Thursday, March 11, 2010

Urban Eats @ Ame, Toronto

Shrimp Tempura on a Bed of Nails
Guy and Michael Rubino, well-known for their Food Network TV Series 'Made to Order' have launched a modern Japanese Restaurant named Ame in the former space that was once occupied by Rain.  Ame, which means rain in Japanese - was just named the #4 Best Restaurant of 2010 by 'Toronto Life Magazine' this week.  Good thing we beat the rush!  I expect the dining room to be packed for the next 2-3 months from this amazing piece of press, which is well-deserved.  It's about time Toronto got a beautiful and modern restaurant on par with what you see in other major cities like New York and LA.  The Munge Leung and Device 222-designed room is truly worthy of 'wow'.  It's a space where you want to look good on a Friday night and sip martinis with your favourite people.

Ok, I really didn't know what to expect.  I had read a couple reviews online and they were all pretty scathing about the food, so I was nervous about dropping a lot of money on a place I wasn't sure about.  I was thinking that it would be somewhat similar to Nobu, a Japanese sharing plates type of situation, which is what you get at Ame.  Between three people, we ordered six plates and the portions were pretty decent and we were pleasantly full.
Spicy Tuna and Spicy King Crab Rolls
The Shrimp Tempura ($16) came in a very inventive presentation - on a bed nails, in which Paul maturely proclaimed, "It looks like fingers!".  The shrimp was crispy and not soaked in oil which is usually the case.  The flavour of the batter actually shines through.  Our Pork Ribs ($19) came in a sausage format, which was also unexpected.  It tasted like someone shredded all the meat from a pork rib and wrapped in a tasty edible leather with soy caramel and matsu apple.  Definitely a thumbs-up on this one.

The Spicy King Crab Rolls ($12) definitely had a kick to it but our absolute favourite was The Spicy Tuna Rolls ($14) where the fish is so creamy that it melts in your mouth.  I don't think I had ever had a piece of tuna so fresh before.  Apparently it is flown in and never frozen.  The large pieces of tuna inside the roll are also very generous.  I anticipate that Ame is going to give my favourite swanky sushi places like Ki and Blowfish a little competition.

My Pork Ramen Soup ($12) was small and a little difficult to share.  We all scooped out a bunch of noodles each and agreed it was pretty good.  I am on really big ramen bowl kick right now, so I would say it was pretty authentic but more for a small taste then a whole meal.  The poached egg cooked in the soup for a bit before I dug in and there were three pieces of pork  and some really tasty noodles.  The 60 Day Aged Striploin ($28) is a little bit on the pricey side, but the cut was nice and it is sliced into about 6-7 pieces which makes it easy to share.  The steak came medium rare with lots of gravy/sauce soaked between the slices.  Presentation included a bone marrow with shredded ox tail inside.

The cocktail menu is very serious here at around ($14) each.  However the Bar Chefs squeeze their own fresh juice, make their own bitters and uses what is seasonal.  My Budou Cocktail was so sweet and smooth you could barely taste the vodka, it was so well-balanced - it should be given a food group.  The drink is a mix of grape-infused vodka, bitters, pressed grape juice, ginger-concord grape foam and edible flowers.  The presentation is gorgeous and yes, it looks like a really girly drink.  

For dessert, our lovely server Claire recommended the Coconut and Figs ($11) because it is a discovery dish that is fun and also tasty.  The plate begins at the top with a scoop of french toast ice cream (!) on a vanilla wafer which covers up most of the dish.  Once you eat through that, you will find a creamy coconut and banana emulsion on the side.  Under that are fresh orange wedges with tapioca pearls (yay to bubble tea pearls!) and roasted figs.  Tucked away on the side are two homemade fig cookies with a crisp and fluffy pastry crust.  I forgot to take a picture because I was so excited when it actually arrived!  Most inventive dessert I have seen all year after Colborne Lane's Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream.

The Rubino brothers are not shy and can be seen walking around the dining room making sure everything is OK.  I like perfectionists.  It makes me seem less crazy when I see other people obsessing over their work.  It's also a little comforting to actually see the chefs in their own restaurant.  So plan a great night out with friends soon, it's more fun to share with a lot of people and probably a whole lot cheaper.  Make a reservation to Ame asap before this place really starts filling up.

Ame Restaurant
19 Mercer Street, Toronto ON
(416) 599-7246

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