No. 33: Skippa
Of all the things that set this thriving sushi bar apart from its competitors, the most surprising must be that the itamae is called Robinson-san. But never mind that.
Chef Ian Robinson apprenticed well and hard for four years under one of Toronto’s premier sushi chefs, Matsuhiro Kaji (Sushi Kaji), and he’s fiercely committed to his craft. His modest restaurant has but 30-odd seats: a half-dozen at a communal table on a polished cross-sectional slice of tree by the entranceway, and a dozen at the bar. All are hard to procure, and the latter well-nigh impossible at choice times without a few weeks’ notice. Part of the reason is Robinson’s craft and dedication. But the rest of the draw is his culinary approach. Instead of the usual, minimalist Tokyo-style cooking, Robinson favours southern Kyushu cuisine. Therein, flavours run perceptibly sweeter, and the culinary impetus is to build on natural properties with something extra rather than look for things to take away (expect sushi enhanced with preserved lemon, lime zest and garlic oil).
Helped out somewhat by his Japanese wife, Satoko, who hails from Fukuoka, Robinson also has a direct supply from the fish market there that translates into a piscine offering that differs from that of the usual supply chain. Fantastic Japanese abalone, aka mutsu (rosy sea bass) and countless other treats arrive at his restaurant so swiftly after being hauled from southern Japan that they are sometimes still stiff with rigour. He prefers to work with local seasonal vegetables: white asparagus, ramps and morels pop up on his spring menu, and in summer, local shishito, daikon and maitake. Be sure to try the vinegared mackerel sashimi with tamari and sesame seeds wrapped in shiso. But the best thing is to do the full omakase, paired by the cup to the improving list of sakes.
Photos Courtesy of Skippa