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Restaurants

Fin Izakaya

Posted by Devon Scoble / Listed on October 25, 2009 / review policy

fin izakaya torontoFin Izakaya, a newish gastro-pub near Yonge and Eglinton, entices diners with an extensive menu. In Japan, as it does here, izakaya means "place for sake", and references casual pubs serving high-end snacks. Fin Izakaya's tempting, picture-heavy menu summarizes the concept by scrawling "tapas" across several categories of selections. Ranging from fresh vegetable salads and pickled kimchis to sashimi plates and wagyu hotpots, the artful menu promises enough flavour to excite any sample-happy gourmand.

Passing up the whimsically named "Asian Tofu Fight" (a selection of Japanese, Korean and Chinese tofu) and a disturbing number of shark-fin based dishes, my dining partners and I order a selection of traditional izakaya fare: Wakame Salad, Ika Sugata Yaki, Kakuni Pork, and Yakisoba. Wisely, considering Toronto's love affair with sushi, Fin breaks with izakaya tradition by offering a decent selection of sashimi and rolls, so we order a Tuna Tataki, plus a pitcher of Sapporo to wash it all down. I'm hesistant to pass up Fin's creative cocktail menu, but izakaya is all about sharing, so I defer to my friends.

fin izakaya torontoOur meal starts on a high note with Wakame Salad, firm jade ribbons of fresh seaweed, sweet slices of avocado, crisp daikon and popping roe in a pucker-kiss vinaigrette. Tongues-a-tingling, we devour the plate by the time the Tuna Tataki arrives.

Seared at the edges, each slab of ahi tuna appears deliciously rare and moist in the centre. Although the menu displays the tuna resting next to thin curls of Spanish onion, we find the onion has migrated nearer, serving as filling for the rolled tataki, which are also topped with thick black roe and cubes of jellied ponzu. Unfortunately the combination is too much: the sharp onion and pungent ponzu overpower the ahi, and relegate the prime attraction to mere wrapper status.

fin izakaya torontoThis dissonance between pictured-promise and actual dish continues throughout our meal. The Ika Sugata Yaki, presented as a plateful of cuttlefish rings in buttery jus, is actually half-a-plate of cephalopod with a pat of butter on top. Same goes for Kakuni Pork: although obligingly liquid on first bite, the actual dish is much smaller than its print version appears.

fin izakaya torontoFortunately Yakisoba lives up to expectations, the firm wheat noodles a savoury base for a thin, delightfully saucy omelette. Kewpie mayo, and katsu don sauce squiggle bursts of flavour across the egg, crisscrossing a straight line of powdered, kelpy seaweed. The effect is delicious.

fin izakaya torontoThe Yakisoba is great, but we're still hungry. The food at Fin Izakaya, although tasty, is not nearly as good as it looks in print, and we're hesitant to discover whether future choices will be hits or misses. Instead we call it a draw, pay the bill, and head into the cold, chagrined to find there is more than enough for us all.

Small meal/big snack for three, plus tax and tip: $70.

Discussion

19 Comments

K / October 26, 2009 at 08:48 am
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boycott establishments that practice over-barbaric seafood preparations: NO SHARK FIN!!!!!!!!!!!!! what the hell is wrong with people? don't even give them ANY publicity!!!
jamesmallon / October 27, 2009 at 03:12 pm
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K, nobody listens to anyone who uses all-caps, or a string of exclamation marks. Either your argument is cogent and uses proper grammar and style, or you need to get back on your meds. Mom's worried.
Caroline replying to a comment from jamesmallon / January 12, 2010 at 03:25 pm
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hahaha! So true.
su replying to a comment from jamesmallon / February 16, 2010 at 04:17 pm
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I don't see how eating shark is more barbaric than eating cot.
As long as there's no overfishing, and no torturing (electric fish net?) And there are definite over fishing of cot. so really, how is eating cot more civilize than eating shark? btw, people do eat the whole shark, it's not like the elephant tusks.

Thomas / March 21, 2010 at 03:18 pm
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Sorry Su. But you're quite wrong here. Sharks are harvested solely for their fins, often illegally. In protected waters, "finners" trap sharks and quite literally cut off their fins and throw the still live, struggling and terrified sharks back into the water followed by a trail of their on blood to the bottom of the ocean floor. They fall to the bottom as they cannot direct themselves without their fins. Shark fin soup is part of a traditional wedding menu in China and there is an alarming amount of over fishing to sustain the need as it has made it's way on to everyday menus because it is viewed a "luxury" food. Look it up. The shark population is dwindling due in no small part to shark finning -- and Fin Izakaya is just helping to add to the already grossly unregulated trade.
Thomas replying to a comment from su / March 21, 2010 at 03:20 pm
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Sorry Su. But you're quite wrong here. Sharks are harvested solely for their fins, often illegally. In protected waters, "finners" trap sharks and quite literally cut off their fins and throw the still live, struggling and terrified sharks back into the water followed by a trail of their on blood to the bottom of the ocean floor. They fall to the bottom as they cannot direct themselves without their fins. Shark fin soup is part of a traditional wedding menu in China and there is an alarming amount of over fishing to sustain the need as it has made it's way on to everyday menus because it is viewed a "luxury" food. Look it up. The shark population is dwindling due in no small part to shark finning -- and Fin Izakaya is just helping to add to the already grossly unregulated trade.
Jamil / March 22, 2010 at 03:08 pm
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Regardless thank you very much for the info/pics...Im going tonight, hopefully it is as good as it seems!
B / July 13, 2010 at 10:22 pm
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Just walked in because I wanted to try it. Service was great but the food wasn't great as I thought. Maybe I am not fond of squid or octopus anymore... Mackel was too salty. At least it's great service. The food / price wasn't small as I thought. I was kinda expecting Japanese dim sum type of thing. The server and staff and overall place was nice. 7 / 10
cbONE / October 19, 2010 at 01:24 pm
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am planning to check this place out, can someone tell me on a night like fri or sat do i need to make reservation, if not how long's the wait
A / March 29, 2012 at 01:45 pm
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Lol THEY DON'T SERVE ANY SHARK FINS!! It's Just a name.
Henry / December 19, 2012 at 11:39 am
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Thomas, sorry, you’re so misinformed !! Please don’t be blinded by propaganda based on some obscured video taken by somebody with hidden agenda.
The fact of the matter is that we DO consume most of the shark’s body – from shark steaks in restaurants to shark bone extracts for health food to shark oil and the list goes on. Reality is that, for vast majority of shark species, the shark’s “body” fetches more money than the fins.
Like any industry, there are bad apples and it is perfectly legit to try our very best to clean up. However, do you think all fishermen are so stupid that they only take the less valuable parts (fins) of the sharks and throw away the more valuable parts ?
tommy replying to a comment from Henry / December 25, 2012 at 03:13 pm
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How often do you see shark steak as an menu item's in the asian and western restaurant? Have you tried shark steak yourself? the meat is pretty rough in texture. Not many asian like this texture. The shark body is physically big compare to the shark fin, but it doesn't mean it can sell for more money. I don't really know the exact price but shark fin can sell for $100-$1000+ per oz. They are easier to preserve/and sell/handle then the shark meat. When do you see a $1000 of shark meat in a single supermarket? it is simply the demand of shark meat will not be greater than the fin.
Tim / March 10, 2013 at 08:28 pm
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Just came back from the worst meal I've had in years from this rip-off joint. Absolute pure garbage - and worst thing is they charged $10 for "birthday service" to sing a Japanese song for my sister's birthday? Are you joking me?? And the fork they gave me was the tiniest fork I've ever there, serious 2 tiny tongs that oculdn't even spear a cocktail weenine. When I asked for a normal fork since I couldn't eat the cake, they just ignored the request and I had to go up to the bar and get one myself. Never came to fill our water or tea or even cut our cake (I guess that would have been a further up charge). Food was incredibly tiny portions that was the saltiest thing I've ever ate. Could barely stomach a bite which was good since that was the size of the average plate. $200 for 4 adults (excluding me since I didn't eat) and 2 kids who hardly had anything. Beyond garbage...terrible service, rip-off food straight from salt lick, and - go to Shinobu if you want reasonably-priced Japanese food here or Zen or Kaji if you want to splurge. BEYOND BAD!!!!
jonathan replying to a comment from K / May 13, 2013 at 06:20 pm
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People, you are mis-understadning and having an unnecessary dispute (in this review bog at least), fin doesn't mean shark fins. Japanese words are made up of different letters/symbol, each of the symbols means something. In other words, the word sashimi in japanese dialect is 2 japanese words put together "fin body". It's kinda hard to explain why because you'd have to get into linguistics, it actually doesn't mean there's shark fin there. This is just a matter of the restaurant owner being linguistically challenged and causing confusion. I tried this restaurant btw, it was delicious and traditionally authentic
Jabberjaw / October 16, 2013 at 11:09 pm
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I frequent Fin's a few times each month. Always fresh, always tasty and reasonable. Probably the best and friendliest Izakaya in Toronto. Most of the comments are on here are from left field.
Ken / November 19, 2013 at 01:45 am
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Looks your food very interesting. Seeing on the pictures posted here, everyone will grave on your food presented. And regarding on the prices on your food is not expensive. Like another restaurant in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Kanji Sushi Restaurant & Sake Bar, one of the Finest Japanese Cuisine in Toronto. They offer different types of Sushi together with Sake wine. Traditional Japanese recipes with French and Italian influences. You can also visit their site @ http://kanjitoronto.com/#!/splash_page
jay / January 13, 2014 at 08:39 pm
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nothing to see here guys, very few Japanese items on the menu and the waitresses are not lookers/happening. I prefer Hapa
Hiro / April 15, 2014 at 02:59 pm
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Hey Ken, thanks for your spam 'comment'
I dined at Fin Friday night and it is a DEFINITE return
The food was good, they were very attentive and the waitress was a sweet thin chica that I will soon pick up.. too bad their uniform is bizarrely old maidish but I slipped said chica $20 and will return (she spent too much time talkin to co workers)
Hiro replying to a comment from jay / April 15, 2014 at 03:01 pm
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I forgot about Hapa. Love that place I almost cried when they were closed for a month last year luckily they have re opened the short skirts there have made me a sake drinker

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