Yukashi is a refined omakase serving exemplary Japanese creations, born from the minds of two masterful chefs.
A humble hideaway in Mount Pleasant, the understated nature of this bamboo-walled establishment truly belies the level of skill and detail contained in its playful menu.
Reservations by credit card are required for a meal at this restaurant by internationally renowned chef Jin Lee and Executive Chef Daisuke Izutsu of Don Don Izakaya, Kasa Moto, and previously, the kitchen of Toronto's Consulate General of Japan.
Cancellation penalties are strict here—it's $75 if you cancel in less than 48 hours—but honestly, the monetary loss would come secondary to missing such a one-of-a-kind meal.
Bar seats are of course the most coveted spots here, granting diners a close up view of this pair of iconic chefs at they dash around the kitchen preparing your four-course ($75) or nine-course meals. The latter, which ranges between $120 to $150 depending on ingredients, is likely to be the most common option here, though a limited availability Yukashi course ($300+) will be a popular splurge.
Chefs Daisuke and Jin base their menus on the seasons, meaning their offerings change according to the weather.
When we arrive, the fall menu is well underway, so our dishes are aplenty in autumnal themes and, of course, Canadian mushrooms.
Chef Daisuke explains to me that the food prep process never ends, and I can see why: the attention to detail for every dish is baffling.
The harvest plate is easily the most impressive part of our nine course experience.
Served on a wooden platter is a hodgepodge of delicious bites, arranged to imitate a Japanese zen garden from the grassy lawn (matcha crumble) to the white pebbles (dusted tapioca powder with grape oil).
Scattered across the plate are sweet potato crisps shaped like maple leaves, salmon deep fried with rice puffs, and chestnuts cooked with dashi.
There are also a couple chunks of slow roasted tomatoes, filled with a secret ingredient. We weren't able to guess the sweet filling, so lost out on a free shot of sake from one of their premium bottles.
Alongside the rings of burdock and flower-shaped pickled turnips are black mounds of purple potato covered in squid ink bread crumbs: an ode to the rocks in a zen garden.
Don't expect any sushi rolls here; the whole point of Yukashi is to defy the perceived restrictions placed on Japanese cuisine.
You will, however, find seafood like a slice of red snapper with a purple miso base, served next to the fish's own roe.
Other courses include a warming and hearty bowl of housemade black sesame tofu, yuba sauce, yuzu, taro, and Ontario mushrooms, topped with grated wasabi.
Those who've never seen or smelled the process of warayaki (traditional straw cooking) will delight in the experience of watching the chefs cook red snapper over a small warayaki stove, heated by hand.
The smell is intensely smokey, almost cigarette-like to an untrained nose. The flavour, however, is just right, especially when eaten with simple sides of salt and garlic slivers.
One dish that stays consistent for every meal is the signature flamed wagyu beef from Japan.
Served with uni (usually imported from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market), goose foie gras, and Japanase A5 wagyu (you can see the certifcation on the bar) these two slivers of mouthwatering meat are torch-flamed at your table for under a minute.
The resulting dish is a rich, fatty bite that tastes like pure luxury and leaves you wanting more.
A simple bowl of soup arrives with grouper cooked in sake, Canadian pine mushrooms, and a side of Japanese sudachi lime.
Eat the main ingredients but leave the soup behind: the chef will retrieve your bowl and add sake and seven spice for the perfect warming sensation.
And another fantastic creation: an elevated poor man's meal of rice served with half-cooked egg and Italian white truffle puts an expensive twist on childhood comfort food.
An experience at Yukashi is undoubtedly expensive but undeniably wort it. If omakases are a glimpse into a chef's mind, it's evident that both Chef Daisuke's and Chef Jin's imaginations are running wild.