Japanese food is refined, delicate and sublimely delicious. Here’s a look at the best Japanese restaurants across Canada from our 2017 list.
At Masayoshi (No. 51), a small Japanese restaurant on Fraser St. from Tojo alumnus chef Masayoshi Baba, C100B editor-in-chief Jacob Richler enjoyed a seven-course meal at the sunlit bar that included an exceptionally tender uzaku – vinegared unagi on wilted sliced cucumber with dashi, dressed up with edible flowers, kinpira gobo (sweet braised burdock root) with milk foam, and exceptional sashimi, including o-toro, flounder, geoduck.
At Park (No. 45) owner/chef Antonio Park prepares highly precise Japanese-style cuisine featuring the freshest and finest sushi, nigiri and sashimi in Montreal. The cooking is delicate, and much of it is highly original, often possessing an unusual cross-cultural inventiveness. Think Japanese-style raw fish with a robust Korean edge—and maple syrup. The best, albeit most expensive, option is to put yourself in Park’s hands and order an omakase at the back counter, where you can watch him work his magic.
At Jun I, (No. 44 on our list), Junichi Ikematsu’s modern Japanese restaurant features a hybrid cuisine that reflects his unusual culinary background: despite being a native of Kyoto, he was schooled in French culinary tradition rather than locally paramount kaiseki. Decades on, Jun I is the cross-cultural result. It is a visually traditional Japanese restaurant where the sushi and sashimi are masterful, the maki rolls inventive and the hot kitchen speaks with an occasional French—or at least European—accent. The fusion is sophisticated and measured. Sushi and sashimi retain their traditional purity—although some of the fish deployed are far from common. Spanish mackerel and flying fish roe keep company with striped bass and Arctic char.
In Calgary, eat at Shokunin (No. 39). Sous-chef Koji Kobayashi hails from Osaka, where he trained in the art of kaiseki, a highly composed and ritualized seasonal cuisine involving multiple dishes. While by no means kaiseki -level in concept or composition, dishes offer creative flourishes that may not be immediately apparent. MacLean enjoys crucial details, such as importing authentic binchō-tan charcoal for charring his yakitori. Elegant sashimi makes way for decadent miso lobster dengaku, the signature duck tataki with wasabi stem salsa, and “white soy” ponzu and shaved foie gras torchon.
No. 35 on our list is Toronto’s Yasu. Sushi enthusiasts with a serious taste for refinement have been waiting for a place like this for a long time: a small sushi bar focussed on nothing but sushi. The modern, stark restaurant has just 10 seats at its bar—plus a deuce in the alcove by its front window. So Yasuhisa Ouchi and his team can do things as they are meant to be—making and serving you their sushi one piece at a time, in its prime. Expect sea eel, Japanese snapper (tai), uni, snow crab, flounder, bonito, toro—and whatever else is in its seasonal prime and available.