Toronto's new brunch spot is already getting a massive waitlist on weekends
Toronto's newest brunch spot only just opened, but people are already clambering to get on a weekend waitlist that can stretch to over 30 names long.
This place is actually also hiding a secret: it's about way more than just brunch.
Ohiru in Little Italy serves Japanese-inspired brunch, but also functions as an all-day concept by turning into a chill bar serving traditional Japanese food called Sampo at night.
"Ohiru is Japanese inspired brunch where we take the traditional breakfast fare and add a Japanese twist," Ramen Isshin managing partner Jason Matsubara, who's also behind Ohiru, tells blogTO.
"Sampo serves traditional Japanese food that you enjoy while having drinks with friends. The food portions are small and are meant to be shared with friends. Both Sampo and Ohiru have been very successful with waitlists for Ohiru on the weekends being up to 20 to 30 names long."
For example, at Ohiru you'll find the karaage and waffles ($23) with Japanese-style fried chicken, homemade waffles, garlic aioli and miso syrup, as well as chashu Eggs Benny ($18.50) with pork belly and yuzu hollandaise.
At Sampo, you'll find options like edamame, wings, and ramen that's actually made by one of the city's top ramen chefs.
"For Sampo, I've teamed up with my friend and fellow ramen competitor Ryu Takahashi, who owns Buta-Nibo Ramen, Ryus Noodle Bar, and co-owns Tempura Keisuke with me, who has 27 years of culinary experience," says Matsubara.
"The front of house of Sampo is run by my general manager Mami Orihara of Ramen Isshin, and Eri Kinjo who was the FOH manager of Zakkushi."
Ohiru means "lunch time," and Sampo roughly translates to "going for a walk."
Though the brunch has taken off, the idea for Ohiru actually came to Matsubara first, desiring a chill place that didn't close around 10 or 11 p.m. but wasn't like a bar or club.
"Sampo came about because I wanted to fill a niche that was missing in the Little Italy/Kensington Market area. Selfishly, a personal drinking spot. I was looking for a chill and relaxing drinking spot that was open past 11 p.m.," says Matsubara.
"Because the Japanese snack bar was a nighttime concept, I had the daytime open where I wanted to do something rather than leave it empty. That's how Ohiru was born."
The team behind Ohiru is obviously nothing to sneeze at either, with Matsubara bringing on a chef with 12 years of culinary experience from a previous restaurant he owned in Markham, Anthony Chu.
"In partnering with all of these employees and friends, I made sure all of us own a piece of the business to share the joys and pains of running a restaurant," says Matsubara. "It has always been a goal of mine to share my success with others."
Ohiru is open 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is closed on Tuesdays, and Sampo is open 6 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. and is closed on Wednesdays.
"We have thought about a second store, but for now we want to focus on one step at a time and perhaps look at another location in 2024," says Matsubara.
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