If you’ve dined on Japanese food in Toronto, you may want to revisit the experience. We got a thorough lesson in Japanese gastronomy from our recent visit to EDO – a long-standing restaurant that serves authentic Japanese cuisine.
“EDO is not a sushi restaurant,” says Barry Chaim, owner of EDO and self-proclaimed Japanese cuisine enthusiast. “We’re a Japanese restaurant that serves sushi.”
As we munch on appetizers, Chaim explains the difference. Japanese cuisine is divided into two streams: Washoku and Seiyo-Ryori. Wa-Shoku is the traditional method of cooking that includes tempura, teriyaki, kaiseki, sushi, oden, and sukiyaki, and so forth. Seiyo-Ryori is the combination of European (mainly French) sauces and influences on Japanese methods and standards, evolving constantly into new dishes with the same or different ingredients.
“The cooking techniques are very different,” says Chaim. “Our approach is very traditional.”
“There are no plastic green fences or soy sauces here,” says Chaim.
Duly noted. Since Gourmet Magazine recognized EDO as one of “America's Top Tables,” we take Chaim’s word for it. But we embark on a multi-course parade of dishes to get the full educational experience.
To whet our appetites, we start with sampling Kyu-Maki ($7), delicate rolls of avocado, cucumber slivers & sweet inari wrapped in cucumber skin and rice vinaigrette. It’s incredibly light with a surprising smoky aftertaste.
Followed by Salmon Tar-Tare ($13), a gorgeous mound of avocado, Tem-bits, cucumber, tobiko, green onion, nori squares, and Dynamite sauce.
Goma Hamachi ($15), yellowtail from Kyushu that’s been thinly sliced and glazed in maple-tamari, real wasabi, and toasted sesame.
The Nanami Salmon ($12) was a fusion of traditional Japanese and Western tastes. Thin slices of Atlantic salmon were spiced and seared with green onion, grated radish with ponzu sauce. It’s simple, but this is the reason why it tastes so fresh.
“Everything should be balanced,” says Chaim. “Nothing should be smothered in sauce.”
If you’re going to order one fancy dish, let it be the Lobster Tempura Maki ($24). Chunks of Fresh Nova Scotia lobster are fried and then wrapped with avocado, cucumber, tobiko, toasted sesame, and kabayaki sauce. It’s pricey, but can easily be split between two people; plus, you’re getting a whole lobster.
I love it when the chef pulls out a blowtorch to cook my food. Chef Ozawa layered a mound of rice with thin slices of US Kobe beef seasoned with sea salt and real wasabi. Then, he seared each Kobe Beef Nigiri before our eyes, until tender.
For those with bigger appetites, you can also order the Angus Striploin ($27) – a fire-grilled Angus striploin doused with Chef Ozawa’s teriyaki sauce and accompanied with grilled vegetables and truffled mushroom rice.
Maybe it’s just my Canadian bias here, but I’d like to see the kitchen use local beef. Sourcing locally is greener and supports farmers, and the dishes will still taste amazing even if it isn’t premium steak. “It’s hard to pair wine with Japanese cuisine,” says Chaim. “The taste is really clean. Sauvignon Blanc usually goes well with this food.” EDO’s cocktail, wine, and sake list have been artfully paired with the dishes, designed to bring out the best flavours.
EDO has four locations across Toronto and offers dine in and take out options. Check out all the deets here: http://edorestaurants.com. EDO also conducts cooking classes, which covers the making, history, etiquette and culture of sushi. Call for more information.
-- Lisa Jackson is a freelance writer and blogs at Eat Drink Travel Magazine. Find her online @eatdrinktravels.