Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shiso Tree Cafe

Tucked away in J-Town, Shiso Tree Café is a hidden gem that is easy to miss. It specializes in Japanese-Italian cuisine and boy, does it do a good job! Heaps of steaming hot Italian pasta with Japanese-inspired sauces make this a notable place to eat.

3160 Steeles Avenue East
Markham, ON
(905) 479-9319

There is only one tatami room straight off to your left where you can book off for large groups. The rest of the restaurant is separated into different tables but nonetheless, comfortable and relaxing cafe.

Special features board

While they do have a regular menu, Shiso Tree also has a board with special features that change from time to time. 

Their pasta comes in three different categories: Wafu (pasta made with Japanese ingredients), cream and tomato sauce.

During weekdays, Shiso Tree Café has an amazing good lunch deal - $8 for pasta, soup and salad. On weekends, only their dinner menu is available.

$8 lunch combo (only available on weekdays)

Salads also available as a lunch combo

I came with a fairly small group but we ordered quite a bit! We all chose the lunch deal, but each with a different pasta and ordered a few dishes on the side. Our first course was the salad, which is part of the lunch combo.

First of the lunch combo: salad

Their wafu salad dressing, which comprises mainly of soy sauce and sesame oil and seeds, is very good – flavourful, tangy and a bit salty but very light.

Okonomiyaki fries ($8)
Their Okonomiyaki fries ($8) were rather interesting - regular fries but with ingredients that typically go on top of okonomiyaki such as Japanese mayonnaise, otafuku sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter) and a generous sprinkling of green onions and bonito flakes. The sweetness of the otafuku sauce actually matches the fries very well!

Nori Fries ($6)
We also got Nori fries ($6) which had their signature wafu dressing (used in the salad) and a generous sprinkling of thin nori strips. They were equally as delicious! However, if you prefer something lighter, the Nori fries are definitely recommended over the Okonomiyaki fries. Who knew salad dressing and nori seaweed would taste oh-so good with fries?!

Cream of cauliflower soup

For the soup portion of the combo, we each received a house made cream of cauliflower soup. Quite flavourful and you could tell it was made thick with a puree of cauliflower.

Okonomiyaki pasta

 For our pasta mains, we ordered the Okonomiyaki (sauteed onions, bacon and garlic dresssed like an Okonomiyaki-style pancake) pasta, Napolitan and the Puttanesca. All three were made with spaghetti and came with a thick slice of garlic bread

The Okonomiyaki pasta was by far the best of the three and is the true essence of Japanese-Italian fusion. Each piece had the perfect mesh of the thick, sweet otafuku sauce and the Japanese mayo. Very enjoyable dish! There was also a generous amount of onions and bacon in the pasta.

Napolitan Pasta
We were excited for the Napolitan pasta since it is a very popular pasta dish in Japan but it tasted just sweet and cheesy – the Okonomiyaki one is much more enjoyable! The Napolitan was surprisingly sweet and cheesy.

Last but not least of the pasta mains, was the Puttanesca pasta (tomato sauce, anchovies, olive and garlic). This was, unfortunately, the most disappointing dish of the three – it wasn’t bad, but there was just simply nothing extraordinary about it and to top it off, there were a grand total of … zero anchovies.The pasta did have many olives though, so I suppose some points must be given for that.
One notable mention of their pastas – all the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. The texture of the pastas was an absolute delight. 

To end our meal off, we had the black sesame brulee ($6) from the special features board. The brulee was absolute heaven. The crispy caramelized top with the smooth black sesame pudding underneath was perfect (nd a very good portion size for three people)! A green tea brulee was also available for the same price

Black sesame brulee ($6)

Their cakes are quite popular as Shiso Tree Cafe is affiliated with Bakery Nakamura within J-Town. For that reason, all their toasts, cakes and tarts are freshly baked daily by Nakamura

Needless to say, we were beyond stuffed after all this food. The $8 lunch combo in itself would have greatly satisfied us. Great meal thanks to the decent food and friendly service. Shiso Tree Café deserves more recognition than they currently have.

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