2016 JOANNE KATES 100 BEST RESTAURANTS

The Spend A Lot list is Joanne’s sky’s-the-limit guide to dining in the big city.

#21 Zen Japanese

Zen Japanese

Some of the best sushi in Toronto is in Markham. But enter Zen and all is … zen. One can sit at a table, but best choice is to reserve seats at the sushi bar (they’re popular with cognoscenti) and watch the three sushi masters create. Omakase here is different from elsewhere: It can be either sushi or sashimi. Order agedashi tofu as appetizer and go omakase sushi. The tofu is an exemplary app, both soup and starter, perfectly fried crisp/soft tofu topped with crisp nori shreds and chili in a bowl of smoky rich dashi broth. Then the sushi master does foreplay: He grates fresh green wasabi root from Japan, and asks whether you’d like him to brush your sushi with soy (to avoid overpowering it by you dipping in soy). The thrill is on: Swoon over fluke (both belly and fin parts), mackerel, amberjack, bluefin tuna belly, impossibly tender sea eel. There are untranslatable fresh fish flown in from Japan, the sushi rice is warm and soft. It all ends with one ineffable handroll: Super fresh uni in crisp nori. “Eat it fast,” counsels the sushi master. He wouldn’t want the nori to go soggy.


  • Zen Japanese
  • 7634 Woodbine Ave., Unit 3, Markham (map)
  • 905-604-7211
  • www.zenjapaneserestaurant.com

  • Chef: Seiichi Kashiwabara
  • Sous Chef: Takeshi Sato
  • Cuisine: Japanese
  • Cost of dinner for two: $190
  • Hours: Tues. to Sat. 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sun. 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Reservations: Yes
  • Meals served: Dinner
  • Veggie-friendly: No
  • Wines available: 10 + 30 sakes
  • BYOB?: No
  • Patio: No
  • Private party area: Yes
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • CC accepted: Yes
  • Parking: Free plaza parking
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