Omakase sushi — a new experience

I spent the back half of last week in Toronto with my colleague Jason Skomorowski. Jason’s great company anyway, but on his home turf he step up a level because he also knows his way around Toronto’s restaurants — and it’s a great city for food. And the most memorable of many superb meals I had in those four days was omakase sushi at Yasu.

Yazu exterior, taken after our meal, at nearly 8pm when it had got dark.

Yazu exterior, taken after our meal, at nearly 8pm when it had got dark.

Omakase was a new experience for me. It’s a sushi experience where the chef decides what you eat, and in what order, and the individual pieces arrive one by one.

We had sixteen courses, all but one of them a single piece of sushi; and an ice cream to finish. And here they all are, in the order we ate them.

Scallop

1. Scallop

2. Snow crab, topped with crab liver

2. Snow crab, topped with crab liver

3. Monkfish liver

3. Monkfish liver

4. Stripejack -- probably Cocinero

4. Stripejack — probably Cocinero

5. Minced fatty tuna (i.e. from the belly)

5. Minced fatty tuna (i.e. from the belly)

Two firefly squid, with miso topping. Though I refer to them as "sushi krakens"

6. Two firefly squid, with miso topping. Though I refer to them as “sushi krakens”

7. Red snapper

7. Red snapper

8. Red shrimp. Too big for a mouthful, so the chef cut it in half

8. Red shrimp. Too big for a mouthful, so the chef cut it in half

9, 10 and 11. Three types of tuna. From back to front: something I didn't catch; back; belly

9, 10 and 11. Three types of tuna. From back to front: something I didn’t catch; back; belly

Here, we can take a break from sushi for a moment, and meet the chef — here, seen preparing the monkfish liver sushi.

img_20170220_182624

He was one of two chefs behind the counter, each of them serving six of the dozen diners arrayed along the bar. (There was one other two-person table, but it was not occupied when we there there.) In addition, there was another chef preparing ingredients — we think it was the owner, Yasu himself — and a hostess.

From front to back: our chef; sous chef; the other chef

From front to back: our chef; Yasu; the other chef. Also, nine of the twelve place settings. The other three were round the corner of the bar, to my left.

Now, back to the sushi!

12. Salmon roe with yuzu zest

12. Salmon roe with yuzu zest

13. Sea urchin with grated wasabi

13. Sea urchin with grated wasabi

14. Yellowtail (hamachi)

14. Yellowtail (hamachi)

15. Mackerel with ginger and pickled radish

15. Mackerel with ginger and pickled radish

16. Smoked skipjack tuna

16. Smoked skipjack tuna

17. Sea eel

17. Sea eel

18. Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), which was half way between an omelette and a cake

18. Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), which was half way between an omelette and a cake

And finally:

19. Black sesame ice cream

19. Black sesame ice cream

Put it all together, and you have a truly outstanding experience. Not a particularly cheap one, I’ll grant you — 80 Canadian dollars each comes out a little below £50 in real money. But then, we drank water, and had street tacos for one of our lunches, so it all balances out.

Omakase is a completely different experience from regular sushi: much more restrained, more elegant. It’s less food — but that may not be a bad thing for me. It doesn’t feel like a small meal, because it takes place over a period of about 90 minutes. I would definitely do this again.

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6 responses to “Omakase sushi — a new experience

  1. Richard G. Whitbread

    Pah! Kaitenzushi is the ONLY way to go… ;-)

  2. You could have waited for the chef to cook it !

  3. I _love_ Yasu – wonderful sushi and, as you note, an outstanding experience. Next time in Toronto you must also try Sushi Kaji (http://www.sushikaji.com/top.html). It is also outstanding, if a bit further out from downtown. My wife and I are going there in a few weeks, for her birthday :-)

  4. Well, Sushi Kaji looks great — you have to admire the dedication of a chef who makes his own soy sauce — but I think $80 CAN was stretching the old expense account and I would struggle to justify $130 :-)

  5. …particularly if you aren’t taking your wife on her birthday ;-)

  6. Omakase is an expensive, but wonderful, experience. It’s one of the things we budget for in our lives, particularly when we travel. Most major cities in the US and Canada have restaurants with notable omakase meals. We’ve indulged in Vancouver BC (Tojo’s), Honolulu (Izakaya Gaku), Los Angeles (Matsuhisa) and Seattle (Nishino), and we’ve been amazed with every meal. I know it was a real extravagance, but sometimes a great meal is something that lasts with you long after you’ve shed the extra poundage.

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