Sushi like never be­fore

New con­cepts re­de­fine Ja­panese din­ing in Toronto by Jes­sica Wei

Bayview Post - - Food -

At this point in his­tory, in Toronto, we can have a Jiro Ono–es­que sen­sei lay glossy morsels of fresh­caught toro tuna one by one on a clean mat, and can also have a lit­eral walk­ing, talk­ing ro­bot glide over with a daz­zling ar­ray of sashimi on ice. This is on top of our reg­u­lar bento box take-away op­tions.

It’s still raw fish, but two new sushi restau­rants are re­ally chang­ing the game: One is a cosy new Oss­ing­ton spot that dis­tills fresh in­gre­di­ents into their purest form and forges a di­rect re­la­tion­ship be­tween chef and pa­tron. The other is Robo Sushi, a large AYCE eatery that opened in Septem­ber to cu­ri­ous din­ers, cell­phone cam­eras ready.

Will we be more en­ticed by the au­to­mated fu­ture of food or cling to the hu­man com­forts of sim­ple food, pre­pared right?

SELF-DRIV­ING SUSHI

Last year, a com­pany launched a fleet of sushi-de­liv­er­ing ro­bots in Tokyo. Au­to­mated all-you-can-eat The AI apoc­a­lypse is draw­ing ever nearer, but adorable three-foot sashimi-de­liv­er­ing ro­bots ad­mit­tedly make the de­cline of the hu­man race a bit more bear­able.

“Death was sweet, death was gen­tle,” Mark Twain wrote in his posthu­mously pub­lished

He likely wasn’t re­fer­ring to the sweet, creamy cus­tard baos that come out of the kitchen of Robo Sushi, the new all-you-can-eat Asian fu­sion res­tau­rant on York Mills, but how apt his words turned out to be. An­i­ma­tronic ki­mono-clad ladies greet you at the door; a per­pet­u­ally smil­ing ro­bot guides you to your ta­ble; se­lec­tions are cho­sen off a dig­i­tal tablet; and dishes are served by a mix of hu­mans (soon to be ob­so­lete, no doubt) and self-guided shelves on wheels. The food plays sec­ond fid­dle to the con­cept at a place like Robo Sushi, but it still holds up. All your pan-Asian faves are there. The sushi menu of­fers a range of sashimi and maki rolls, as well as torched aburi and sushi pizza, but they also have pages for dim sum, noo­dle soups and fried rice. You can get fried won­tons stuffed with cheese, bul­gogi and okra teriyaki –– all with­out ac­tu­ally talk­ing to a hu­man. Per­haps the ro­bot takeover won’t be so bleak after all.

NAME OF THE GRAIN

The word “sushi” refers to the rice: “su” means “vine­gared” and “shi” means rice. Getting handsy If Robo Sushi is about all-you­can-eat, what­ever-you-want-toeat and food ser­vice de­void of the in­con­ve­niences of hu­man in­ter­ven­tion, Narami is its di­a­met­ric op­po­site.

The new Oss­ing­ton boîte re­lies on the be­lief that sushi is an art and meant to be en­joyed in less time than one has to take the phone out for a food shot. There are no in­di­vid­ual ta­bles, just a long 28-seat bar wrapped around a chef ’s prep sta­tion, draw­ing the fo­cus to the prepa­ra­tion and the pre­sen­ta­tion, which are both de­lib­er­ately sim­ple. Hand rolls, priced be­tween $4 and $7 a pop, are dis­trib­uted one by one by the chefs them­selves. Each roll, they ex­plain, should be eaten in un­der 60 sec­onds, the time it takes for the nori to get damp.

Their tight menu prom­ises no duds in the lineup: There are 15 hand rolls, most high­light­ing one in­gre­di­ent, like salmon, crab­meat, un­agi, lob­ster and av­o­cado, on a bed of sea­soned sushi rice. Ap­pe­tiz­ers are also sim­i­larly sim­ple and fresh, in­clud­ing the stand­out takowasa, a cool and sat­is­fy­ing bowl of diced raw oc­to­pus mixed with wasabi, served along­side crisp sheets of nori. Although drinks are on of­fer, Narami’s en­vi­ron­ment doesn’t en­cour­age lin­ger­ing. With 60 sec­onds for each course, cus­tomers can be in and out with their bel­lies sated but not stuffed in less than an hour.

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