Thursday, April 1, 2010

Trying Omakase At Omi Sushi, Toronto

Last year I had written (read here ) about my first visit to Omi, on the Parliament-Carlton intersection in Toronto, and had mentioned about my desire to test the omakase the next time.
Well, I recently got the opportunity to just experiment my first ever Omakase. According to Wikipedia, the philosophy behind Omakase is all about trust; that is, placing the trust on the chef to provide something exquisite and creative. And it is also not supposed to be just raw food (sushi/sashimi), but include dishes made by simmering, grilling etc.
I had reserved beforehand, and arrived pretty late in the evening. There were close to ten people which I thought was good for that time of the day.
We were seated with our backs facing the wall, and just across us, on the other side of the aisle was the counter and behind it was the rather serious-looking chef at work.
I ordered sake, and green tea. For the sake, they offer a box full of cups for us to select one. I like cups that come with a tinge of roughness one attributes to ceramic, but this time for a change I decided to go for a smooth, shiny white cup.
The waitress informed us that there will be seven courses.
Course 1
Miso soup. The friendly waitress informed me that the soup was made with organic products. I could not detect any of the usual small cubes of soft tofu, but there were green onion rings and sea weed. The soup was moderately warm, and had an  exquisite dash of sourness.

Course 2
Catfish covered by a layer of sweet potatoes cut string-like and fried, in teriyaki sauce.  Each of the roll had a different type of wasabi on top. It was unique; with the taste of the catfish blending with the pungent sweetness of the sweet potato.

Course 3

Omi's scallop pizza. One of the best and it appears to be signature dish of the restaurant. A tiny pizza topped by a scallop that was hand torched by the chef using a blow-torch. Flying fish roe, wasabi and green onion rings complete the ultimate tasting of this gentle dish.

Course 4
It is actually three different dishes, served in one plate.
The first one is fried lobster pieces encased in thin sheets of peeled cucumber. The second is soft-shell crab and the right is white tuna with sesame seeds, coated in garlic oil.  This, again, is as much a piece of artwork as it is a delicious dish. It was soft and crispy, while the rice in the soft-shell crab is just sour enough for the best taste.

Course 5
Red and green seaweed salad, red-snapper coated in dough and deep fried, and a carrot-green onion salad. This is the first time I had tasted red seaweed salad. I was not sure whether it was mixed at the restaurant, or bought ready-made. The red-snapper was crispy and the fish had gained a fantastic slight hardness.

Course 6
White tuna sushi.
Fresh and soft, as if almost ready to melt to the warmth of the saliva. And the home-made soy sauce was a perfect match to the sushi.

Course 7

Salmon and red snapper sushi. The same with the previous course.

By the end of Course 7, I was full, which is a rare happening for me in a sushi house.

And then the chef dazzled me with Course 8.
I don’t know whether it was the tiredness that caused the blur in the photo, but I decided to upload it give an idea of the dish. Grilled kingfish in hot sauce. This was the first dish with a hot sauce for that night and I have a likening to Japanese spicy sauces (though I have heard that the hot sauce is not authentic Japanese, and that it was added to dishes outside of Japan). The fish was fresh, and grilled to perfection.

Course 9 – The Dessert
Unfortunately, they did not have dessert, so offered plum sake. I just took a sip of it, and controlled my urge to finish the sweet and soft liquid. I was driving that night.

Chef Lee is as much an artist as he is a chef, and one does see his passion and creativity in the dishes. it is a pity that there are no seats just by the counter, where we could take a closer look at his works of art.
The atmosphere is nice but simple, with not much space between the chair and the table.
I am intrigued by one issue, though: I noticed a dash of garlic oil in a number of dishes. I had never tasted it before, and was wondering whether this is an Omi speciality.
All in all, a great night. I would not hesitate to go again.

Omi on Urbanspoon

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