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Restaurants

Sushi Kaji

Posted by Staff / Reviewed on November 23, 2005 / review policy

SUshi KAJiThere is good food. There is great food. There is even spectacular food. And then there is food that transcends one's very notion of taste. This kind of food makes your whole world stop; it's food that makes what's happening inside your mouth all that matters. With food like this, I find myself staring into space, forgetting about the rest of world, succumbing completely to the unique sensations that start on my tongue and somehow take over my entire consciousness.

Never had the pleasure of such an experience? Think I'm exaggerating? Put it to the test. Go to Sushi Kaji, savour every bite, and then tell me I'm wrong.

I had wanted to go to Kaji for a long time. It's one of the restaurants that makes Toronto a world-class city, because it's probably one of the best restaurants anywhere. So when the day of our reservation had finally come, I was ready.

So here's a crash course on the world at Kaji: you pay $120 for the Omakase - a weekly tasting menu consisting of approximately eight - ten courses, made with only the freshest and highest quality of seasonal ingredients. (There is also an $85 menu, but at Kaji it's the full-fledged experience we're after.) There is clearly an obsession for perfection upheld not only by Chef Kaji but by every member of his team. Yet, to note this obsession hardly does justice to an experience at this restaurant. Each course is exquisite: I'm blown away by the pairing of inventiveness, playfulness, and riskiness with an intense precision that illustrates some serious skill. Through each course, your senses are brought to life on every level.

Enough vague descriptions. Let me give you a rough outline of what we ate (even though words really cannot begin to describe it). Keep in mind that while many of the dishes sound simple, they are not: there is a consistent layering of flavour that makes each bite of food come alive in your mouth in a way you may not have thought possible.

Our meal consisted of the following courses:
1) Creamy cauliflower soup, served with an asparagus tempura to dip.
2) Lobster and Avocado "salad," which included raw lobster and avocado mousse, and was eaten with a spoon.
3) Generously sized dumplings filled with sweetbreads in a sauce of what I think was caramelized cherries, accompanied by a small salad of micro-greens, dotted with a mango dressing.
4) Sashimi course: included hefty slices of o-toro (the fatty tuna belly that nearly made me swoon the first time I ever tasted it); red snapper; abalone; octopus; sea bream; and others I was unfamiliar with.
5) Bonito broth with poached sea bream, sticky rice, and lily.
6) A take on "fish 'n' chips": lightly battered and fried flounder on a bed of thinly grated and fried potato sticks, served with tempura dipping sauce
7) A trio of small dishes: conch soup, served in its shell (you eat the fried conch first and then pour the soup out of the natural spout into the bowl provided); a salad of persimmon, cucumber and cooked shrimp, served in the persimmon itself; a terrine of unagi (barbequed eel), sushi rice and cooked egg.
8) Sushi course: beginning with two bowls - a) uni (sea urchin roe) served with salmon roe on top of sushi rice (this was one of the greatest things I'd ever tasted); b) tartar of o-toro, topped with finely sliced mountain potato, on top of sushi rice. These bowls were accompanied by a delcious soba in broth. They were then followed by a selection of sushi, including lobster, king crab, scallop, and others I was not familiar with but absolutely loved.
9) Dessert: We are each given a separate dish, so we could share - a) a layered, panna cotta type dish with mango mousse and raspberry puree, served with a selection of fresh berries; b) a delicious potato noodle dish also served with fresh berries.

We washed this meal down with some excellent green tea and exquisite sake. (The sake menu changes regularly, too. Needless to say we paid dearly for it, but equally needless to mention is that it was worth it).

So there you are, my first visit to Kaji, summed up in a way that can scarcely do it justice.

I know there are many approaches to food out there; to some, paying this kind of money for food is nothing short of insanity; to others, it's just another evening out. To me, it's something truly special - a relatively rare but thoroughly relished experience that was worth every penny.

Photo by Eternal Seahorse in the blogTO FLickr pool

Discussion

13 Comments

Shirley / November 24, 2005 at 11:49 am
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The experience I had at Kaji was truly amazing. My husband and I each pick one of the omakases (one $120 and one $85) to try the widest variety. We had toro (tuna belly) from blue fin tuna which totally melted in our mouth. It is the finest and freshest ingredients, the creativity of food matching and the care in presentation that make the experience out of this world.
The only japanese restaurant in Canada I have tried that can match this is Tojo in Vancouver, THE master chef that recreate Japanese food in North America.
Steve / February 4, 2006 at 02:36 am
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I've been to Tojo in Vancouver, Kaji, Hiro, and Zen in Toronto. Frankly, I would rank them in the following order: Hiro, Kaji, Zen, and then Tojo, but I have yet to try omakase at Zen, so the order might change when I do. There used to be another restaurant on Broadway in Vancouver called Bon Sushi, which I thought was much better that Tojo's in terms of food, but then I used to eat there 2 to three times a week, so I do get some special treatments. I had dinner at Tojo once two friends visiting from Toronto, they were very excited becuase of all the hype in the guide book. After the meal, they were both scratching their heads not knowing why he is so highly praised.

Anyway, in terms of just Sushi T.O., I think Hiro and Kaji is on par with each other, but Hiro represent a better value though. I also think both Chefs would be even better if they were in Vancouver , having access to the ingredients that are available there. Just my 2 cents. Cheers.
Henry / April 23, 2006 at 06:51 pm
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Hi:
Although Hiro may present "apparent" better value, it's overall quality is not on par with Kaji's. I've had some bad dishes at Hiro, but never at Kaji.
Rob / January 5, 2007 at 02:18 pm
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Kaji was incredible. Given we went in December, the otoro was in season, and we had it in both the sashimi course and the sushi course. The soup was so warming and delicious, and the saki was sweet as nectar. I can't wait to go back in spring time to see waht Kaji San has prepared.
Jon / September 3, 2008 at 01:55 pm
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Is there anywhere in Toronto or Canada for that matter that serves Blowfish sushi?
Atsushi / October 2, 2009 at 02:24 am
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I went this restaurant on Oct 1st. They offer wonderful Japanese cuisine. I’ve been many Japanese restaurants in Canada but many of them were not Japanese food and usually the restaurant owners are not Japanese but Korean or Chinese. Mr. Kaji, who is top chef of this restaurant, had enough careers in Japan and knows what real, authentic, traditional and delicious foods are. I was totally satisfied with the dishes, and reminded me the taste of Japan such as flavor of herbs, verges, and mushrooms. If you can't go to Japan, I strongly recommend eating there to know standard but authentic Japanese food. It's pricy but worth to pay.
Fugu replying to a comment from Jon / October 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm
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Blowfish is highly illegal here in Toronto, or Canada as a matter of fact. This question is like asking, is there anywhere I can buy cocaine? The answer is YES of course, but noone will tell you where on an open public forum. lol
You're better off waiting for plane ticket sale and try it in Japan. However, be prepared to be disappointed if you're trying "fugu sushi". It's no different from a nice piece of Tai.
One might argue cooked (shabushabu) blowfish is worth life-risking for.
Zsuzsika Beck / June 1, 2010 at 05:09 pm
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I am going to Sushi Kaji on Saturday for dinner. I was a bit hesitant as I am no master of Japanese Cuisine. After reading the above comments I am more excited to try this amazing experience. Thank you for sharing ~ will be sure to come back and share my experience after Saturday...
J*town replying to a comment from Zsuzsika Beck / May 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm
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Haven't heard back. He probably found the blowfish.
Lileth / November 18, 2013 at 09:54 pm
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Kaji has a lot of great dishes served. From soup to their main course. Especially their Sushi and Shashimi. I loved those kinds of foods. Even though I never had been in Kaji, as I'm reading this site, I imagined how their foods offered very delicious. A price doesn’t matter if you will enjoy their foods. 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
parks / December 3, 2013 at 05:34 pm
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I was thinking of taking my girlfriend here for our anniversary but she has a gluten & lactose allergy. We eat sushi quite often (not at any places of this caliber though) but she can't have the soy sauce or tempura, I'm not worried about the sushi or sashimi, from the description she can have mostly everything (I think) except course #6 as it's breaded. I don't want to take her here and be rude to the chef or waste money by her not being able to eat a lot of things. Any advice ?
Brandon Davids / May 17, 2014 at 09:30 pm
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I just took my parents here for dinner and we had an incredible and memorable meal. We all did the $120 menu and we thoroughly enjoyed each course. It was the perfect amount of food too. I will probably go back and try the smaller $100 menu with the $68 wagyu add on. It's quite a feat to serve a customer 9 courses with probably 30 or 40 prepared components and pull it off and have the customer enjoy each and every morsel!
Brandon Davids / May 17, 2014 at 09:34 pm
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I forgot to mention that we splurged on some fantastic sake as well. The service was also excellent and they pace your meal perfectly. The sushi course is like the grand finale of a fireworks show. I'm also a dessert fanatic and I was impressed with the 3 different desserts they gave us. I rate Kaji well above the Morimoto omokase I have had as well.

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