Restaurant review: Toshi Sushi

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On a Friday night, I’m rarely in the mood to cook (and I’m usually out of fresh groceries) so it’s out for dinner. This time we chose Toshi Sushi. It’s a popular little place on Vancouver’s East 16th Avenue, between Quebec and Main Streets.

And by popular, I mean there’s usually a lineup outside the door. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes or more. Guests need to put their name and party size on a signup sheet, and the party will not be seated unless all are present.  They’re pretty strict about this.

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The menu is pretty broad and varied; it covers sushi, noodles, gyoza, yakimono,

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We started with the spinach goma-ae.

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This is cold blanched spinach, served cold, topped with a dressing of ground toasted sesame seeds, dashi, soy and sugar.

This was pretty good, a nice light appetizer.

This was followed by Tempura Udon

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This vegetables (in this case, green beans and yams) and prawns dipped in wet batter, then rolled in panko, and deep-fried to a light crisp.  It’s served with a small dipping bowl of tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce).  The sauce is made from kombu, bonito, soy, mirin, ground ginger and ground daikon radish.   The tempura was fabulously light and crispy.  The prawn was very fresh, and had a nice firm texture.  The dipping sauce was freshly made with the earthy fresh ground ginger, the sweetness of mirin, and the saltiness of the soy and the bonito.

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The noodle soup consists of a thin dashi broth seasoned with soy and mirin, loaded with thick wheat (udon) noodles, and garnished with thinly sliced scallions.  This was pretty good.  The noodles were fresh but probably not home-made (there aren’t many places in town that make their own udon noodles in-house).

This was followed by Nasu Dengaku (grilled eggplant with miso sauce)

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This is japanese eggplant, sliced lengthwise, brushed with a miso and sweet soy glaze, and grilled until tender. This is a terrific dish.  The eggplant is soft and creamy on the inside, sweet and salty from the miso soy glaze.

Next came the Gin Tara Saikyo Yaki (baked black cod with miso sauce)

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Grilled black cod is a favorite of mine when I visit Hawaii.  It’s available at every Japanese restaurant there (where it’s usually called “misoyaki butterfish”).  And I’ve sampled some really good offerings of the dish, and that is my standard of comparison.  Measured against that, this was just okay.  It’s very fresh and delicate black cod, flaky with a nice mild miso glaze.  But a lacking the light sweetness that I like.

Lastly came the nigiri and maki combo

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This was an assorted sushi platter consisting of california rolls, tamago (cooked egg), saba (mackerel), maguro (tuna), sake (salmon) and tai (sea bream/snapper).  It comes with the usual side of pickled ginger and wasabi.  This was a good sushi platter. It’s clear the sushi chef uses high quality ingredients, and executes with care.  The sushi rice has the right “doneness” and just enough sharpness from the vinegar.  This was perhaps not the best sample of sushi we could have ordered to test the sushi chefs abilities, but we has some sensitive pallets in our party that would not have appreciated the more elaborate offerings.

All things considered, this was good meal.  Toshi has skilled chefs, and quality food.  It is a tad more expensive than the average japanese restaurant in town, but it’s fair price for the quality.  The stickler for me, is the wait time.  It’s good, but is it good enough to justify standing in line for thirty minutes or more?

The service is quite good and helpful, albeit overworked because of how busy the place is.

The room is tiny (perhaps seats 30-35) and cramped, but clean.   Forget about bringing a dinner party of 6 or more, there’s no way to fit a group of that size at one table here.

Toshi Sushi on Urbanspoon

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