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Restaurants

Akai Sushi

Posted by Amanda / Reviewed on March 27, 2010 / review policy

Akai Sushi TorontoAkai Sushi opened in the Annex two months ago. In an area with all too many sushi joints as it is, I was initially skeptical whether another was needed, but unable to tame my curiosity, I decided to stop in for a quick sample last week.

Akai Sushi TorontoThe Korean and Japanese restaurant is decorated with more care than most Annex sushi joints, featuring dark wood and seats not totally crammed together. I was happy to find that there's a lunch special menu that runs from 12 to 3 daily. On this visit I order the sushi lunch ($9.95) which comes with six pieces of sushi and six rolls, as well as a nice and subtle miso soup and salad.

The meal starts out well with nice, fresh fish. I'm particularly taken with the salmon -- so fatty it just melts in my mouth.

I usually find California rolls in the Annex a bit bland but these ones are a creamy delight, with just the right amount of roe and crab flavour. I gobble them up quickly.

Akai Sushi TorontoMy friend orders the chicken teriyaki and tempura bento box ($11.95) which comes with three salmon rolls. When it first arrives I take one look at the teriyaki and my skepticism floods back -- the chicken is pale and looks flavourless. But when I try a piece, I'm surprised to find that it's actually really tasty: it just hasn't been marinated in the teriyaki sauce.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. All too often, low-end sushi restaurants drench their teriyaki dishes in sickly sweet sauce that obliterates all other flavours.

The teriyaki also comes with a side of tempura which are crispy and not too heavy, and the salmon rolls, my friend tells me, are absolutely delicious. We agree that it seems that Akai's recurring theme is "light and fresh."

Akai Sushi TorontoI chat briefly with the chef and find out that he was a sushi chef for 10 years in California before coming to Toronto. Apparently his sushi style is rather typical of California because my friend, who's in fact visiting from San Francisco, says that his food reminds her a great deal of what she gets at home.

While we enjoyed our meal I'm still concerned about what will happen to Akai in an area that has all too many Japanese restaurants to begin with. Sushi on Bloor and New Generation Sushi, the two heavy hitters in the area, offer lunch specials for as low as $6. Akai is a cut above in terms of quality, but I can't help but think that even the small four to six dollar price difference might be enough to make students lose interest. But I, for one, am happy to have a quiet little restaurant with good food just off campus.

Akai SushiOur bill, which includes complimentary green tea, tip, and tax, comes up to about $32. Akai offers takeout and delivery, and is open Mon-Wed 12-10 p.m., Thurs-Sat 12-11 p.m., and Sun 4-9 p.m.

Akai Sushi Toronto

Discussion

37 Comments

Hirohito / March 29, 2010 at 09:57 am
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What's with all these Korean/Japanese restaurant reviews? 95% of these restaurants are generic carbon copies of each other with the same business model: provide cheap food at whatever cost.

And Amanda, Japanese chefs don't "marinate" their chicken in teriyaki sauce. If you knew a bit about cooking, you'd know that the high sugar content of teriyaki sauce would cause the meat to burn while cooking.
amanda replying to a comment from Hirohito / March 29, 2010 at 10:06 am
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Hi Hirohito

We try to review restaurants that are new first and foremost, and luck of the draw keeps landing me with asian ones, sorry about that. Keep watching though and I'm sure others reviews that will be posted the rest of the week will make you happier. :)

As for chicken not being marinaded in teriyaki. There's no easy way to break this to you. I just am going to suggest you google chicken teriyaki recipes. Maybe this isn't the right way to do it and what we were served the other day was indeed the right way--I have zero argument with that, I just know what I see served often is indeed marinated.
Ikkymasho / March 29, 2010 at 10:06 am
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Ideas for Akai
1) do a direct mail drop to the campus
2) have some student special that keeps them coming back
3) have slightly cheaper beer (/25- .50 cheaper than all the joints on Bloor)
4) stay open late late on Friday/Saturday nights to become know as the late night sushi joint
5) Play jap pop over the stereo
6) give out Pocky or some other Japanese candy with the bill
7) encourage patrons to bring their own chopsticks that Akai keeps up on the wall like they do in Japan
Robb replying to a comment from Hirohito / March 29, 2010 at 10:40 am
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Ouch! no need to be so crass with your tone, Hirohito.

Perhaps the meat was tenderized or marinated with salt/sugar before placing on the grill? Nonetheless, they were happy with their chicken in the end.
AmPot / March 29, 2010 at 10:42 am
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Thank you for reviewing this one! I was excited to see another sushi place in the Annex (because sometimes the lines are way too long for SOB and New Gen) but was hesitant to go to Akai in case the price was much higher. Thanks to your review, I will definitely go and try for myself!
Seanna / March 29, 2010 at 10:52 am
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Ikkamasho:

#7 = disgusting. Can you imagine if people just left their chopsticks all over the place. We are none too organized (or clean enough) to adopt this Japanese practice .... that's just asking for disaster (in the name of rats, or something).
Alex / March 29, 2010 at 11:27 am
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this place has quickly become one of my favourite sushi restaurants in the city.
I don't think playing jap pop would suit the atmosphere they are going for.

For a modest increase in price over the bargain carbon copies on bloor you get amazing eats. That being said, they're definitely more into catering toward the spillover crowd from the nearby Loir, Tati, and Harbord House.

Chris / March 29, 2010 at 11:28 am
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I would welcome Akai if they put the sort of effort and thought into their business that can be seen at the other restaurants and stores along that strip of Harbord. Unfortunately, they’ve just cloned the crap sushi joints that dominate Bloor to the north. This is something the neighbourhood does not need. I was hopeful when I saw the notice that a sushi restaurant was opening in the old convenience/flower store location, thinking that there was a need for quality sushi in the area, but was totally pissed when they I saw that they took the cheap route and left the ugly ugly exterior – including the greenhouse(?). I refuse to give them my business and look forward to their closing.
Ikkymasho / March 29, 2010 at 11:37 am
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Seanna / MARCH 29, 2010 AT 10:52 AM

Ikkamasho:

#7 = disgusting. Can you imagine if people just left their chopsticks all over the place. We are none too organized (or clean enough) to adopt this Japanese practice .... that's just asking for disaster (in the name of rats, or something).
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Uh, no. Not disgusting. Obviously the f'ing chopsticks get washed and stored properly.

You come to the restaurant
The staff say heyyy! hello mr regular! let me get you your chopsticks
They get the little box off the wall that has your chopsticks
You eat
You finish
They take your chopsticks back, obviously wash them, and put them back in the box and put the box on the wall

They do it at Japango at Dundas+Elizabeth. Stop being so lame.
gonzalo / March 29, 2010 at 11:38 am
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korean and japanese are 2 completely different cruisine... why would people want them together? GROSS!!!! i only go to japanese restaurant that is operated by a real japanese and serving only japanese food...
Jimmy / March 29, 2010 at 11:52 am
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korean and japanese are 2 completely different cruisine... why would people want them together? GROSS!!!! i only go to japanese restaurant that is operated by a real japanese and serving only japanese food...
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Yeah, sure, why don't you tell us alllll those Toronto Japanese joints run by only Japanese people. Can't wait to bask in the glowing aura of your immense knowledge of the topic.

As for a restaurant offering two different kinds of cuisine, "gross' is probably the f'ing stupidest comment one could possibly make about it.
amanda replying to a comment from gonzalo / March 29, 2010 at 04:23 pm
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I can't honestly say I saw very much Korean influence in their cooking. That said the chef himself has been trained and preparing sushi in california for 10 years, so I trust it.

@Chris--have you gone in? I was actually very impressed with the decor. Unfortunately the shots I took to try and capture it didnt turn out (you may notice this photoset in general is weak--I unfortunately didn't notice it at the time but everything was overexposed). I do suggest taking a peek in, and if you decide you still dislike it, at least your decision is informed.

To all: Just a friendly reminder to try to stay as civil as possible. :)
matts / March 29, 2010 at 04:57 pm
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I am glad as hell that this seems to be one restaurant in the area that is NOT trying to win the bargain basement sushi game. When it comes to fresh and raw seafood, there should be a certain price premium expected and I am going to happily pay for it.

On another hand, funny how much vitriol people keep bottled up only to let it out in comments on a sushi restaurant: Chris, Gonzalo, Seanna - bravo, you win the award for the most bile.
amanda / March 29, 2010 at 05:16 pm
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WAIT! Sorry I just remembered, when I went back with my father he got the bulgogi. It was rather good, though I'd still go for the sushi!
Henry / March 29, 2010 at 08:04 pm
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Japan has a large ethnic Korean population and Korean food is popular in Japan; hence why we see so many hybrid restaurants.
mondayjane / March 29, 2010 at 08:41 pm
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Happy to see a sushi place in my neighbourhood - Sushi on Bloor and New Gen have kind of lost the plot, IMO. Light and fresh sounds good to me!<br> And yeah, strange that these comment-ers are duking it out over a sushi restaurant they have not even tried. Is it a full moon?
Gloria replying to a comment from mondayjane / March 30, 2010 at 11:13 am
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I've noticed that when it comes to Toronto blogs, the topic of sushi restaurants brings out the angriest and snobbiest people, especially the ones who have no qualms about implying racial superiority. It's kind of scary.
jamie / March 30, 2010 at 02:43 pm
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My third visit to Akai Sushi yesterday kept me satisfied as usual :)
I order the sushi lunch special while my friend ordered a spicy crunch tuna roll and a crunch roll. The food was fresh and service was great. The free fruit dessert at the end of the meal was also very tasty.
山山 / March 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm
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These trolls that come out flinging their poo whenever a restaurant opens up do provide some funny entertainment.

Special lolz go out to the person that said Japanese should be done by Japanese. I'm not American...guess I should stop cooking burgers !!!
meow replying to a comment from 山山 / March 30, 2010 at 11:54 pm
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山山, if only it were as simple as you put it. Sure, I'd love to believe that everyone is equal and everyone has an equal ability at cooking different cuisines. But the fact of the matter is that this isn't true.

Next time you go to your favourite french bakery, ask yourself if it matters that the owner/chef is from France and has been trained there. Or, ask yourself if you'd think more highly of an Ethiopian restaurant whose owner/chef is from Ethiopia (and so we assume has more knowledge and understanding of the food) compared to an anglo saxon with no ties to Ethiopia. Or, ask yourself if you'd rather go to a Mexican restaurant where the owner/chef has ties to Mexico, as opposed to ones that don't. The list goes on...

I think people here get so riled up about this topic, b/c of the lack of understanding of East Asian societies. People in N. America generally believe that East Asians (eg Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc) are all similar. And b/c of this similarity, people then deduce that it really doesn't matter if a Korean then cooks Japanese food. East Asians are all the same (so this line of thinking goes), so the food is good regardless of where the owner/chef grew up. However, to believe this just demonstrates people's ignorance.

I, for one, know this isn't true. And, so, when I go to a Chinese restaurant, I value the experience more (and prefer) if the owner/chef is from China. Similarly, if I go to a Japanese restaurant, it makes the experience that much more authentic (and better), if the owner/chef is from Japan.
Vivyruest / March 31, 2010 at 12:41 pm
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Akai...I looooove them. They don't have to change one thing! The price is right, the service is perfect, the food is fresh fresh fresh. It's the only sushi restaurant I go to in the Annex since they open. I love the crush rolls and the Scallops sushi. I wonder if they will have a patio in the summer...that would be interesting. Long live Akai Sushi! xx♥
Ashley / March 31, 2010 at 01:26 pm
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Long live Akai Sushi lol. Their prices are no more expensive than the other sushi restaurants in Toronto (except the ones in the Annex which offers cheap sushi for crappy quality), but their quality is far superior. I've asked the server about the greenhouse (?) structure attached to the restaurant, and she told me that the city isn't accepting their proposal for the patio permit. This is definitely one of the best sushi places in the downtown area! I'm actually just about to go there for lunch right now lol.
Shannon replying to a comment from meow / March 31, 2010 at 04:56 pm
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Re: Chefs with the "correct" nationality:

I know this is Canada and not the States, but if you go to any of the highest restaurants in the major metropolitan areas of New York, San Fransisco or LA, including the French, Italian, Asian and Fusion restaurants, all of your actual chefs (that is, everyone other than the executive chef), are Mexican immigrants. And not the kinds who grew up cooking. Just ask Anthony Bourdain, he will be happy to tell you that it doesn't matter where you're from, as long as you understand the food.
debra tingrashnaham replying to a comment from Shannon / March 31, 2010 at 05:20 pm
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The operate words being "everyone other than the executive chef". Sounds like the Mexicans are line or food prep cooks, which really doesn't support your argument.

The Shannons and Glorias of the world can continue to live in a deluded let's-all-be-politically-correct mindset, a mindset where "made in China" and "made in Japan" doesn't matter, where Italian fine furniture, clothes, and sports car are equivalent to those made by Americans, where Olympians are not grouped by nationality, but simply by gender, etc, etc.

Canadians have no balls. As soon as there's a likelihood of offending a group, cultural differences cease to exist. We are all equal. That's multiculturalism for you.
Shannon replying to a comment from debra tingrashnaham / March 31, 2010 at 06:25 pm
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Well now I'm just confused. Firstly, I'm an American, and second I'm a lady so the status of my balls is "negligible at best". But more than that, you seem to be confused about how restaurants actually work. It sure as he'll isn't the executive chef making 99% of your food. It the sous chefs, the chefs at the entree, salad, and dessert stations, the sauciers and the soup chefs. And the last time I checked, Anthony Bourdain, who for years ran the best French bistro in NYC and who credits mexican immigrants with the success of his restaurant, was an Italian American urbanite. We're not trying to be PC, we're trying to tell you your opinion of chefs is narrow minded and based on a pretentious assumption of "authenticity" rather than on whether they cook qualty food from any nation.
adm replying to a comment from Shannon / March 31, 2010 at 06:33 pm
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lol. looks like debra really got to you, eh?
matts replying to a comment from debra tingrashnaham / April 1, 2010 at 10:59 am
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Stereotypes are a bitch. Thomas Keller does wonders to French cuisine in California and if you want a local example go to Ame and check out their take on Asian and Japanese in particular. And Guy Rubino isn't Japanese either. True, it's easier for someone of particular ethnicity to excel at that cuisine, after all they probably grew up eating that food at home and had a head start, in a way. But that does not in any way preclude others from doing great job. So perhaps the discussion about the end result, that is how the food is presented, how it tastes and how good the service is, really should exclude the nationality or gender (or religion or sexual orientation or whatever) of the chef.
Shannon replying to a comment from adm / April 1, 2010 at 04:50 pm
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I tried to be polite the first time, and then she said this: "The Shannons and Glorias of the world can continue to live in a deluded let's-all-be-politically-correct mindset" which is a personal attack. So, yes. Got to me. A tad.
noire / April 4, 2010 at 04:29 am
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Hi everyone,

I just thought I would add a few thoughts:

I would think being from a different country can be an advantage. Why? You treat the experience of learning objectively, from an outside perspective. Your experimenting with flavours, deconstructing the flavours, and understanding the intentions of the flavours, presentation, preparation g etiquette etc. are based on attentive experienced education to your pallette and your sensations as well as to your mind. While I think this can be an advantage to recreating traditional dishes, it also can lead to some very exciting culinary discoveries and new creative dishes. To note, there is nothing I consider wrong with innovation in cooking, and as a lover of Japanese cuisine, I acknowledge that this happens very often in Japan. One can look at Osaka, Japan as a great example for innovation (and originators - as innovations become traditional dishes) in Japanese cuisine.

In a larger sense, to say that one would not eat dishes unless they are made by a person from the originating country leads to some major problems. Food for thought: Was rice originally found in Japan? If not, would you say you are not going to eat rice unless it was made by [nationality of person from the originating country of rice]? some other 'Japanese foods' to consider: tempura, ramen, 'california rolls'

Also, just to show how this issue of eating from the origins argument can lead to problems: When you go to Japan, these dishes are not necessarily associated by nation, but rather by regions of Japan and how they are prepared. So, if you are really being 'true' to your 'authentic' culinary experience, you must also consider what regional style of the dish is being prepared, and what region from Japan is the chef.

Just some thoughts to consider.

Oh! and Amanda, great job with the blog, I just got onto it last week and am loving it!

amanda replying to a comment from noire / April 4, 2010 at 07:15 am
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Thanks Noire! I'm sure you've noticed however, but I only write some of the food reviews, we've got many other writers and Tim's the mastermind behind BlogTO (Derek and Jerrold are pretty close second, as the editors).--Just don't want to take credit where it ain't due. :D Glad you're loving blogTO though!!!!

And all--just letting you know, I'm following and seeing many good points, I just am keeping out of it to see where it goes naturally. :)
amanda / May 2, 2010 at 10:41 am
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there's no such thing as California Roll in Japan!! :) it's NOT japanese food!!
Katie / October 6, 2010 at 06:21 pm
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I moved to Toronto a couple months ago and Akai is in our neighborhood. I thought it was a fantastic break from Bloor. The decor is subtle but much more refined, and the service is great. I'm a vegetarian but I've sampled many of their options and haven't found one I didn't like. My husband is the sushi eater and thinks it is as good as anything we were able to find while living in NYC - he especially loves the salmon. I can personally say that the presentation is beautiful. I'd recommend it to anyone.
lee replying to a comment from Ikkymasho / March 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm
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you should just eat at the Brunswick House.
hey replying to a comment from meow / March 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm
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I really don't care what people say, I love this place. If you don't, thats fine go somewhere else I wouldn't want to sit next to you anyway. If you cause trouble I would probably help them bounce you out.
Margaret / May 28, 2012 at 07:41 pm
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This place is really delicious. I've been here twice, last time I got the sashimi bento box and it was awesome, I got way more pieces than was on the menu. Also both times I've been here the restaurant was empty and they gave us free dishes. I recommend everyone go. now.
Sean / June 10, 2014 at 08:27 am
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Akai Sushi (168 Major St.)
Inspected on: June 5, 2014
Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional)
Number of infractions: 5 (Minor: 3, Significant: 5, Crucial: 2)
Crucial infractions include: Operator fail to ensure food is not contaminated/adulterated. Operate food premise maintained in manner adversely affecting sanitary condition.
Mio / August 21, 2014 at 08:47 pm
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Akai Sushi offers fresh and high quality rolls/sushi at a reasonable price. I've been a regular for about a year and was never disappointed. Much better quality than slightly cheaper sushi restaurants on Bloor/Spadina. Having lived in both Japan and Korea, I am absolutely satisfied with the quality at Akai.

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