PLEASE NOTE: Yuzu Izakaya is now named Hashi Izakaya.
When we think of Japanese food, raw fish in its various forms often comes to mind before all else. But of course, Japanese food isn’t just sushi, and the izakaya, or Japanese grill-house, is a great example of that.
Yuzu Izakaya is one of the lesser-known options in Toronto. While their Yonge and Finch location doesn’t exactly scream trendy or upscale, they’re certainly not letting that compromise their quality. For starters, the restaurant is impeccably clean, and the sleek design of their dark wood tables and warm grey walls appears to be carefully thought-out. The food also demonstrates a high level of intelligent design.
To start, we selected the “Beef with Kalbi Sauce” ($3) from their selection of “skewers”. They were well-seasoned and fairly succulent.
Next, we succumbed to their special of the day: panko-crusted deep-fried soft shell crab (MP). Is there anything more exciting? The crispy lotus root pieces were a nice touch. I highly doubt that they would have used arugula in Japan as a green base, but hey, us Canadians have multicultural palettes anyway.
The “Salmon + Natto” ($7) is one of their star dishes. Unless you’re Japanese/a Japanophile (or watch a lot of Iron Chef), you probably have never heard of natto. Basically, it’s sticky fermented soy beans. If you like it, you like it a lot, and if you don’t know, it’s probably best to err on the side of safe and order something slightly more familiar. The flavour is so strong and distinct that you may (like Arthur that day) have a lingering taste of natto on your tongue for days to come.
Other than that, it is served with konbu (an edible kelp), diced cucumber and onion, bonito (dried fish) flakes, some roe and a raw quail egg on top. It is a really great dish, but only if you know you will like it already.
We also had to order the backbone of Japanese grill favourites– the “Okonomiyaki” ($9). This delicious pancake-like treat has a name derived from the words okonomi, which means “whatever you want” and yaki, which means grilled/cooked. As I am always down for a “grilled something of exactly what I want”, I have not turned down an okonomiyaki to date.
My favourite dish of the night by far was the “Scallops + Mushrooms” ($13, first photo above). I think the best way to describe this dish is “gentle, yet rich”. The scallops are well-seared, but it is the broth that really makes the dish. Extracting the essence of both the salty seafood and the earthy mushrooms, the butter sauce seals everything together in a beautiful medley of flavours.
Final Note: I highly enjoyed the decor and the food. Plus, they have different specials every day to entice potential new diners. At first, I had written “its location will be a significant deterrent for most”. However, Arthur has convinced me that if I think about it from the GTA perspective, it actually isn’t that inconvenient at all, being right on the subway line too (albeit at farthest north corner). Thus, I should say that “its location will be a significant deterrent for most who like to hang out downtown and prefer having their downtown bars and attractions nearby”. The next time that I come, I would love to give one of their hot pots a try — I am sure that it would make a great winter meal. It might also be a good time to take a run at their extensive sake menu!
Location: 5582 Yonge Street, Toronto (Koreatown North)
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