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Japango is one of Toronto's most venerable sushi bars. The tiny restaurant near City Hall is always busy during lunch and dinner and is the type of place sushi purists seek out for their fresh fish and high quality Japanese offerings.
A scattershot collection of signed photos all over the walls suggest many locally famous people have visited over the years. Jack Layton’s photo presides over everything from a high corner, and the hubbub and cheer of the place has a homey feeling.
The chef’s omakase tasting menu runs about $100, and with that comes a complimentary appetizer of manila clams in sake butter sauce. They’re very, very briny, and it’s tough to know exactly how to attack them with chopsticks, but definitely have a lot of clam flavour.
Tuna and avocado tartare ($13) is cut much more thickly than you may be used to. It’s nice to see giant chunks of creamy avocado on this typically basic dish, accented with a moistening and acidic yuzu ponzu sauce and microgreens.
The signature Japango roll ($14) is their signature, one of the best a la carte rolls. A simple California inside is topped with salmon, seared scallop, spicy mayo, unagi sauce, a little tobiko and microgreens. The spice and the torched flavour go together really well.
A deluxe sushi dinner ($30), is the kind of thing you’d be most likely to find yourself ordering here. A sashimi dinner runs around the same cost.
A luscious rainbow of nigiri including sweet salmon, salty mackerel, bold tuna, creamy butterfish and many others is served with a real stump of the root that’s been used to make your wasabi.
Many of the nigiri are garnished with edible gold leaf, and the plate is decorated with an edible garnish of a flower and thinly sliced yam stem.
There’s even one rare uni nigiri on the plate, one of my favourites, though I do also like the punch of a roll of egg filled with roe.
The place really feels like a classic sushi bar at only 530 square feet, with a long narrow design dominated by dark wood, right down to the clunky packed-together tables and chairs. Things are constantly ramming up against each other here, but in a fun and comforting way.