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Tosho Knife Arts

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on January 11, 2012

Tosho Knife ArtsTosho Knife Arts is probably one of the worst places to visit in Toronto with a clumsy coworker or toddler in tow. That's because the Mirvish Village latest addition proudly presents its collection of steel Japanese knives delicately balanced on its wooden wall shelves and side tables. You're free to pick up a Konosuke HD Wa-Gyuto ($250), for example, grasp the wooden handle and buffalo horn ferrule and delicately run a finger along the blade, but you mustn't be easily startled. Or accident-prone, or jittery. It goes without saying — these knives are sharp.

Tosho Knife ArtsIt's not just the hand-forged Japanese design that makes these knives superior to others, explains Olivia Go, one half of the team behind Tosho Knife Arts. "The bevel is different, the steel is different, and it those ways, they hold the edge a lot longer." And when they do start to lose their edge, as knives inevitably do, Olivia and partner Ivan Fonseca know the proper way to sharpen them, performing the service ($5+) by hand using natural and synthetic Japanese water stones.

Tosho Knife Arts TorontoIt all happens at this lower-level shop, open since summer with the veteran knife team at the helm. Ivan comes from a culinary background, working both as a chef and a professional knife sharpener who started his own company, Fonseca Sharpening. Friends put Ivan in touch with Olivia, who went to chef school in New York and later taught knife skills classes at Good Egg in Kensington Market.

Tosho Knife Arts"We met at a coffee shop," Olivia tells me, "and he sat down an unrolled this amazing set of Japanese knives right there. They all looked brand new, even though he used them every day." Needless to say, Olivia was impressed, and the two starting working together to own their own shop.

Tosho is the realization of that pursuit, named for the Japanese word which Olivia says means both a knife master, as well as the wound incurred from a knife.

Tosho Knife ArtsShe gives me a mini tour of the space (which is where skills classes and workshops are also held) and I'm impressed at the seeming level of artistry and architecture that goes into each instrument. Olivia explains the HRC scale (Rockwell hardness scale) and notes the benefits of shaping knives by hand, as opposed to by machine. "With a machine," she says, "you're applying a lot of heat. And especially if you're not quenching that heat--say, with cold water--it can be bad for the knife. It won't hold the edge as long and you also run the risk of removing too much steel. When you do it by hand, there's greater attention to detail."

Tosho Knife Arts TorontoThe knives at Tosho start at around $100 (its big Christmas seller, for example, was its Mitsuaki-T paper knife for $120), right up to the Konosuke Honyaki carbon steel knife made with urushi lacquer for over $3,000. Now, as someone who has wasted far too many hours watching Ron Popeil carve a shoe during a late-night informercial, I can't imagine spending $3,000 on a knife, but then again, I'm not the target market for that particular knife.

Tosho Knife Arts TorontoWhile Tosho's customers include chefs at Toronto hotspots including Black Hoof, Parts and Labour, and Nota Bene (to name only a few), Olivia says the at-home chef should invest in a quality knife as well. "People tend to not put themselves on a level where they think they deserve a really good knife," she says. "If anything, it just makes the job easier." And Olivia is more than happy to show customers how, though her classes have already filled up until the end of January. Check out Tosho's website for skills and classes updates.

Tosho Knife Arts TorontoTosho Knife Arts Toronto



P / January 12, 2012 at 02:06 am
heading here when the zombies show up
KH / January 12, 2012 at 03:19 am
Thanks for this, I wasn't thrilked what Nella did to my knives when I took them in for sharpening. I'll see what these folks say, and it better not be "you need this $350.00 beauty, yours are knackered", Ha!
Toofie / January 12, 2012 at 08:34 am
Don't take your knives to Nella. They specialize in foodservice rentals for god's sake. Having them sharpen your knives is like taking your MK bladed skates and having the kid at City Hall's rink sharpen them.

Dull and Confused replying to a comment from Toofie / January 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Any idea where to take your knives to be sharpened?
Sharp / January 12, 2012 at 01:56 pm
Tosho is a Hand-Crafted Knife "Temple"... owned by Olivia and Ivan who are not gonna talk you into a knife you won't use...
furcouch replying to a comment from Dull and Confused / January 12, 2012 at 02:13 pm
Go to Knife on Queen Street West....or order some Naniwa Waterstones and learn to do it yourself. Really not difficult with the right tools.
Chris Reeve / January 12, 2012 at 03:22 pm
What an amazing shop, sweet Logo too!
sanjay / January 13, 2012 at 09:14 am
I emailed them yesterday about getting my shun refinished and sharpened -- I got a quick reply back and a good price so I will pop in next week and reply back with results! (i imagine i will be happy)
bauhaus / May 4, 2012 at 01:20 am
truely Japanese quality
Michael / October 23, 2012 at 08:05 pm
Excellent work on a wide variety of knives. Olivia did amazing work, rescuing a badly mistreated Mac that was almost ruined by a complete fool
Jacquelyn / May 1, 2013 at 11:11 am
This knife is able to cut, slice, dice as well as mince up your ingredients very fast which makes it
a must have in any self-respecting chef’s home. The original Kershaw Knives are a collaborated effort between custom knife makers Grant
and Gavin Hawk, Frank Centofante and Ken Onion. Japan is historically renowned
for producing the highest caliber of blades and cutlery.
Deano / December 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Slapchop or a blender, that's all ya need.

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