Sake Bar Kushi
DISCLAIMER: Sake Bar Kushi provided a complimentary meal to promote some of their new menu items.
dre & Nelson @ Eglinton & Avenue: Sake Bar Kushi opened in June 2013, and they were very kind to invite us try out some of the food items. We were deceived by the size of the restaurant, as we later learned that there was a large space at the back if you wanted to have a big party. The restaurant was really nicely decorated. The washroom was really decked out too and included essentials like mouth wash, Q-tips, toothpicks, and even sanitary napkins for any emergencies.
We were excited to see what the chef had prepared for us. The servers were always so polite, bowing each time they interrupted to serve our dishes, or refill our tea. They even apologized for not giving us more attention because they had a large party at the back!
Nels: I came a bit early and the hot tea was welcome having coming in from the cold. Also I appreciated how the chopsticks were set horizontally as all places in Japan do this.
They said that they were only going to serve us a dinner portion for 2, but there were 4 of us, so we decided to eat what they served us first and then order more food after. I (Andrea) am not familiar with many izakaya dishes, so I was looking forward to what they were going to serve.
The first dish was Avocado Salad. The avocados were fresh and the portion was generous. The salad dressing was the typical Japanese salad dressing (Nels, a little sweeter than usual). The other vegetables were crispy and fresh as well.
The next dish is the Salmon Tataki. Nels: The salmon was fresh and nicely seared, but what really stood out was the crisp garlic on top that provided a lot of flavour.
Cheese Okonomiyaki, described as a Japanese pancake with cheese on top. I can taste the potatoes, and thankfully, not much of the cheese. It had a lot of bonito flakes on top, which danced when it was brought to our table. I liked that it was hearty with vegetables.
Nels: Compared to Japan, this one was lighter on flour which made it less heavy in that sense, but the cheese made the dish heavier. And yes, lots of vegetables, which is nice.
Gyoza - We have never seen gyoza all connected like this with such a large skin intact. We speculated how they did this, but couldn't come with an answer. The skin was really fresh and not overcooked. The meat was really delicious - very fresh and didn't taste like it had been frozen.
Nels: The meat was really good as it was spiced and had a meaty taste to it. I agree on the really fresh tasting skin.
Salmon Tempura - I've never had salmon tempura before, and this was really good. Adding the tempura batter made the fish that much tastier. The salmon is still fishier than I would normally enjoy (but that's because I'm not a big fan of salmon in general) but overall, it was light and crispy.
Nels: It would be even better if we ate it hot as we let it sit for a while, but it was still light and crispy.
We got a platter of Moriawase - skewers of different grilled meats with different sauces. From left to right, there were 4 skewers with teriyaki sauce (chicken leg, chicken hearts, pork belly, and shishamo, a type of fish), 2 skewers of spicy sauce (chicken leg and pork belly), and 4 skewers that were sea salt flavoured (chicken leg, chicken hearts, pork belly, and shishamo). We liked the saucy ones the best. The spicy sauce was really spicy, at least for me. It was similar to a Korean spicy sauce. The teriyaki sauce was fairly typical, and the sea salt was still tasty. As for the types of meat, the chicken leg was "comforting", the chicken hearts didn't taste very "organ-y", though it was quite tough. The pork belly was yummy and fatty.
Nels: This is their specialty as the Japanese word Kushi means skewer. When we had it a few times in Japan it was mostly offal meats that were served, so the chicken hearts are represented, but perhaps the other one are more tuned for Western tastes. The hearts themselves were cooked really well done and had an almost burnt flavour, but at the same time it kinda hid the organ-y taste of the meat. So that's done well. The pork belly was fatty and obviously tasted good because of that. The fish had a really fishy flavour but that's expected with this type of fish and it was pretty good. I think Kitty liked it the most. In terms of the sauces, I didn't mind the sea salt as it let the natural flavours come through, but the saucier ones definitely gave more moisture to the grilled meats.
The next dish was Chilli Shrimp. The shrimps were crispy and coated in a sweet and sour sauce, with a kick. I found it more sweet than spicy, and I liked the crispiness of the shrimp.
Nels: They were also cooked well because the shells were still on them and it was perfectly edible.
I was delighted with the bowl of Kimchi Bibambap. The bowl was extremely hot, so it made the rice crunchy and kept everything very hot. I liked the kimchi in the dish, as it is not normally found in regular bibambap. Also, there was some pork in the bowl as well. This was my favourite dish of the meal.
Nels: I liked the crunch of the hardened rice in this one and the great mix of fresh and cooked ingredients. I liked how they provided the spicy sauce on the sides so we could add it ourselves to taste.
That was the end of the dishes that the chef prepared for us, but there were some interesting things on the menu that we wanted to try.
We also ordered a Takoyaki. I found the batter too thick, and the octopus small and hard. Not one of the better takoyaki's I've had.
Nels: Agreed. Small, hard octopus and didn't taste that good overall.
We also ordered the Honey Rice Cakes. Mike and Kitty really like honey, so they were all over this.
Nels: I suppose because it is likely grilled these were a bit crunchy. Since the rice cakes have almost no flavour, the natural taste of honey really came through.
For dessert, we had the Hot Stone, which consisted of a hot brownie with vanilla ice cream on top. I prefer my ice cream not melted, so I tried to eat this as fast as I could. I liked the brownie, though it reminded me of a two bite brownie cut in half. I'm not sure if these are freshly made, but I want to say yes, as brownies are not that hard to make.
Nels: I really wanted to try some of their other desserts on the menu as there are some interesting ones, but this was the Chef's selection.
If you are in the area, definitely check out Sake Bar Kushi. They have great service and a lot of variety. They pay attention to details such as the deep fried lotus root served as garnish on nearly every dish that also happen to be delicious. We didn't try any of their sakes, but there is a big assortment to choose from and would be a great reason just to try some out. It's great that Toronto is getting a variety of quality Izakayas to choose from and Sake Bar Kushi definitely makes that list.
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