me to rate Yasu on any useful scale. All I can say is that the fish seemed consistently fresh, and jewel-like in presentation.
I really liked the layout and overall experience. It was intimate, with the music dialed just as I prefer to allow for conversation, and it promoted some nice interaction with our fellow diners. The staff were super friendly and the service was excellent. I'd phoned before hand to make sure we would be placed along the sushi bar watching the chef, rather than at the 2 person table near the window.
As to my "fears" voiced above about wasabi on all the sushi and the uni: The chefs were VERY friendly and accommodating. Our chef was happy to substitute another fish for me in place of uni. (As it turns out, another diner, having seen my replacement, said I was probably better off with it, as she rated the uni good but not top shelf. My friend, who tried the uni thought it intriguing, though described an almost "ammonia-like" taste, which is all I need to hear to figure I made the right choice avoiding it, personally speaking).
Our first dish was "live scallop" which was delicious but delivered with the standard dollop of wasabi, and, as I mention in my previous post, it scorched my mouth and pretty much obliterated all hope of actually tasting and fully enjoying the fish. I was in "uh-oh" mode but wasn't going to make any fuss. However, the chef instantly noticed and asked if it was too much wasabi for me. I told him that, well, maybe for me yes as I am not a fan of wasabi, but that I was happy to eat the dishes however he deems best. From the first course on he dialed back the amount of wasabi on my food to the perfect amount every time; I could taste the wasabi as an added complexity to the flavor, without it ever overwhelming the fish. I was very impressed with how perfectly he modulated this to my tastes.
Yes, we had the Hairy Crab that they had tweeted on their Facebook page. But, of course, this wasn't served as part of the regular Omakase, but as an additional-priced add-on if we wished. Very sneaky!
But we went for it. I found it pleasant, fresh, delicious, but nothing out of the ordinary beyond that.
Just as a general comment: of course sushi this fresh is another level, just different from the ubiquitous cheap sushi. Almost all of the fish's tastes were very subtle, to me. (The salmon roe blew my mind!). I remember once ordering a big plate of sashimi at a nice sushi place by mistake when I'd wanted sushi. I went ahead and ate it, but I can still remember the exact, not necessarily pleasant feeling of a belly full of raw fish. I was *almost* approaching that feeling near the end of this Omakase meal, and I think I agree with something I'd seen someone else write, where it might have been nice to have integrated a few more non-fish items (the only one that night being the egg - Tamagoyaki - which was delicious and a nice departure).
I still find that for me sushi, even great sushi, won't seem to produce an Oh My God experience, in terms of dishes that make me swoon, crave again. It seems the bolder flavors of, for instance, french/north American and many others do that for me.
But it's such a different food, one of the truly different foods, that it draws me back now and again. There were tastes that were fantastic, that I'd never imagined and that I'd never get anywhere else.
So, all in all, I would definitely look forward to going back to Yasu again. Not soon, as I've had my fix for now. But in the future. I'll probably try Zen next.