Toronto's culinary culture is a medley of diverse flavours and inspirations, and its sushi restaurants are excellent examples. Whatever your tastes, there's a sushi restaurant for you in this city. Check out the list below and see if you can find a flavour that suits you.
5. New Generation
If you want to eat alarming amounts of sushi and actually enjoy it, go to New Generation. With a second, more aesthetically upscale location now open near Bathurst (and the same great prices at both venues, plus decent all you can eat for $21.99 at the second location), it's time to stuff yourself at this Annex staple. It's the best bargain on this list, but while the prices are generally quite low, the sushi is still fresh and inventive.
New Generation also boasts the most variety, with everything from the basics to a Phili cheese roll (Philadelphia cheese smoked salmon, avocado cucumber, and green onion; $8.95). While I can't guarantee they'll all appeal to your taste buds, if you like sushi of any kind, you'll find something you want to try. They also serve other Japanese offerings, including a long list of appetizers and bento box options (though personally, I think their sushi is better than the rest of their selection). The vegetarian selection is also great and varied, well beyond the usual cucumber rolls you'll find at many places and worth a try even if you normally only get fish. I'd particularly recommend the mango fusion (strips of fresh mango on an avocado and yam roll; 6.95). Overall, their menu is fun and their lunch specials are great. New Generation is also a good place to drop by if you are looking for late-night sushi. I'd recommend their second location for the sleeker design and Godzilla mural!
Aoyama Lobster Fritters by Miyuki Mouse
Address: 2766 Victoria Park Avenue, North York
Hours: Monday - Thursday 5:30pm - 9:30pm, Friday - Sunday 5pm - 9:30pm
Aoyama is one of the best spots to visit if you're north of the 401 and craving sushi. Everything is fresh, and the portion-to-price ratio is decent. While it costs a little more than your average sushi joint, the quality is worth the small extra expense, and the omakase option (chef's selection; $65) is more cost-effective than at some of the places further along on this list. The restaurant also has set dishes and an à la carte menu—definitely try the deep-fried oysters and uni rolls ($3). If you're craving dessert, try the black bean ice cream. For a small, rather unassuming restaurant, the flavours and freshness pack a punch, and Aoyama is a local favourite.
While a little out of the way for the downtown crowd, those in North York who want a solid Japanese food experience will find themselves more than satisfied. I recommend a reservation, as otherwise you may find yourself without a seat at this packed local gem!
Aoyama Sushi by Miyuki Mouse
3. Yuzu No Hana
Address: 236 Adelaide street west, Entertainment District
Hours: Monday - Saturday 11:30am - 10:30pm, Sunday 12pm - 10pm
Offers take-out and catering.
If you're looking to pair your sushi with the perfect sake, look no further than Yuzu No Hana. The restaurant offers both delicious, fresh sashimi and tasty rolls, as well as an array of alcoholic delights to go with it (there's a reason this place is in the Entertainment District). To start off your dinner (the lunch menu also offers some great appetizers, but they aren't as distinctive), I'd recommend the oyster shooter (fresh oyster, quail egg, tobiko, yuzu ponzu, uni, green onion; $7) as a sumptuous opener as well as the tuna avocado tartare (tuna, avocado, japanese herbs, and garlic oil; $12)—the avocado and tuna pair beautifully. As for the à la carte menu, Yuzo no Hana offers a good variety of all the fish you'd hope to find—squid, tuna, salmon, sea bream, shrimp, crab, mackerel, sea urchin, and more. The salmon and avocado temaki hand roll is $5, while the lobster tail tempura roll is $14. Some vegetarian options are also available. The desserts are also worth a try, especially the sake cheese cake and sesame ice cream!
In addition to the fuller menu, another good reason to go for an evening bite is the amazing saki selection, including sparkling Junmai. The menu includes recommendations for when each sake should be drunk in order to maximize your enjoyment of the experience. Yuzo no Hana also offers clever cocktails like the yuzu sangria and strawberry saketini. Between Queen and King West, this is a great spot to start an evening downtown. The exposed brick walls and sake bottles along recessed shelves make for a refined party atmosphere.
2. Sushi Kaji
Address: 860 The Queensway, between Royal York Road and Islington Avenue, just barely on the TTC line
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Despite its out-of-the-way location in an Etobicoke mall, Sushi Kaji is well known in Toronto for chef Mitsuhiro Kaji's skills in the kitchen (and, if you sit at the bar, right in front of your table). There's no à la carte menu here; instead, the restaurant serves food omakase style. The tasting menu sushi is all the chef's creations and varies by the night. Luckily, you're in good hands—Kaji's concoctions are both creative and delicious. On special occasions like an anniversary or birthday, you may be treated to a flowery bouquet of fresh vegetables.
Sushi Kaji Chefs in Action by Miyuki Mouse
Highlighting any particular dish would miss the point, as going to Kaji's is all about a unique experience, but past selections include lily bulb cake, torched scallop with fresh wasabi, duck soup, octopus, deep fried monkfish karage, and simpler but amazing selections like eel and fantastic toro. Sushi Kaji is the most expensive restaurant on this list; a meal here comes to $120 for the waza selection or $150 for takumi—each includes an appetizer, sashimi, dishes, assorted sushi, soup or noodle, and dessert. The sashimi is known for its greatness, and the desserts, such as green tea crème brûlée and green tea tiramisu, also shine. You can pair your meal with saki or wine. The food is all excellent; the downside is that this isn't somewhere you can go on a whim. The location makes the restaurant a little out of the way, the bill isn't friendly to casual dining, and a reservation is essential. That said, Sushi Kaji makes for a great once-in-a-while treat.
Sushi Kaji via Foursquare
1. Sushi Couture
Address: 456 Bloor Street West
Hours: Monday 4:30pm - 11pm, Tuesday - Sunday (Lunch) 12pm - 3pm, Tuesday - Thursday (Dinner) 4:30pm - 11pm, Friday - Saturday (Dinner) 4:30pm - 11:30pm, Sunday (Dinner) 4:30pm - 11pm.
Offers take-out and delivery.
For a near-perfect balance of taste, price, location, and ambiance, my favourite has to be Sushi Couture in the Annex. Stepping inside, you are immediately transported from the busy energy of Bloor West into a calm, chic space. With modern but comfortable decor in red, grey, and black, the restaurant manages an elegant integration of Japanese elements in the form of wall cases of pottery and a subtle flower theme throughout.
Sushi Couture Omakase by Chef Ken
While there is much to love, what impresses me most is the care and quality put into each dish. I had a conversation with the executive chef, Ken Zhang, the last time I ate at Sushi Couture, and everything he said made me feel increasingly confident about my meal. Zhang explained the finer details of sushi preparation, from the need for the perfect pressure on the rice so as not to ruin the texture (the grains shouldn't break until they're in your mouth) to the precision needed when cutting the fish (I was informed that the juice in the fish must not be allowed to come out). Since "you cannot cover" poor sushi preparation and ingredients by slathering it in sauce, it is important to "focus on every single item," and it is evident that here is a chef who does exactly that. The restaurant uses tamaki rice specially grown for sushi and fresh, local ingredients. Zhang is also not afraid to get creative: conscious that "it's a mixed culture in North America," he mixes more traditional items with fusion rolls.
As for the finished product, it's hard to complain. Every detail is considered: the house-mixed soy sauce is delicate and flavourful, and I was presented with both powdered and fresh wasabi. The ginger is sweet and soft but still retains that distinctive ginger tang. The miso soup ($3) is simply the best I've ever had. Enoki mushrooms give added richness alongside the requisite seaweed and green onion. In Zhang's hands, miso soup becomes more than an appetizer; it's a crucial part of the meal. As Zhang says, "you have to enjoy the whole experience."
Preparing meal at Sushi Couture
On to the sushi! Their signature roll, the Sushi Couture maki ($13), is filled with salmon, scallop, tobiko, and spicy mayo. Enhanced by elegant presentation, the flavour combination hits all the right notes. With the eel avocado maki ($5), the smooth, accessible taste and feel of the avocado ease you effortlessly into the strong flavour of the eel. While I have a preference for rolls, I've been informed by fellow lovers of the restaurant that the sashimi is also excellent.
While options for vegetarians and vegans are limited, those available are impressively flavourful and won't leave any such guests feeling left out. Having tried the Sakura maki ($7), I can say that the avocado is perfectly ripe and creamy with a spicy bite to it, while the crunch is pleasingly light and lacks the slight greasiness found at many run-of-the-mill restaurants. The yam tempura maki ($5), a long-time favourite of many fishless sushi eaters, is cooked just right.
Furthermore, Sushi Couture has found a beautiful balance of quality and quantity. The regular menu is modestly priced, and everything tastes like it's made especially for you, even if it's been made 20 times that day. Looking for a more in-depth sushi experience? Call ahead about omakase and let Zhang show you the full extent of his artistry. In the end, whether you are looking for a quick bite or an immersion into a stellar chef's palate, Sushi Couture is your restaurant.
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Sushi can take many forms, from fine dining to all-you-can-eat. And from sake bars to local haunts, delicious discounts to gourmet treats, Toronto's got you covered, wherever you may be in this sprawling city.