Monday, September 26, 2005

Pleased to Miso

Toronto Life asked me to investigate that clump of sushi restaurants on Bloor for their October issue. But they had to remove a fair amount of "content" due to space restrictions. I felt that sharing the wealth might be appropriate, given the semi-eternal fascination many folks have with Maki Mile.

(Due to the fact that I am doing a Master’s, blogging will be very rare. Try not to cry.)

Kappa Kappa Hey!
(Alternate titles: Pleased to Miso / Rice Dreams / Tipping the Scales)

Unless tuna, salmon and eel swim wild and free in Annex sewers, there appears no satisfying explanation for why the five short blocks of Bloor between Bathurst and Spadina are home to eight different seaweed palaces. If sushi is an indicator of urban sophistication, than this "Maki Mile" is surely the most hyper-modern stretch of downtown Toronto. Turning a profit off deadbeat students buying $5.99 lunch specials was already tough enough; the increasing density of competition has created a bento boxing match sure to generate casualties. Moving from Best to Bleech, herewith is the raw data on the ocean’s eight.

Name: Sushi on Bloor (515 Bloor)
Date of Birth: December 1998
Distinguishing décor: Simple, unadorned beige walls are enlivened with a smattering of tapestries and ricepaper wall lights. A ceramic Asahi beer mascot (a.k.a. Super Lucky Cat) grins at diners from its perch on a glass shelf on the restaurant’s rear wall.
Sardine Factor: Half-full 20 minutes after opening; completely full, plus line-up by 12:45pm
Chef’s Specialty: Ikayaki (grilled squid with fresh ginger sauce)
McSushi Moment: Honour Roll (salmon, tobiko, green onion, avocado)
Cost of California Roll: $5 for six pieces
Menu Malprop: Superior proofreading makes this menu a gastronomic and grammarian delight

Name: Sushi Time (394 Bloor)
Date of Birth: July 1989
Distinguishing décor: An empty sushi rice bag dangles from the ceiling, Japanese lanterns decorate the bamboo roof that shelters the food prep area. Recessed lighting is embedded within incut ceiling outlines of chopsticks. Also boasts Teppanyaki (Japanese grill house).
Sardine Factor: A dozen folks supped on a rainy lunch hour weekday.
Chef’s Specialty: Flying Saucer (spicy tuna over tempura eggplant
McSushi Moment: Football Sashimi / Basketball Bento Box
Cost of California Roll: $4.75 for six pieces
Menu Malprop: "$1 extra per change," warns the Dadaist menu, "Subject to adjustment over ingredients."

Name: New Generation (493 Bloor)
Date of Birth: August 1999
Distinguishing décor: Accents include frosted glass booth partitions, muted blue light fixtures, Japanese tapestries and Kabuki prints. Sake tchotchkes cluster upon a wall shelf behind sushi prep area. A large inflatable Sapporo bottle guards the entrance to the rear kitchen
Sardine Factor: Never empty, often full.
Chef’s Specialty: Scarlett O’Hara (assorted fish chopped, spiced, green onion, bonito flakes)
McSushi Moment: Sushi Pizza (crispy rice topped spicy kewpie, tobiko, onion, green onion, choice of salmon, tuna, unagi & vegetarian)
Cost of California Roll: $4.95 for eight pieces
Menu Malprop: Lightly fried *beancurb*

Name: Tokyo Sushi (364 Bloor)
Date of Birth: April 1997
Distinguishing décor: Two private rooms, plus a number of intimate wooden booths create a cozy ambiance; servers and sushi chef wear traditional Japanese sashes and robes.
Sardine Factor: It took only 10 people to make this 40 seat restaurant appear busy on a Wednesday afternoon.
Chef’s Specialty: Kanpyo Yomaki (Stewed Melon)
McSushi Moment: Tokyo Love Boat, a dingy filled with 50 pieces of sashimi and sushi
Cost of California Roll: $5.50 for six pieces
Menu Malprop: long *isialn* clam

Name: Japan Sushi (484 Bloor)
Date of Birth: July 2001
Distinguishing décor: The only sushi restaurant of the bunch with a patio. Front window decorated with cascading streamers of tiny paper cranes. Shiny fresh tins of Sapporo balance atop long wooden benches that line both sides of this cozy restaurant.
Sardine Factor: Six-seat patio very popular; 30-seat restaurant was 1/4 full on a balmy Saturday afternoon.
Chef’s Specialty: Green, Red or Black Dragon Maki
McSushi Moment: Skydome Roll (deep fried shrimp)
Cost of California Roll: $5 for six pieces
Menu Malprop: A vegetable roll features seasonal *aspragus*

Name: Takomi Sushi (522 Bloor)
Date of Birth: January 2005
Distinguishing decor: Elegant touches include embossed red leather menus, mood lighting, dark wood tables plus first class bento boxes and ultramodern stainless steel soy sauce receptacles.
Sardine Factor: Four folks warmed the seats at 1pm on a Tuesday.
Chef’s Specialty: Canadian Dream Roll (deep fried shrimp, salmon, avocado, cucumber, fish egg and crab meat).
McSushi Moment: Remarkably authentic, right down to the free watermelon dessert
Cost of California Roll: $4.50 for eight pieces
Menu Malprop: Drink list includes bottles of Cools Light. Tempura special includes deeping sauce. Takeout menu offers *chiken*, *slamon* and *robster* dishes.

Name: Big Sushi (388 Bloor)
Date of Birth: March 2005
Distinguishing décor: A surfeit of deep green vinyl booths and motel carpet give this restaurant a Holiday Inn vibe, although a couple of Japanese dolls and fish-shaped sushi plates valiantly attempt to redeem the vibe.
Sardine Factor: Eight people barely made a dent in this 70-seat restaurant on a weekday noontime
Chef’s Specialty: Caterpillar Roll (spicy tuna or salmon with avocado)
McSushi Moment: Philadelphia Roll (Philadelphia cheese, avocado, crabmeat, cucumber, flying fish egg).
Cost of California Roll: $5 for eight pieces
Menu Malprop: *Pen* fried U-don noodle with mixed chicken and vegetable

Name: Mariko (551 Bloor)
Date of Birth: January 2005
Distinguishing decor: Drab turquoise walls and cherry wood chairs predominate, with a few bamboo mobiles dangling from ceiling. Soy sauce is stored in ceramic spouts, massive water tumblers double as Big Gulp cups.
Sardine Factor: Ten percent of the 60-seat restaurant was occupied during the noonday rush
Chef’s Specialty: All-You-Can-Eat menu ($14.99) has over 65 items but also includes a draconian set of rules and regulations
McSushi Moment: Dessert menu includes cheesecake, an ancient Japanese delicacy
Cost of California Roll: $4.50 for six pieces
Menu Malprop: A lunch special includes three pieces of *carifolnia* roll