Oishi Kada is, surprisingly, the lone sushi purveyor of Kensington Market . After twelve-years, Oishi Kada (translation: that was delicious!) is comfortably settled in its niche between a hostel and a goth bar at the north end of Augusta Avenue.
The student friendly prices and unassuming exterior remind me more of Vancouver's numerous quaint mom n' pop sushi shops than typical Torontonian sushi attempts. With the owner often running the kitchen, sushi bar and till simultaneously, you won't be finding any " all you can eat " specials like other spots in the area speaking volumes to the quality being offered. Most of the sushi places I've tried in Toronto have been disappointing compared to Vancouver offerings not to mention true Tokyo sushi I feasted on while on exchange in the city.
The owner saw us sit down on the patio and straight away brought us icy glasses of green tea with the menus. While his English is somewhat limited, his constant big smile and super polite service more than made up for it. Your cup of tea will never go empty and he'll even make you seaweed-less rolls if benthic marine algae is not your thing.
Our three rolls, spicy salmon, tuna avocado and yam tempura roll, Sunday special 3 for $9.99 or regular $3.99 each, came with a piping hot bowl of miso for each of us immediately after ordering.
The maki came relatively quickly considering the owner was working alone. The subtle flavour of the rice vinegar was wrapped in the soft and sticky rice. The flawless rice must be periodically stirred in a giant wood vat with a similarly over-sized wooden spoon while the sushi chef tastes for the right balance of rice vinegar.
Spicy tuna and salmon rolls were wrapped with a creamy slice of avocado and hot mayonnaise. I asked about where the fish was from, Alaska, but couldn't work past the language barrier to find out the type of salmon. It didn't seem deep enough to be sockeye but it was delicious nonetheless. The ultra soft yam tempura roll was melt-in-your-mouth delicious and sweet with a light deep-fried batter.
Butterfish sashimi, $4.50 for 5 pieces on Sundays or regular 3 for $4.50, was as promised, a fresh buttery slice of the Japanese fish owing its name to its unique flavour.
Japanese lunch time favourite and savior to the indecisive, the bento box, was a good way to try different menu items but the chicken teriyaki and spring rolls were forgettable. Fresh slices of eggplant, yam and shrimp tempura were deep-fried perfection making up for the rest of the box.
If raw fish isn't your cup of green tea, heaping donburi bowls, udon soups or homestyle Japanese vegetable curry with hearty chunks of potato, yam and onion ($4.95 lunch special, $6.95 regular) are a wise alternative.
For desert, scoops of green tea or creamy candied ginger ice cream ($2.50) were both delicious ends to the meal.
It's quiet enough to feel like a neighbourhood secret with an in-crowd following including, what could have quite possibly been the local anime club I saw meeting over sushi on a Saturday night. Don't come expecting Asian fusion, overly ornate rolls or any other song than a synthesized version of "Joyful joyful" quietly playing on repeat. Low key and humble, Oishi Kada is quietly providing Kensington Market with a cheap and cheerful sushi fix.
Open 11.30-late daily, Sunday 1pm-8pm
Lots of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options.