When I went to J-Town the other day, instead of eating within J-Town itself, my mom and I decided to look at some of the other restaurants situated in the same area based off of recommendations from her friend. There is an izakaya, a ramen place (Niwatei), and Shiso Tree Cafe, a place that serves Japanese-styled Italian pastas along with unique flavors of coffee and tea.
Location: 3160 Steeles Avenue East
Price: $11-$14 for a pasta dish. Very very affordable meals. $
*To view a slightly updated posting, please view this!*
This cafe is affiliated with Bakery Nakamura within J-Town. And while they do serve pasta, they also serve a variety of toasts, cakes, and tarts which are all freshly baked for them daily by Nakamura.
First thing I noticed when I went in with my mom was a fairly no-frills decor, along with a relaxed atmosphere. There was only one other table, but there were a lot of patrons, and there was initially only one waitress waiting on everyone. So note that the service all took a rather long time. Poor waitress!
In any case, after finally waving down our waitress, my mother and I ordered a Carbonara pasta. and a “Wafu” (Japanese-styled) pasta, which both came with garlic bread and a side salad to start. I also decided to have a creme brule-flavored coffee while my mom decided on an Irish cream-flavored one.
Now, while other Japanese places will sometimes have slight variations in their sauces, it is notable that Shiso Tree Cafe uses a soy-sauced based dressing. This results in unique and rather delicious savory, salty flavor that mixes well with the fresh (four times!) veggies used to make it. Notice at this point that my coffee cup is still down. That is because the only person working the front forgot about our coffee! 😦 She in fact asked us if we wanted anything to drink, and we had to remind her. Poor girl.
Yes, I know that looks exactly like your standard coffee. However, mine did smell a lot like creme brule, and it also had some of the sweetness that a creme brule normally would have. As such I didn’t need to sugar my coffee at all. You also get free refills!
Let me begin by saying that both of the pastas were cooked to a perfect al dente (firm, but not chewy or hard). Now my mom’s wafu pasta was covered in a simple white wine reduction along with clams, bacon, an assortment of oyster, shiitake, and shimeji mushrooms, and a generous garnish of shiso leaf. When I had some of the pasta, I also noticed that there was a hint of soy-sauce flavoring in the sauce. Now while this might sound extremely odd for a purist of Italian cuisine, this in fact was pretty good! A little confusing for the palette, but after getting past the general confusion, the taste and the smell of the wine really come through and adds a distinctive flavor to this pasta. To note: my mom complained that there could stand to be more sauce. I can’t think of any other place off the top of my head that serves “Wafu” styled pasta. Definitely something I’ll go to try again!
Carbonara pasta — something more familiar to a purist of Italian cuisine. A simple, creamy white sauce dressed up with egg yolk, bacon, green peas, and parmesan cheese. While this dish sounds a lot more basic than the previous wafu pasta, sometimes we must remember: the most important thing is the basics! This tasted much better than the wafu pasta. The flavor of egg yolk came through in the sace, and the green peas added a different texture profile along with spicing up the look of the dish. The bacon, of course, was tasty (I have never had bacon that was not tasty. Epicmealtime knows what’s up!) and scooping up the sauce with the fresh, slightly crispy bread was awesome.
Conclusion: While the service was kind of slow and somewhat inattentive, I guess it’s difficult to throw all the blame onto that one waitress. Still, I would recommend not going to this cafe if you were in a rush. I think I’ll be going back eventually, so I may see if this issue with the service was just an off-day thing or a real issue. All in all though, this is a quaint little place with unpretentious, but yummy food.