Go for the omakase experience at Zen Japanese Restaurant in Scarborough

Website: http://www.zenjapaneserestaurant.com/
Address: 2803 Eglinton East, Toronto, ON
When I visited: January 2014, 4 people
Cuisine: Japanese
Rating: $$$$, 4.5

Owner/Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara took over the restaurant in the year 2000 and has had a local following of customers since. Thank you to my sister who was a returning customer for recommending this restaurant as it was the most memorable experience I had at a sushi restaurant in Toronto so far. We were here for a special occasion as we had a friend visiting from Australia.

Zen Japanese Restaurant

Zen Japanese Restaurant

The fish and omakase experience was so spectacular, it did not matter that the restaurant was in a strip mall in a sketchy looking part of Scarborough, or that it was beside a vacant store, a “spa” AND a strip club. Each bite of the fish served made me feel like I was in an intimate restaurant in Japan. This was the closest experience to what I imagine it would be like eating at Chef Jiro Ono restaurant in Japan (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”), where the passionate chef chooses what fish to serve. For the sushi omakase, the fish was served in a successive order, one-at-a time. As I sat at the sushi bar, there was uncontrollable drool as I watched the chef prepare each masterpiece. Following the chefs recommendation, soy sauce was brushed on each sushi prior to serving with wasabi placed in between each sushi piece.

Sushi omakase at Zen's

Sushi omakase at Zen’s

My husband and I also ordered the sashimi omakase to understand the difference between the two tastings. The fish is similar in both, however, the sashimi is presented on a platter and served all at once.  In both, the chef names each fish on the plate.

The sashimi omakase order included but not limited to toro (tuna), regular tuna belly, medium tuna belly, sea bream with yuzu, shrimp, uni (sea urchin), octopus, skipjack, hamachi, mackerel, fluke and king fish.

Sashimi Omakase At Zen Japanese Restaurant

Sashimi Omakase At Zen Japanese Restaurant

The fish selection and quality was outstanding! Each bite was divine, mouth-watering and heavenly.

As a consensus, our party favourite was the toro and uni sushi, so we had to order additional pieces to satisfy our sushi needs.

Omakase at Zen’s was amazing, but why else do I LOVE Zen Sushi so much?

The owner’s pride and joy is to provide the best quality ingredients to it’s customers, even the nori is imported from Japan. Real wasabi (which is very expensive) was available for an additional charge. Talk about getting the real Japanese experience!

Wasabi and tools at Zen's

Wasabi and tools at Zen’s

The chefs including Chef Cho, Owner/Chef Kashiwabara, and Chef Jackie were perfectionists, masters and artists. My momma brain forgot for a second that the sushi was already brushed with soy sauce, so I dipped my sushi into my soy sauce plate, and Chef Jackie immediately told me that it was not necessary. That was my “NO sushi for you” moment! The chefs were serious about their food!

Chefs in action

Chefs in action

And the last reason why I love Zen…compared to other tasting menus, Zen Sushi was the best bang for buck at $52.50! Amazing! 

As it was my first time there so I had to order from the regular menu and plus, our party had an appetite for more food.

I would recommend the following:

Broiled beef tongue-It was well seasoned and tender.

Beef tongue skewers

Beef tongue skewers

Broiled squid-There was a good bounce to the squid meat.

Broiled SquidSalmon neck- It was full of flavour!

Salmon Neck

Salmon Neck

Home-made mandarin pie- It was light and fluffy

Mandarin pie and black sesame ice cream

Mandarin pie and black sesame ice cream

There were a few dishes that I would not re-order mainly due to textural reasons, rather than taste.

Raw mountain potato with raw egg-It was tasty but I could not get over the super slimy texture.

Raw mountain of potato with raw egg

Raw mountain of potato with raw egg

Seafood with enoki mushrooms with soy sauce. The flavours were delicious but the fish was slightly overcooked.

Seafood with enoki mushrooms brushed with soy sauce

Seafood with enoki mushrooms brushed with soy sauce

Spicy tuna roll-The presentation was not as tidy as their sushi work. The cut up tuna texture mixed in with sauce was a bit soft for my liking.

Spicy tuna roll

Spicy tuna roll

Overall:

I have a lot of love for this little restaurant. There is so much pride and love from the owners/chefs at the restaurant and you can taste it with every bite.

Left to right: Chef Cho, Owner/Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara and Chef Jackie

Left to right: Chef Cho, Owner/Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara and Chef Jackie

* Remember to make reservations as there are only limited spots at the bar. The number is (416) 265-7111

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