Our guide to Toronto’s best Japanese food
The gyu carpaccio by Kinka
1. Sashimi: raw meat or fish
Aoyama sashimi plate
Found in a Scarborough strip mall, this eatery’s house special sashimi platter involves a parade of super-fresh fish (think shrimp, scallops, white tuna, hamachi and flounder) plus sea urchin to boot. And there’s a Hello Kitty bathroom. 2766 Victoria Park Ave.
Kinka Izakaya gyu carpaccio
Paper-thin slices of seared beef decorate a plate decked out with wasabi mayo and garlic chips. 4775 Yonge St., Unit 114
Asuka Japanese sashimi moriawase
Generous portions of sashimi include the Asuka option, a cool 60 pieces of raw fish and seafood such as maguro (tuna) and tai (red snapper). 108 Yorkville Ave.
The off-beat tomato and miso soup by Rollian.
2. Miso: fermented soybean
Rollian miso tomato soup
Venture away from your basic miso offering with the tomato version from this Leaside locale. It turns up the volume by adding tomato paste and mushrooms. 660 Eglinton Ave. E.
Gonoe’s artfully presented sunomono salad.
3. Sunomono: vinegared salad
Gonoe sunomono salad
A striking salad that presents vinegared shrimp, crab, clam with omelette and octopus. 1310 Don Mills Rd.
Nomé Izakaya tako wasabi
In Japan this side dish — octopus pickled in wasabi vinegar with chopped wasabi stem and nori — is often paired with sake for a subtle wake-up call. 4848 Yonge St.
Karaage chicken from Nome Izakaya.
4. Agemono: deep-fried dishes
Katsura tile fish
This trad dish, plucked from the kaiseki menu, features thinly sliced tile fish coated in soba, rolled and deep-fried. 900 York Mills Rd.
Kabuki Sushi Lounge Agedashi tofu
Fans of tofu swoon when it’s battered, deep-fried and served in tempura sauce with garlic chips scattered on top. 4 O'Neill Rd.
Nomé Izakaya karaage chicken
Karaage chicken is a real crowd pleaser. Hunks of dark meat are marinated in a teriyaki sauce, dredged in tempura batter and deep-fried for that perfect crunch. Dip in wasabi mayo. 4848 Yonge St.
Cabbagetown’s happening izakaya doles out these bite-sized spheres of fried sticky rice drizzled in a sweet soy sauce. 193 Carlton St.
Robata yaki from Inatei
5. Yakimono: grilled and pan-fried dishes
Inatei robata yaki
This serene space has a menu that never seems to quit. The number of grilled items will please those who can’t get enough of robata fare. Chomp on grilled beef enrobing enoki ’shrooms, yakitori and more. 9021 Leslie St., Richmond Hill
Shinobu nasu dengaku
Rich with colour, this sweet and salty dish sees lightly fried eggplant topped with dengaku miso sauce and dusted with sesame seeds for rather handsome and flavourful results.
3403 Yonge St.
Okonomi House Restaurant okonomiyaki
This homey spot dishes out many types of the savoury pancake with BBQ sauce— from one scattered with seafood to pork with veg.
23 Charles St. W.
Sushi Couture lobster yaki
A popular Annex restaurant, Couture is more than just its sushified moniker. The lobster yaki emerges from the grill dressed in a medley of mushrooms for mega impact.
456 Bloor St. W.
The chanko nabe hot pot from Ematei
6. Nabemono: hot pots
Ematei chanko nabe
Chanko nabe is what sumo wrestlers eat when looking to bulk up. This protein-rich pot comes brimming with everything under the sun: chicken balls, pork slices, seafood and veg in a miso broth. Eat up. 30 St. Patrick St.
Sukiyaki is a classic beef stew. Here, thin slices of rib-eye steak are simmered with tofu, spinach, both shiitake and enoki ’shrooms and udon noodles. 31 Baldwin St.
This hole-in-the-wall izakaya does a mean special; cold months mean one pot offerings. The motsunabe marries deep-fried tofu and pig offal with leeks, cabbage and burdock for a warming dish. 2 Irwin Ave.
7. Non-traditional curries, don and more
Le Cafe Michi una-tama don
A true hidden gem, this café does a tasty grilled eel (unagi) and egg (tama) rice bowl (don). Don’t forget dessert. 1802 Pharmacy Ave.
Manpuku kare raisu
Tucked into a food court, this boîte dishes outstudent-friendly faves like the popular beef curry or, for the more adventurous, a salami version. 105 McCaul St., Unit 29–31
Gushi hot dogs on rice
Gushi’s panko-crusted dogs are deep-fried, set on a bed of purple rice and laced with teriyaki sauce and spicy mayo. Fast food done right.
Market 707, 707 Dundas St. W.
8. Dezato: dessert & tea
While traditional desserts in Japan are called wagashi, the current trend blends Japanese ingredients with French techniques for heavenly results.
Uncle Tetsu angel hat cake
Toronto is still infatuated with the Uncle’s cheesecake, which marries a spongy texture with cheesy taste. 598 Bay St.
Millie Creperie souffle cheesecake
Meringue is folded into the batter for this layered black sesame cheesecake topped with vanilla bean icing. 12 Oxley St., Unit 101
Neo Coffee Bar Japanese roll cake
The uber light matcha roll cake with sweet chestnuts is a true marriage between Japan and Switzerland. 161 Frederick St., Unit 100
Sit and Make Tea cha-do
At Reid Burridge’s home, tea enthusiasts can learn everything about Cha-do, a.k.a. the trad tea ceremony. www.sitandmaketea.com
For more on the Japanese eating experience, see our travel piece.