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Tojo's


col klink
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Tojo's Review, 10 courses, A for quality, service and presentation, B for originality.

Howdy folks, I'm from Seattle but just spent the weekend in Vancouver, BC and had the chance to try some of their sushi.  I posted this in the Pacfic NW forum but thought you would appreciate it as well.  Oh yeah, this is pretty long but there was a lot going on there.

Tojo's Vancouver is in the hospital district of bustling downtown Vancouver.  At the bottom of the review, are the essentials.  Tojo himself is a soft-spoken and cute little man who is identical to the pictures on his website (www.tojos.com).  

I picked Tojo's over (literally) hundreds of other sushi joints in Vancouver because it was the highest rated among the local rags and highly rated among other sources on the web.  Half of the restaurant has open table seating and in the other half there are small private rooms.  In between stands the sushi bar where we sat and ordered Omakase, or "chef's choice."  Actually they knew before we even arrived what we were ordering as we requested Omakase when we made the reservations which ensured seats at the bar!  

Tojo's is a lively restaurant that screams chic without being intimidating.  There may have been background music but it couldn't be heard above the background noise.  As a matter of fact, we had a hard time hearing each other talk for most of the evening.  The bar didn't fill up until about an hour after we arrived and most of the people were from Seattle or out of town.  I thought there would be more than just a single local, but then again, there were a lot of people waiting to get to the bar that might have been locals.

The service and presentation at Tojo's were first rate.  Plates were immediately removed, and I was afraid that the two hostesses' faces would freeze in a permanent smile if somebody tapped them on the shoulder.  I admire their courage for such stalwart cheek muscles.

Before I start in with the course descriptions, I should mention that I am holding Tojo's to a higher standard than any other sushi restaurant that I've been to.  This was the most expensive sushi meal I've ever had and thusly when I leave such an establishment, I need to feel justified in splurging for the amount and that I can't go anywhere else for this food and experience.  In short, I expected a meal that transcended dining out.  Unfortunately, Tojo's comes up short on both accounts.

1) Albacore chunks in Tojo's "secret, only Tojo's has this sauce" of wasabi (not fresh), soy and sesame seeds.  After I tasted his sauce, I thought secret?  Every sushi eater in America knows about wasabi and soy!  My first instinct was to scream, but since this was the first dish I just kept quite.  It is my opinion that it is a hangable offense to mix soy and wasabi with albacore.  Only the smallest, barely perceptible amount of wasabi is ok (if at all) since albacore meat is so creamy and subtle.  However, the wasabi wasn't too strong and since it *was* albacore, I did enjoy it.

2) Hot cod and mushroom soup, though there was more cod and mushrooms than soup.  The presentation was ornate and charming and almost overshadowed the dish.  The bowl was covered with a slightly waxed paper and tied on with papery twine.  Pine needles and a flower placed on top were a simple and elegant decoration.  The soup was rich and the mushrooms had a meaty texture.  I believe they were enoki mushrooms.

3) Local octopus sashimi sliced ever so thinly on a bed of greens and seaweed with an excellent vinaigrette.  This course was the first highlight of the meal and a definite surprise.  The meat was tender and delicate and played very well with the greens.  I wish I had a better knowledge of greens because they tasted different but added so well to the octopus.

4) The first roll, crab leg and wasabi interior, with the inverted seaweed rice (rice on the outside) exterior.  Each cut piece of roll had its own scallop garnished with what I believe was cod roe.  The roe was a champagne color and twice the size of a BB.  I had mixed feelings about this roll.  The scallop and roe were enjoyable but the wasabi overpowered the crab and basically everything else.  Tojo might as well have filled the roll with imitation crabmeat served the scallop and roe separately.  It would have saved us both a lot of money.

5) A second roll of crab body meat, smoked salmon and scallop, rolled in rice with an egg omelette wrap instead of seaweed.  It was neat to the egg work as a container, I haven't seen that before.  Each piece had own large garnish of flying fish roe.  The salmon wasn't very smoky, the crabmeat was tasteless, as was the scallop (though most scallops intrinsically have a mild flavor) and as such, I tasted egg more than anything else.  I actually dipped mine in soy for flavor, the only time in the evening, a little disappointing.

6) Big white tuna wrapped in seaweed, sans rice, and tempuraed whole until medium rare.  There were 4 pieces per plate and they were presented on pickled plumb sauce.  Accompanying the tuna was a pile of sautéed enoki mushrooms swimming in butter and garlic.  Those mushrooms were fabulous!  But I couldn't see what they had to do with the tuna and sauce.  I kind of had the feeling that Tojo went to a tapas bar and was so in love with them he had to put them somewhere in one of his dishes.  As you might surmise after reading so much about the mushrooms, they overshadowed the tuna.  I wasn't a fan of the medium rare texture of the tuna, it was a little chewy where cooked but smooth and creamy inside.  Why not let all of it be creamy?  Or all of it tender and flaky from being fully cooked?

7) Smoked salmon nigiri.  Tojo said that the salmon was smoked in-house.  The smokiness depended on the piece and by no means was the smoke content even.  The smoky pieces were a dream, very soft, bursting with flavor, the less smoky pieces were like any other salmon.  My first grudge is that one of the nigiri had two pieces of salmon on it to equal the amount of salmon on the other pieces.  With the premium customers have to pay to dine here, give them a whole piece, not leftover scraps (What am I?  Chopped liver?  I no longer have leprosy!).  My second grudge, and it's a deusy, the rice was slipshod for the nigiri.  There were loose bits here and there and it tended to fall apart ungracefully.

Recently on a Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour" episode, his pre-eminent sushi chef spent the first three years of his career preparing nothing else besides rice.  How long has Tojo's been making sushi?  Granted the traditional style is very strict, but come on!  It's like an Italian restaurant not knowing how to prepare pasta.  Either they haven't figured out the right recipe for seasoning rice, or they don't have enough experience.  I find this to be an egregious error and like to think that a budding sushi chef in Tokyo would have to chop off his pinky for atonement.  But despite the rant, I absolutely LOVED the salmon and would gladly gorge on an entire fillet only pausing briefly to breathe or sip some sake.

8) A third roll with some seafood and some asparagus.  It was so uninteresting, I can't even remember what it was, that and the length between these pieces and the next course.  And no, you can't blame the sake.

9) Lobster hand roll.  Cooked lobster with plenty of butter wrapped in rice and the standard seaweed wrap.  It wasn’t bad, but it was a little bland and left me wanting more.  

I really have to question Tojo why he would serve lobster in his restaurant.  I can get lobster that tastes just as good in Omaha, Milwaukee or Akron (sorry to pick on the Midwest).  I go to a sushi restaurant in one of the premier ports on the West coast precisely because I'm going to get not only the freshest restaurant seafood, but more importantly, I will get EXOTIC seafood.  No seafood restaurant in their right mind would serve the delicacies at a sushi place because the average palette wants mainstream fish, which can be good but it's not as exciting as sea urchin!  And that's why I was discouraged at this point in the meal.  The only thing different that Tojo’s did that I haven't seen at other sushi places was serve lobster and use a thin egg omelette to wrap a roll instead of the seaweed or soy wrap, both of which I have reservations about.

10) Luckily I asked for one more course and we received nigiri pieces of big white tuna.  I did a 180-degree turn on big white tuna.  These pieces were marinated in lemon and rice wine vinegar.  It almost had the same creamy texture as good albacore and the marinade danced and sang on the tongue.  It certainly perked up my mood after the hand roll.  These pieces were the second highlight of the evening and had me lobbing praise and adulation to that little man on the other side of the counter.

Finishing the evening was a scoop of coconut ice cream and apple pieces.  I was surprised that the ice cream was so good considering it wasn't heavy at all.  It was in direct conflict with ice creams like Godiva's lineup which are sinfully buttery yet heavenly delicious.

I knew going into the bill that it would be expensive, but I thought with the favorable exchange rate, I could almost get a deal.  I was floored when I saw the total and thusly held Tojo under the most powerful of microscopes.  If it wasn't so damned expensive the grievances might have registered, but I wouldn't have made such a big deal.  Mind you, I enjoy splurging every once in a while, but at this expense I expect the meal to transcend previous dining experiences.  At Shiro's and Mashiko's I've had those types of experiences for less and would quickly go to either of those places instead of Tojo's regardless of price.  

After the day was done, I left having an excellent meal chock full of radiant sushi and was stuffed to the gills, how can I complain about that?

Tojo's Vancouver

777 West Broadway

Suite 202 (Second Floor)

Vancouver BC V5Z4J7

Canada

Telephone: 604.872.8050

Fax: 604.872.8060

www.tojos.com

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Thanks for posting your review on the Canadian board.

As a restaurant reviewer I'd rate your satisfaction C. Although you were floored by the bill and disappointed by all but two courses, in the end, you describe the meal as excellent. Tell me, would you recommend this restaurant to a friend?

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I'd recommend this place only if you really love sushi and are not happy unless you've tried everyplace in town.  For folks who only casually eat sushi, I imagine there are other places to go that they would appreciate just as much for far less money.  However I don't know enough about other sushi restaurants in the area to lead them elsewhere.

The next time I go to Vancouver which should be in the next two to three months I'm going to try another place.  But that's not because I wasn't completely satisfied with Tojo's.  In a town I'm visiting, I like to try as many places as possible so Tojo's would have had to have been completely out of this world for me to go back so soon.  

I've been thinking more about my experience at Tojo's and I recall that one of the first things that Tojo asked was where we were from.  Since he gets a lot of tourists, I bet he probably thinks that they are less experienced with sushi and consequently tones his sushi down.  He may just reserve the more exotic pieces to his regulars.

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All right folks, let it be forever known, that I, col klink, do hereby and knowingly rescind my "egregious error" comment about Tojo's "slipshod" rice.

Last night I spoke with a guy who's been eating sushi for 20 years and has done Edomae style in Tokyo.  When I told him about rice not being perfectly formed and my concern that it might not be appropriate for such an expenditure, his eyes lit up and he got very animated and excited.  He was impressed that we were able to find a sushi restaurant that was so exact and demanding in its rice integrity.

However he did agree that two pieces of salmon for one nigiri was not appropriate and I still stand by comments regarding that incident and my desire to see a little more exotica.

But boy howdy, do I feel priveldged to see and try Edomae rice now that I know what the best rice is supposed to be.

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A few points regarding your Tojo's experience and sushi in Vancouver.

First, in order to place Tojo's in the larger culinary scene, it's necessary to bear in mind that the restaurant doesn't compete directly with most other Japanese restaurants. Tojo is doing a variant of sushi fusion that is reminiscent of what Nobu does. Tojo's actually predates any of Nobu's restaurants (to give you an idea of how long he's been at it), but I think it's also fair to say that Tojo's then wasn't like Tojo's now and that he has felt the Nobu influence just as have so many others. In any event, while it's important to demand that Tojo satisfy traditional standards of sushi-making, and while there is no excuse for anything to be bad, the standard sushi and sashimi items are not the reason one goes to Tojo's. The focus is on his creativity and departure from these norms. In that department, I think he succeeds wildly.

Second, there's a sushi problem in Vancouver in general, which is that you basically have to break the law in order to serve non-frozen fish. Thus, while Vancouver is a first-rate restauarant city in most regards, and while there are many talented sushi chefs there, its sushi restaurants pale by comparison to those in New York or Los Angeles.

Third, in terms of specific dishes, the only place where I've had exact overlap with you (though I've had similar dishes to most of the others you describe) is course number one, and I don't agree with your assessment. I detected a lot more than soy and wasabe, though I couldn't tell you exactly what. Certainly some shiso, maybe some sesame, I'm not sure. But I found the overall effect very pleasant. This dish competed favorably, in my opinion, with Nobu's tuna tartare with wasabe dressing and osetra caviar.

Fourth, can you tell us what you paid? I recall Tojo's being a good value compared to Nobu or any top New York Japanese place. I guess I'd also reiterate the point, made elsewhere on these boards, that you can't expect much at the margins when you start getting into really expensive restaurants. At best you're going to be looking at subtle improvements.

Finally, I'll second Lesley's suggestion that, if I perceived a meal the way you perceived yours, I'd write a fairly scathing review. Then again I wasn't there sharing your perceptions. Maybe with some distance and time to reflect, however, you'll revise your opinion one way or the other. Some meals are more appreciated (or resented) with a little hindsight.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's great to hear from somebody else who's been to Tojo's.

Addressing your points:

First, Tojo's is pretty similar to the best sushi joints in Seattle.  I'm not sure exactly what defines fusion sushi, however I do know what I get out here isn't anything close to Edomae style.  My favorite place, Mashiko's (click here for my review), made a "hamburger" with a slice of ankima placed between a "bun" of a sliced scallop toped with flying fish roe.  I can't imagine that's anywhere near the traditional style.  So when I went up to Tojo's I was hoping for courses prepared differently and I've seen more creativity here in Seattle.  I was more impressed in the presentation than in the food itself.  But as I said in a previous post, he may save his exotic and more adventurous pieces for the locals.

Second, it's good to know that Vancouver has such strict codes on seafood for its restaurants.  That will put future visits to other places in the city in a different light.  I guess we get pampered here in the states.  I know we certainly do here in Seattle.  That said though, I don't recall any particular raw piece to be sub-par, but it may be why there were few pieces that stood out too well.  One of my personal dreams in sushi-dom is to get a piece so fresh, it's still twitching.  The sweet shrimp I had at Shiro's here in Seattle was about the closest.  It was kept live behind the counter, and less than 30 seconds of the head being ripped off, its tail was in front of me.  The deep-fried head came about a minute or two later.  It was utterly fantastic, but tail meat wasn't twitching (I can still dream though).

Third, the soy and wasabi were the main ingredients that I tasted in the sauce.  My palatte is still learning all of the intricate and delicate Japanese ingredients and hopefully one day I'll be able to recognize them all.  Now that you mention the illegality of non-frozen fish, I wouldn't be surprised if Tojo added the sauce to mask something in the fish.  Is it the norm to serve albacore with a sauce (similar to unagi which always seems to be served with a terriyaki-like sauce)?

Forth, our bill came out to around $240 American for three of us, including tip.  Sake was actually pretty cheap though we didn't drink that much (three large house sakes).  I'm actually afraid to ask what people spend on sushi in New York and L.A.  Previous to this, my largest splurge was $125 for two at Shiro's and it was nothing less than spectacular.  I've had my most exotic, and thusly most exciting sushi meal at Mashiko's, but only spent around $90 for two.

Fifth, it hard for me to write a scathing review about sushi simply because it's one of my "happy foods."  It's one of those foods that no matter how poorly my day has gone, how upset I am, I can go eat sushi and the world is right again (or least for the duration of the meal).  I'm still upset about the salmon nigiri I had with two left-over pieces to make a whole nigiri piece, and at the time I wrote the review, that made me upset about the rice.  However I know better now about the rice.  I've only been seriously eaten sushi for the last year and a half (though I had my first sushi 5 years ago, most of that time I lived in Texas) and as such, I still feel like a novice and like to be careful lest I am corrected by someone more in the know.  It's been a week now since I was there and my opion of Tojo's is better since I've learned what rice is supposed to be like at the upper echelons of the sushi world.  But I still would rate a couple of Seattle restaurants as a better experience regardless of price.

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Col: Did you post this review in two places? I'd like to consolidate the two threads if possible, if nobody minds.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If I recall correctly, Tojo's "special sauce" does use miced shiso leaves. A touch of ume-su as well.

If the wasabi stood out so much, that's unfortunate. There is certainly a tendency for Westerners to overdo wasabi. Perhaps Tojo is following the lead of his clientele?

As for "sushi" or "sashimi" made with frozen fish, I have an old friend in Kyoto who is stubbornly but politely and kindly insistent that "This cannot be sushi or sashimi. I'm so sorry, but I am sure it can very good. But the texture and flavour of the fish is dramatically changed by freezing or salt slurry." That kind of thing.

(The "salt slurry" is the mixture of ice, salt, and slush that live fish are kept in, sometimes for two or more weeks, on large fishing ships.)

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Just a couple of comments about Tojo's. On the one time we dined there, we were told by some other guests as we entered the restaurant how lucky we were because Tojo's was the best Japanese restaurant 'in the whole, entire world'.

Now, apart from the tautology, i felt that there might have been a slight exaggeration here. I asked them where else they had eaten Japanese food. It turned out to be other Japanese restaurants in Vancouver.

Well, Tojo's certainly doesn't have the best Japanese food in the world. The sushi and sashimi that we tried was quite ordinary. If Steven is right and fish has to be frozen, then ther eis no point even walking inside a Japanese restaurant anyway. Frozen sashimi is an abomination. In fact any frozen fish is an abomination.

I am also interested in the emerging equation in North America between sushi and Japanese food. People seem to think that sushi equals the totality of Japanese food. It is a small but important part of the food served in Japan, but many people seem to restrict themselves to it.

Anyway back to Tojo's. It was a moderately good restaurant serving average food. I can think of dozens of places that are superior from Seattle to New Orleans and from New York to Sydney.

Roger McShane

Foodtourist.com

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  • 10 months later...

The name of the restaurant is that of its itamae/owner, Mr. Hidekazu Tojo.

He's been part of the sushi scene in Vancouver since the days when Aki on Powell

(where he started in Vancouver) was one of the only Japanese Restaurants in the

city.

Aki is now located near Robson, which is kind of the new Japantown, thanks to

the student population.

------------------------

to taberu is to ikiru

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No updates on Aki - haven't been there since the move to Downtown.

Likely not even the same owner as before.

My experience with the place on Powell goes back to the early 70's when

I would tag along with my father. Other places I recall from those days

were Maneki and Koji. You rarely say a Caucasian in those places then,

lots of clientele were members of the Konwakai - the Japanese businessmen's

association.

It is now in the space formerly occupied by Naniwaya - one of my favourite Japanese

restaurants in Vancouver sigh

Naniwaya was pretty authentic as a Izakaya type restaurant, with a robata area

Have to check out Aki I guess. Guu and other places catering to the working

holiday visa crowd do a pretty good job of covering the Izakaya genre.

Tojo's does not have a good rep in the Japanese expat community here.

-------

By the way - I do not believe that there are any rules that say that fish in general

must be frozen to be served as sashimi. I have certainly had live prawns at a

couple of places in the past. Can Fat Guy provide more info on where he heard

that?

An article in the Vancouver Sun from a couple of years back indicated that blast

freezing or flash freezing of fish was required to kill parasites but that this was

not necessarily a practice followed in Vancouver sushi restaurants.

Flash freezing does not use salt slurry - and if you've ever had hon maguro in

Japan, 100% of it is handled this way.

--------

------------------------

to taberu is to ikiru

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went to Tojo's last August for my first trip to Vancouver. My friend and I are from new york city and have eaten at most of the top sushi places new york has to offer. We both agreed that Tojo's was one of the best meals we had ever eaten. First, with regard to the price, we found it to be a good value. We had 14 courses of the omakase, and with a few drinks, tax and tip, the meal was about $110 american dollars each. Listen, $110 is a lot of money to spend, but we ate a ton and the food was fantastic. Whether it's at Nobo, or a fancy french restaurant, it would have cost double for that same amount of quality food.

As to the quality, every course was delicious. We found that it only got better as we ate more courses. Moreover, we were told by friends to buy Tojo a beer if we wanted an even better experience. I have no idea if it works every time, but we bought him a beer after our fourth course. After that, we received totally different dishes from the people next to us who had sat down at the same time and had received the same first four. Ours were more interesting, including a dozen japanese raw oysters in this amazingly light sauce that had those people salavating. Our last course, the big finale, was four huge pieces of bluefin tuno toro with scallion. Each one was hanging over the rice like a big hamburger pattie. Simple and incredible.

I will be going back in April for my second trip and will report back.

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  • 5 months later...

Went on a Wednesday night (July 2nd), after Vancouver won the Olympic Bid, so there was a large table of bid organizers in one of the tatami rooms. The restaurant was pretty full, and the sushi bar (where we sat) was full as well. Most of the patrons appeared to be tourists, no one else at the sushi bar seemed particularily sophisticated as far as Japanese cuisine went.

I should note that based on col klink's review, I lied and told him we were both locals, so that should remove one factor.

We wanted the omakase and started with the traditional tuna sashimi garnished with misc. chopped greens, served with ponzu. Not sure if the ponzu was the special recipe I've heard of. The fish was of good quality but the dish as a whole was pretty normal.

Next was a shellfish-stuffed (shrimp and scallops, I think?) zucchini flower, fried tempura-style. The batter was somewhat soggy and the filling bland. I was looking forward to this dish, but it was a disappointment, pretty much a complete failure.

Smoked monkfish en papillote followed. Included were mango, some type of squash, and one or two other non-descript vegetables. The fish was tasty, tender, and not over cooked. Nothing special, but properly done.

Then in succession, an outsider roll with herring roe, mango, scallop, mayonnaise, and perhaps a couple more ingredients, then a lobster and mayonnaise hand cone, two pieces of amaebi nigiri (at my request), and some young tuna and sea breem nigiri. All of these were acceptable but uninspiring. One item of note: Tojo has a heavy hand with the wasabi. It was good wasabi, and I like wasabi, but man: I have never had sushi with close to so much in my life.

Then we had a roll including mango, mayonnaise, and misc. fish. Hard to tell what was inside, but it was wrapped in a wonderful and delicate egg crepe. This dish was awesome: a wonderful balance of sweetness, saltiness, and the clearest experience of unami I've ever had. Apparently similar to what col klink had, except I really loved this. Wonderful. The only problem: by this point I was sick of seeing mango in everything. It was fresh and tasty, but of course mango tends to assert itself, and I question the judgement of having it continuously recur.

We were also served the smoked salmon, and I have col klink's complaints: not very flavourful, too much wasabi. I'll also add poor texture: ours was quite grainy and looked as though it had been frozen, though I doubt it had. Very uninspiring.

Luckily by this point we'd managed to convince Tojo that we were interested in actually eating well, not just pretending we were.

The rest of the meal included:

* Northern Lights maki, including mango, asparagus, avocado, and some other items wrapped in paper thin cucumber slices. This was a wonderful textural and flavor play as well. The inner portion of the roll was slightly warmed which added another element. Nothing totally amazing, and it probably wouldn't impress me if I ate it again (ahh, novelty), but neat.

* Tai and another fish (saba?) sashimi. Very thin slices, with what tasted like a very acid caper compote, kosher salt, lemon juice, and a piece of grapefruit. These were rolled and eaten. Much like the egg roll was a study of salt/unami, this was a study of acid. Well executed, very cerebral. Maybe not the best physical taste (man, did my tongue hurt afterwards) but an awesome dish. This was probably the only glimpse of genius I had in the whole meal.

* Maki with a taro-based wrapper. Excellent texture and earthy taro taste, and beatiful presentation. Contents included (can you guess?) mango! And other unknowns. Again, fun, interesting, tasty, but mostly just novel.

Dessert was a uninspiring, bland yogurt cup with the texture of the Astro fat-free type (see: Jello). I could've done without.

Total bill for two came to 300 CAD with tip and a $35 bottle of sake.

On the whole, I'm glad I went. A few of the dishes were novel and delicious enough that the potential is clear. However, I do wish I had gone years ago, when perhaps Tojo was more interested in providing unique dishes, with quality and calibre of ingredients worthy of the cost. As it is, I felt he was mostly pumping out (expensive) food for the tourist crowd. Most of the fish was pedestrian and of similar quality what I've eaten for 1/10 of the cost in the past. I can't imagine anyone comparing this place to a Michelin 1-star, nonetheless 3-star.

Had we been served some of what you see on the website, the cost may have been justified, but I don't think I'll be returning for the omakase again. 7.5/10.

Edited by dillybravo (log)
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Great report, and pretty accurate.

As a suggestion, next time, try En Japanese Restaurant- probably the most underrated Japanese place in Vancouver. I do believe that En is like Nobu transplated to Vancouver. (just referring to food, not decor)

"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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  • 3 weeks later...

My experience was an epiphany of sushi dining for myself.

If you love sushi, the meal to get is the "Omakase" at Tojos. Basically you are letting the chef (Tojo) serve whatever he likes. There were three price points from $50-150 a person. Upon recommendation I did not hesitate and ordered the $150 Omakase.

Sushi in Japan did not come close to Tojo's, not even Tokyo's seafood market.

I've never really appreciated the salmon sushi I've had, but here it is an unworldly delicious experience.

Yes there were a couple of ok/so-so items in the 12 items I was served, but then again 8 epiphanies out of 12 is not too shabby.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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Why are your expectations so low? 8 out of 12 for a blind "trust me" $150 tab per person is not a good record.

For a restaurant with the reputation of Tojo's, the top choice should be a flawless experience. Were the flavors not there, or was the execution not impressive? Omakase in Japanese means "surprise me".

It's too bad that many North American customers don't expect more from great restaurants and great chefs. That's why many of them stall when they reach stardom. Contrast this with Europe or France for that matter where chefs know that on any given night 80% of their customers are discriminating customers. Here, in North America, the discriminating customer is the anomaly- 20% at best; typically 10% perhaps on any given night.

Did you give them feedback? Was Tojo there? I noticed he has expanded his brand to a Vancouver disco with a sushi stand right next to the dancing floor. Maybe his marketing is superseeding his cooking.

"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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Why are your expectations so low? 8 out of 12 for a blind "trust me" $150 tab per person is not a good record.

8 out of 12 "epiphanies" are not low expectations at all IMO.

I have a dining epiphany 2 to 3 times per year tops. I'm not the 80% customer as your post may or may not be implying.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok its a little late to contribute to this thread , but why not.

I have to agree with the people who were underwhelmed with Tojo's, that was certainly my experience. I have had first class sushi in Japan - Midori sushi in Tokyo for example - and while some of Tojo's dishes are outstanding, I found the food quality inconsistent and overall I left a little disappointed too.

The cuisine at En is delightful, lots of interesting dishes and the quality is excellent. Unfortunately, the service at En can be abysmal sometimes. When they were in their original smaller location they seemed to handle a full house better. However, since they moved to the new larger location at street level on Granville, your experience may vary widely depending on your server.

Btw, I was just at Nobu in New York a few weeks ago and had the omakase for lunch. The room is wonderful and the service was exceptional, but the food, I thought, did not justify the hype. Certainly not as good as Midori sushi in Tokyo. Mind you, my wife born and raised in Tokyo has spoiled me and showed me the best places in Japan!

For my money the best Japanese restaurant in Vancouver by far is Wabi Sabi up on West 10th Avenue. The omakase is always wonderful, the staff are friendly and attentive. If you decide to go a la carte, I recommend trying at least one special of the day. I don't understand why there isn't a line up at Wabi Sabi every day. It's that good!

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