Zen, sometimes known as one of the best Japanese restaurants in Ontario that does not cost you a small fortune ( a la Sushi Kaji), was the target for my birthday dinner. I figured that since I’ve already blogged about so many Japanese places, I might as well try blogging about a higher profile, traditional Japanese establishment.
Location: 2803 Eglinton Ave E
Price: $$$ Pretty penny for yummy food, guys.
Phone #: (416)265-7111
Hours of Operation: Tues-Fri 12pm – 2:30pm, Tues-Sat 5:30pm – 9:30pm, Sun 5:30pm – 9pm, Mon CLOSED
I’ve actually been trying to go to this place for a while, but I swear I messed up two or three times calling them on the wrong day to make reservations or what not. Oops. NOTE: I was a little afraid to take pictures here. We were enclosed in a booth and I didn’t want to randomly stick my camera out, plus the head sushi chef had a direct view of me.
Because we had reserved, we were given one of the special booths where we had to remove our shoes to sit inside. You may notice that we have a rather large bottle of Asahi beer on the table — I assure you, I did not drink and drive. 😉 In fact the waitress commented that I looked young, and I ended up having to produce my ID while the head sushi chef laughed in the background. At least I figured out that he had a sense of humor! 😛 In any case, my parents both ordered sashimi dinners, while I ordered my usual, the Chirashi. Before our meals came, we were given a few edamame bean pods to start along with hot cloth towels. Nice touch.
A very strong hit of bonito flavor fills your palate as you consume this hot, tasty broth. My parents found it a little too flavorful in fact, but I really like rich, strong soups so I had no problem with this. Even from the soup alone, one could tell that they put extra work even in the most basic, complimentary miso soup — something that I’ve found is slightly uncommon between the many Japanese places I’ve been to.
Scallop, yellowtail, surf clam, salmon, tuna, aji with onion, fluke, octopus? I didn’t actually eat this, but for once, my dad had no complaints. And honestly, that’s saying something. My chirashi did include all the fish that are here in this plate and more, so it’s time to move on. Sadly my chirashi picture did not come out right even though I took three shots. 😦 Oh well!
Agh it’s so blurry. At least it simulates how I was seeing it, as I was crying tears of joy (not really, but go with it guys… just go with it) at seeing the delightful spread provided to me here. It’s saying something when *every* piece of sashimi you eat tastes great. Even the maguro, which I’ve previously stated tastes bad after having toro (which was also in this chirashi, by the way). Even the imitation crab meat, the shrimp, the egg, the rice… Honestly, I’ve never had better. Everything was more flavorful and more fresh. The aji (I think, as I was baffled by the variety I had in this chirashi) had been mixed with onions to cut the overly ‘fishy’ taste of the fish, giving it a clean finish. The shrimp had been cooked perfectly, tasting impossibly full of shrimp flavor. The mackerel had just the right amount of its distinctive fishy flavor without being overpowering, and the toro I was given melted in my mouth. I guess it had better, for $25.50. Needless to say, this Chirashi is without the doubt the best I’ve ever had in Toronto.
Conclusion: In case you haven’t noticed, Zen has a new fan boy. The service was nice and cheerful, helpful but not overbearing, and their prices, while high, are indicative of the fact that they are the real deal. There’s not much crazy fusion stuff that you might find at the likes of Yuzu or Sushi Couture, but Zen just does traditional perfectly. And perfection deserves a perfect score. 10/10 MANY cheers! I will definitely be going back here, though probably for lunch. Any takers? ;)… Kidding, of course!