Thursday, March 27, 2014

JaBistro for our 4th Anniversary :)!

We love going to upscale Japanese restaurants, but as university students... visiting them frequently is not financially practical. Thus, we like to save them for special days so we can hit two birds with one stone. Since it was our four year anniversary, we finally got the chance to hit up JaBistro, a restaurant we have been yearning to visit. Before you scroll down, get nice and comfortable and enjoy the tour of our favorite Japanese restaurant to date.

Opened by James Hyunsoo Kim, who brought the popular Guu chain from Vancouver to Toronto, it offers traditional sushi and sashimi as well as aburi (blow-torched sushi) and oshizushi (box-press sushi) which are hard to come by in Toronto. It truly lives up to all the hype and James can add another notch into his belt of successful restaurants. Heading up the kitchen is Koji Tashiro (you can spot him in the kitchen wearing his signature golf-like hat) who has had 12 years of sushi experience in the famous Tsukiji Fish Market (where Jiro gets his fish!) and Vancouver's Miku restaurant. He also worked briefly at Guu Sakabar to gain insight and experience with the Toronto clientele.

Where: 222 Richmond Street W, Toronto, ON
Price: $$$$ (Our meal was $225, including tax and tip)

The interior was nothing special - very similar to Guu and Kinton Ramen (all three were designed by the same person). It was modern, sleek but pretty typical of what you would expect. It is a very narrow restaurant with seats available at the bar as well as small tables. We were going to opt for the bar seats because we always enjoy seeing how the sushi chefs work but we went for the tables this time out of fear that the things we ordered would not fit onto the bar table.... heh :$

Soy sauce
At the beginning of the meal, we each got our own soy sauce set. One (right hand side in picture) was a regular soy sauce but the one on the left hand side was their own house-made soy sauce so it was lighter, sweeter and less salty. It was REALLY delicious. Notice the lack of soy sauce.. this is because the chefs season everything perfectly. We rarely even had to use our soy sauce!!
By the way.. how do you make soy sauce? Does anyone know?

Sashimi Platter ($100) + Lobster Sashimi ($30)

The beautiful dish above is what we were really excited for! $100 may seem like a hefty price to pay for sashimi, but the value and quality was impeccable and incomparable. They have a smaller $50 platter. The bigger difference between the $50 and the $100 one is not in quantity but in quality. Without a doubt, this was our favorite of the evening and we recommend this if you are looking to dine at JaBistro.
As a side note, if you have a large party, you can call in advance and create a customized platter to fit your preferences.

We kid you not, our sashimi plate was like ART. I honestly just wanted to take as many pictures as we could because this was incredible. Never have we seen such a breathtaking dish. The more you looked at it the more beautiful it became. I can't begin to explain how much detail and care was taken into putting the dish together. It was absolutely stunning.

Seared Wagyu Beef Skewers

I tried to label the picture to show you just what we were given. We were given 4 pieces of everything served so not everything is labelled in the picture due to repeats. From what I remember there was: maguro; chutoro; otoro (!!!); two cuts of salmon, one of which was a delicious cut of belly; wagyu beef on a skewer with cucumber; ikura; Boston uni (arguably the sweetest and most fresh uni I’ve ever had); Spanish mackerel; amberjack; snapper; sea bream; monkfish liver (aka. foie gras of the sea!!); tako; ika; fried fish scales, one lobster tail sashimi; and pickled vegetables.

Sides: Jabistroll ($22)
Center: Aburi ($27)
In general, aburi (meaning flame seared) is a modern style of sushi where the fish on top is very lightly seared which results in a beautiful enhancement of the natural flavor of the fish. Aburi is considered modern, not in the sense of cooking style, but in ingredients used. A dollop of mayonaise here, a few slices of jalapenos there. 

Our aburi pieces included 4 classic nigiri pieces (fish on top of rice) and 3 oishi (box pressed)  of cured mackerel, B.C. salmon, New Zealand seabream, bluefin tuna, ocean trout, yellow tail and tiger shrimp. This, of course, changes day to day depending on what is fresh.

Aburi ($27) and JaBistroll ($22)
Each piece was smokey and each had a very unique taste. Our favourite (by a landslide) was the salmon aburi that had salmon at the top but also a thin layer of salmon in the center of the rice, topped with a few fresh slices of jalapeno pepper on top. It literally MELTS in your mouth.

The JaBistroll ($22) consisted of salmon, snow crab, uni, cucumber and tobiko. The sacred roll of Jabistro! The charred fish on top gave it a slight smokey flavor but did not mask the sharp flavours of uni and snowcrab. We would actually consider this a very creamy roll and oddly enough, we really enjoyed it!

Lobster Miso Soup - complimentary with sashimi platter.
Available on menu for $5
We each got one Lobster Miso Soup which comes with the sashimi platter. Oh my goodness, this was such a sweet and light soup and a good break in the meal. The miso did not over power the lobster flavour and the giant lobster claw was a great addition too :)

The above picture is just a testament to their service. We had made an online reservation earlier in the week and added that it was our anniversary but wasn't really sure as to what they provided for that kind of event. We were going to order dessert but honestly, we were FILLED to the brim with delicious food. They brought out this little platter to wish us a happy anniversary. Small touches like this always make a restaurant stick out :) 

Customary anniversary picture :)

JaBistro is not cheap, but as far as we know the quality is unparalleled to anything we have ever eaten (we have not been to Kaji yet) and no, you will not leave hungry.  The service was absolutely amazing – all the servers were very well informed about anything on the platter and were very attentive. Each time we got up from our seat, someone would come over and refold our napkins. Our plates were changed after every dish and our glass was never empty because someone was always refilling our water. The table is cleared after every dish to prepare for the next.

We wouldn't recommend the omakase there, we noticed other people ordered it and yes, you do get a full meal in terms of appetizer + main + dessert but that's it. It looked very underwhelming in comparison to the main menu. Of course, we can only speak from what we observed but it just didn't seem worth it. But then again, if you are on a tight budget then omakase is a small peek into what JaBistro has to offer.

Despite the pricey dinner, we would love to go again... I will be dreaming of this meal for days ! We highly, highly recommend this to any Japanese food-lover, it was arguably one of the best meals we've ever had. Thank you, JaBistro!!

JaBistro on Urbanspoon