Sunday, 13 November 2011

Toronto Restaurant Review: YUZU Sushi & Sake Bar

Stop whatever else you're doing and read this: I may have just found the best Japanese restaurant in Toronto. It’s called YUZU

This sushi and sake bar embodies the very essence of what makes Japanese food, and I mean, real Japanese food, able to stand in its own category of culinary glory.

Let’s begin with the décor.

The calm and serene yet perfectly sophisticated restaurant setting provides a great backdrop for a wonderful evening. On this occasion, I was catching up with my friends Kristina and Alisha, visiting from Ottawa for the weekend. We found refuge from the wind chill and settled comfortably into the Zen space with a cup of warm green tea and right away I noticed how well constructed every piece of stoneware was. My mom, who loves Japanese stoneware with a passion, would be happy to know. It also happened to be that we were sitting beside two very lovely elderly Japanese women…there is nothing that can serve as higher approval for the quality of a restaurant than lovely elderly Japanese women.

And now let’s talk about the menu.

For appetizers, Kristina ordered the edamame beans ($5) and Alisha ordered the tempura plate ($9). They were very accommodating to Alisha’s vegetarian needs and were able to provide her with an all-vegetable dish. And because she didn’t like mushrooms, Kristina and I ate them instead, and they were quite wonderful. There is nothing worse than a restaurant serving white button mushrooms as tempura—the tempura dough cannot stick to it properly and it just doesn’t taste right.

Alisha and Kristina enjoy their sushi

The rolls that they ordered as mains also looked very good, and Alisha commented on how fresh the avocado was in her Caterpillar Roll ($9). Kristina enjoyed all three of her rolls, especially the Yam Roll ($4).  

The menu had an abundant selection and yet, was carefully edited. As a variety-holic, I don’t do well when there are too many great choices on the menu. So, I was excited to see that among all the à la carte choices, there was a YUZU Bento ($30), one of three selections of under “YUZU Specials”.

Last year, my colleagues and I polled each other, “If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Of course I had a lot of difficulty deciding. But after eating this, I can honestly say that that I could joyfully eat this for the rest of my life and be completely content. I said it then and I’ll say it again, that it was literally everything that I could have ever wanted to eat all at once before me.

YUZU Bento

Green Salad: Nice greens, and with a really delicious homemade house dressing.
Miso Shiru: White miso broth with tofu and wakame. Nice colour and density.

The Tempura: Two pieces of shrimp, one green bean, one yam deep fried in crispy goodness served with a nice light but flavourful tempura sauce.

The Side Dishes:  These side dishes are always decided at the pleasure of the chef, and today, they included pickled broccoli stem, pickled eggplant, and pickled lotus root. I say pickled in a completely inoffensive way, as it was light and delicate.

The Teriyaki: Now, I know that teriyaki is the often the basic extent of Japanese cuisine for many people who don’t enjoy raw fish. Conversely, teriyaki is also the disdain of many people who don’t consider the “sauce-soaked meat” worthy of even belonging at a sushi restaurant. I can safely say that after delighting in my charbroiled 8 oz strip loin in a red wine teriyaki sauce with micro greens, I think both camps would have been more than satisfied by this (And for non-beef eaters, you can pick chicken or salmon as a protein).

The Sashimi: It’s all about the knife, and clearly, this chef had a steady hand with the salmon, red snapper, tuna, shrimp and butterfish that was presented. And can I also add that the butterfish was seared!? If you think there is anything more melt-in-your-mouth than seared butterfish, you haven’t tasted this fish.

The Sushi: If the sashimi wasn’t impressive enough, the sushi was basically art. Each of the pieces of fish was placed and formed together with the rice in a way that only a well seasoned master would be able to do. And to top each of the pieces off, whether it was sesame seeds, a bit of roe or a a deep fried lotus root chip, there was a little something with each piece that complemented and enhanced the flavour all the more.

Now at this point during dinner, even though we had much to say, we were completely silent just savouring the food in front of us. In fact, it was so good, it literally almost brought tears to my eyes. (Similar to a past Haagen-Daaz moment)

But then, the waitress uttered two words that could only ever make things better: “dessert menu?”

Of course.

Get ready for this:

Green tea crème brulée

Green tea crème brulée. Divine.

Green tea tiramisu

Green tea tiramisu. Best of both worlds.

Sake cheesecake. I almost died. It was so good.

And honestly, the pictures from my BlackBerry in a dim restaurant don't do the food justice. 

Actually, I am kind of getting emotional just writing about this, it was literally that good. But I guess that’s why I have a food blog! Instead of doing readings on Criminal Law, I am writing about dessert.

Needless to say, this is a restaurant that you should add to your list while living in or visiting Toronto. Even though many things on the menu are a bit pricey, many more items are very reasonably priced, and for this kind of quality, I would have been comfortable (against protest from my credit card) paying double what I did for my meal.  

So, next time you’re in the area of 236 Adelaide Street West (near Union Station), just go. It’ll change your life. And tell them I sent you! 

PS. Although we didn’t have any sake, the guys next to us did, and it looked quite wonderful. Try it and let me know what you think!

Rating: 5/5

Yuzu Sushi and Sake Bar on Urbanspoon


zandra said...

We MUST go here when i get back! those green tea desserts look heavenly! loving your blog

Greg said...

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Graceyyyy said...

I agree, Yuzu is honestly the best sushi place to go to in Toronto. Great post =] makes me hungry =p

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