Michelin Toronto

You can have a two-Michelin star experience in Toronto for a fraction of the price

Sushi Masaki Saito in Toronto is Canada's only two Michelin-starred restaurant and commands a steep price for dining at the exclusive, six-seat, twice-a-night, omakase experience.

At $680, those lucky enough to secure (and afford) a seat at the sushi bar are treated to a flight of pristine and meticulously prepared seafood that has been sourced from the best purveyors, with much of it arriving daily from Japan.

What might have been prohibitively expensive for most, will be relatively affordable for a limited period. Sushi lovers curious about dining at Sushi Masaki Saito will have a glimpse of the level of cuisine the award-winning restaurant has garnered accolades for.

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Head chef Ethan Loke is one of the Masaki Saito-trained chefs who could be behind the temporary sushi counter. 

From now until the end of June, Vela will be hosting the team from Tachi, Sushi Masaki Saito's sister restaurant, in a pop-up that will be featuring a menu created by Saito. The experience takes advantage of the fact that the city's first standing-only sushi restaurant will be ending its run at Chef's Hall at the end of April.

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Different than Tachi's standing omakase in Chef's Hall, this seated meal also starts with an appetizer. On our visit, it was madai (silky firm sea bream that had been dressed in a house sake sauce with yuzu rind, menegi (green onion shoots), bright baby shiso and topped with fresh wasabi. 

The Saito X Vela Tachi omakase pop-up features a Saito-curated menu that begins with a hand roll, appetizer, 10 pieces of sushi made a la minute and served piece by piece that wraps up with miso soup and dessert.

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The evening's fish selection.

The $98 experience is available Tuesdays to Thursdays with three seatings at 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and in true Tachi fashion, doesn't last more than 60 minutes, but can be supplemented with premium sakes.

The time-limited bar seating omakase takes over two coveted ends of Vela's bar and is divided into a section that can sit up to five people, and another up to three.

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Even akami (bluefin tuna back) is lovingly prepared. Served on a bite-sized piece of well-seasoned sushi rice, the supple flesh is kissed by a brush of house soy sauce and then topped with grated yuzu rind.

While untraditional, this partnership came about when Saito's VIP customer, Jonathan Goldman, who happens to be one of Vela's owners, had invited the lauded chef to the stunning hotel lobby-inspired restaurant.

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Loke prepares each piece of nigiri separately; diners are instructed to consume it as soon as it's placed in front of them to ensure that they're enjoyed at their peak. 

Saito loved the vibe and envisioned an omakase experience in the space "so more Canadians can enjoy authentic sushi in a chill and relaxed way," Jonathan Tang, General Manager of Tachi tells blogTO.

"Saito knows that his own restaurant is not price friendly to everyone, but being a Japanese ambassador, his vision is to let more Canadians try his authentic sushi at an affordable price," says Tang. "Chef wants to increase the knowledge and understanding of Japanese food culture throughout Canada (and also North America)."

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Wrapped with a crisp strip of nori, the ikrua (salmon roe) sushi has a crystalline appearance that bursts into bright briney flavours that tastes fresh and clean.

To make this possible, the menu at Vela features high-quality fish sourced from local suppliers that Saito has vetted (instead of the pricey ingredients imported directly from Japan at Sushi Masaki Saito). The Edomae-style sushi served at Vela will also be by Tachi's chefs (who are Saito's students).

"Vela's environment and cuisine aspire to elevate the experience of a supper club in Toronto in the same way that Saito has raised the bar of culinary experience in the city, and so it was a perfect fit," Tang shares.

Michelin TorontoFor reservations, call Vela or book online here.

Photos by

Renee Suen

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