TORA throws its hat into the ring of iPad ordering and “sushi laneway” automated serving systems, a concept by Aburi Restaurants, also behind Toronto’s Miku.
Aside from ordering sushi without any pesky human interaction, TORA specializes in the aburi oshi and nigiri that Aburi Restaurants has become known for.
Accessed via an elevator that situates the restaurant a level above its shopping mall setting, the dim and elegant environment is mostly organized into booths lined up along the automated “laneways,” though there’s also a lounge area where you can be served by real people.
Though you do order through an iPad, there’s no AYCE or colour-coding system; prices are just listed on the touch screen.
Order four items at a time and they’ll come speeding out on the laneway, so called because this isn’t a conveyor belt or sushi boat concept where items circle indefinitely if they’re not picked up.
All sushi is made with more intensely flavoured, reddish-brown akazu shari rice, which apparently pairs the best with TORA’s premium cuts of seafood from Japan. All aburi sushi is torched using Japanese bamboo charcoal known as binchotan.
For aburi ebi oshi ($4.95), pressed cooked prawn is topped with flame-seared, caramelized ume sauce and lime zest.
Veggie oshi ($3.95) is exclusive to TORA, uniquely topped with soy-marinated sundried tomato and inari and stuffed with asparagus, finished with miso shiitake and green onion.
“EdoPrime” nigiri celebrates the traditions of Edomae-style sushi, premium seafood expertly filetted, sliced and brushed with house-made signature sauces intended to perfectly season each piece of nigiri.
The chu-toro is medium fatty tuna belly brushed with a yuzu soy that gathers in lengthwise grooves in the delicate but rich fish.
Beef tataki salad ($9.50) is one of several cold dish options, lightly seared beef, drizzled with a bright spicy miso and accompanied by crisp Asian slaw plus mixed greens, with a cilantro garlic vinaigrette and crispy shallots.
There are also hot dishes like the wagyu sukiyaki ($9.50), a comforting stew-like dish of ribboned American wagyu beef sukiyaki with carrots, potatoes, earthy shiitake mushrooms, a sous vide egg and sukiyaki sauce, all meant to be mixed up together.
There’s also classic crispy pork gyoza ($4.95), flash-fried with soy glaze and bonus Brussels sprouts on the side.
Chicken nanban ($7.95) is a little less typical, sweet and sour fried chicken served with Asian slaw, shredded cabbage and a thick, tangy tartar sauce.
This is the second-ever location in Toronto for Aburi Restaurants, aiming to branch out from a more high-end feel to reach all levels of diners.