Table Talk: Joanne Kates reviews JaBistro


Published:

JaBistro chef Koji Tashiro prepares torched sushi, known as ‘aburi’ (Image: Cheol Joon Baek)

My sushi fatigue is so much better now. Sushi fatigue is when it all tastes the same and nothing much jumps out, flavour-wise. It’s when raw salmon and tuna start feeling boring. The thrill was gone.

And now it’s back! JaBistro is new, and save for the crazy expensive places, it’s the best Japanese resto in Toronto. Forget sushi fatigue, these people have rescued raw fish from the doldrums.

Much of the sushi is in the aburi style of blow-torched sushi and the oshizushi style of pressed sushi. Aburi means very lightly blow-torched fish, and oshizushi is sushi that’s been pressed into a rectilinear plastic mold to compress it slightly.

They re-fold your napkin when you go to the washroom. They tell you — in marvellous detail — the lineage of the various sakes and why the Akita sake, served in splendid tiny glass cups, tastes so fruity and clean.

The tables are stylin’ brown leather and they serve sushi on slabs of slate. Service this good recalls the days of brocade tablecloths.

Oshizushi, the splendid server tells us, is one of the original types of sushi, from when travellers pressed rice and fish into small wooden molds for transport. Today the molds are plastic and the motivation gastronomic rather than convenient. Pressing the sushi ever so slightly — and briefly — renders it somewhat denser and hence its flavours are more intense, oh joy!

The pressed, cured mackerel sushi is heaven on a rice cube: impeccably fresh, ungreasy mackerel, lightly cured with delicate sauce and topped with either a dab of daikon miso or fried onion threads. Best mackerel ever!

Aburi, torched sushi, has never turned my crank. But chef Koji Tashiro, who learned to cut fish at the fabulous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, adds a little (secret) sauce to the fish, torches it to seal the sauce, and the fish becomes so tender it’s creamy, its savour enhanced by warming. The graceful little dabs of topping on the mackerel reappear on sashimi, which looks like a grand floral bouquet on a long slate platter. Curls of daikon, batons of cucumber and shavings of carrot decorate the freshest possible fish garnished with little dabs of delights like daikon purée scented with dried fish.

The house special JaBistroll is uni, real crab and salmon rolled in rice studded with crunchy flying fish roe in sauce that’s a cross between hollandaise and light mayo. As if that were not enough, Ja has a good dessert (not so common in Japanese restaurants): matcha puff, green tea–inflected choux pastry layers filled with creamed custard scented with sesame. Fabulous!

Ja’s owner is James Hyunsoo Kim, who brought Vancouver’s Guu to Toronto, and more recently Kinton Ramen. This is the guy who is rescuing Toronto from tasteless sushi.

JaBistro, 222 Richmond St. W., $130 Dinner for two

Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine, and she was the Globe and Mail’s restaurant critic for 38 years.

Edit Module

Join the conversation and have your say by commenting below. Our comment system uses a Facebook plugin. Please note that you'll have to turn off some ad-blockers in order to see the comments.

Edit Module

Follow us on Twitter @PostCity for more on what to eat, where to shop and what to do in Toronto.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You may also like...

First Look: The Food Dudes open Pantry in Doria's former Summerhill home

First Look: The Food Dudes open Pantry in Doria's former Summerhill home

Food Dudes partners Adam Minster, Adrian Niman, Brent McClenahan and Matt Blondin have completed their renovation of the former Doria space in Rosedale and reopened it as Pantry by the Food Dudes.
Posted 1 day ago
Toronto gets a seasonally rotating restaurant as Leaside’s Tinto becomes Val-d’Isère

Toronto gets a seasonally rotating restaurant as Leaside’s Tinto becomes Val-d’Isère

During the winter months, Tinto will transform into an alpine chalet called Val-d'Isère, which will serve up hearty après ski fare like roast pork hock, escargot and fondue. Even the patio will be winterized with a wooden roof and a fire pit—perfect for snuggling up next to with a blanket and some mulled wine.
Posted 3 days ago
Food Crawl: September is the new patio season on Little Italy’s main strip

Food Crawl: September is the new patio season on Little Italy’s main strip

With the opening of PG Clucks for fried chicken sandwiches, a niche beer bar called Birreria Volo and B’saha, a Moroccan restaurant, College is getting more attention than it has in a while. Here are six standbys to check out along with the newcomers.
Posted 3 days ago
Too Close to Call: Get set for the Simpsons’s season premiere with a doughnut showdown

Too Close to Call: Get set for the Simpsons’s season premiere with a doughnut showdown

Surprise! T.O. is home to not one but two makers of massive doughnuts. These GTA bakeries have taken the traditional hand-held fave and turned it on its ear. For the hole story, read on.
Posted 6 days ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit Module