The complete guide to Toronto’s top sushi
Top row, left to right: Zen’s uni hand roll, Ja Bistro’s aburi mackerel, Shoushin’s octopus nigiri, Wow Sushi’s tamago and Sushi on Bloor’s sushi pizza. Bottom row, left to right: Solo Sushi Ya’s giant sweet shrimp, Hiro’s house smoked salmon, Sushi Kaji’s chopped toro, Japango’s tobiko with quail egg and Yasu’s torched scallop with yuzu and pepper.
Once upon a time, a few — a very few! – Torontonians discovered raw fish. “EEEuw,” said others. “Fab,” said more and more. And soon it was no longer exotic or even a fad. Sushi is normal, and it ranges from the cheap stuff in supermarket cases and airport snack shops to the high end where those with diamonds on the soles of their shoes pay $500 plus for dinner for two. I’ve eaten sushi in Japan and searched for the best sushi in Toronto. Here are the results of my hunt: The 10 best sushi in the GTA and the hot spots that serve them.
Yasu — torched scallop with yuzu and pepper
Flown in from Hokkaido in Japan, the buttery flesh is torched to seal in the salty-sweet juices and rendered complex with citric yuzu and black pepper. Chef paints house-made soy on the sushi with a brush to get the right proportions. Yasu’s omakase (the resto’s only option) is 18 courses — each a single perfect sushi. 81 Harbord St.
Sushi Kaji — chopped toro with green onion gunkanmaki
At Kaji, sushi is an art; each dish as beautiful as it is delicious. Try toro gunkanmaki — chopped fatty tuna atop a pristine morsel of just tangy enough rice, wrapped in the crispest nori and topped with finely shaved scallion, the sharpness of which contrasts exquisitely with the rich, oily toro. 860 The Queensway
Shoushin — octopus nigiri
Shoushin is like entering a Japanese Zen garden. Rest your bare feet on river stones in a recessed tatami. Outstanding service kicks the experience up a notch, but the food is why it made the list. Octopus is more tender than I’ve ever experienced. If octopus can be erotic, this is it. 3328 Yonge St.
Zen — uni hand roll
Zen’s move to Markham last spring only improved the experience. Never have I experienced such freshness this far from the ocean. Zen’s hand rolls (which are cylindrical rather than conical, allowing for even distribution of rice and filling throughout) are divine. The freshest uni in the city is served chilled, complemented by slightly warm rice and glass-crisp nori. 7634 Woodbine Ave., Markham
Solo Sushi Ya — giant sweet shrimp (raw, with head on)
The fish selection is small in number but great in flavour. Best is the giant sweet shrimp. Eat the candylike body (don’t forget to savour the subtly flavoured rice) and send the heads back to the kitchen to be deep-fried to satisfy your guilty cravings. 291 Davis Dr., Newmarket
Ja Bistro — aburi mackerel
Ja’s blowtorch menu seems an affront to trad raw fish, but their oshizushi (rice and fish lightly torched and compressed to intensify the flavours) is divine. Mackerel runs the risk of being greasy and fishy tasting, but pressing and torching makes it rich but not oily, with a sugary finish offset by daikon and soy. 222 Richmond St. W.
Hiro — house smoked salmon
Hiro takes great fish and makes it greater. Starting with top-quality ingredients (including homemade soy and freshly grated wasabi), he adds his own touch. Try the salmon trio, which includes raw, marinated (grav-lax) and smoked versions. My fave is the latter — smoky-sweet flavour that maintains the tender sweetness of the raw flesh. Not your deli lox! 171 King St. E.
Japango — ikura with quail egg
Treat yourself to ikura with quail egg. It’s a multi-act play for your palate. First the nori crunch piques your interest, then the obscenely fresh salmon roe pop in your mouth, drenching your taste buds in their briny filling, and the cool egg yolk tops it off with a flattering layer of richness. 122 Elizabeth St.
Wow Sushi — tamago
In Japan chefs train for years perfecting their recipes for this omelette-like cake made of layers of sweet egg. The ideal tamago is uniform in texture and colour. The tender yellow cube is sliced open and sandwiched around a tiny morsel of perfectly toothy rice. Bite in and enjoy the salty-sweet balance of juices that are released. 11 Charles St. W.
Sushi on Bloor — sushi pizza
Sushi pizza sounds like a culinary fusion abomination, but both ingredients and flavour contrasts are yummy. The deep-fried rice is warm and crispy against the cool smoothness of huge pieces of surprisingly good quality salmon on top. Japanese mayo, tobiko and green onions tie the dish together. This is comfort food Toronto style, oh joy! 525 Bloor St. W.