J-Town: a Ja­panese won­der­land for food­ies

Travel to Tokyo via Markham, sat­is­fy­ing all your food crav­ings at once

Richmond Hill Post - - Food - By David Ort

In con­trast to the ki­netic bus­tle of Spad­ina’s Chi­na­town and the in­vig­o­rat­ing scents and colours of Lit­tle In­dia on Ger­rard, Toronto’s JTown mall feels re­strained, calm and sub­ur­ban. The clutch of squat, brick build­ings face a peace­ful cen­tral path­way that is shel­tered from the weather and con­nected to the sub­ur­ban-size park­ing lot.

Al­though there is shop­ping (house­hold items and golf equip­ment dom­i­nate), the plaza’s true fo­cus is Ja­panese cui­sine. The food tends to the clas­sics (rather than flash­ing with trends), prob­a­bly to sat­isfy the steady stream of de­voted re­peat cus­tomers.


J-Town’s north build­ing is di­vided into sep­a­rate restau­rants and re­tail­ers that are joined by in­door con­nec­tions. Hei­sei Mart, in the mid­dle, is the main at­trac­tion for ad­ven­tur­ous cooks due to its wide ar­ray of Ja­panese gro­ceries. Items range from sev­eral types of miso and noo­dle va­ri­eties to a rain­bow of sweet and savoury snacks. Famu, the con­nected butcher de­liv­ers on top-qual­ity meat.

Cafe Green Tea is the at­tached café with bare-bones decor and a menu of home­style clas­sics. The pork katsu curry ($8.98) is a house spe­cialty. Breaded pork cut­lets are served with rice and Ja­panese curry sauce — sweeter and milder than its In­dian or Thai cousins. De­spite the ubiq­uity of sushi and ra­men in

shop, T.O., it’s dif­fi­cult to find a bet­ter pork curry.


This seafood-fo­cused can­teen comes with a boat­load of un­der­stated sim­plic­ity. Al­though the fish-based cur­ries and tem­pura are de­li­cious, their don (rice bowls) are an even bet­ter bet. The Hokkaido don ($12.80) comes cov­ered in gen­er­ous serv­ings of sea urchin, salmon roe, grilled egg and large slabs of fatty salmon, making for an eye­catch­ing dish.


With some imag­i­na­tion, you can spot a slight re­sem­blance be­tween JTown’s clus­ter of build­ings and the iza­kaya al­ley in Tokyo’s Shin­juku Dis­trict. In­side Iza­kaya Ju there is a sim­i­lar lunchtime at­mos­phere (bustling and friendly) to the Ja­panese orig­i­nal. Sim­i­larly, the menu really shines when it comes to yak­i­tori clas­sics of var­i­ous grilled chicken parts — from chicken legs with leeks to chicken hearts for the more ad­ven­tur­ous ($2.50 ea).

As a con­cept, “iza­kayas” roughly trans­late as Ja­panese for “pubs,” so it makes sense that Ju has a good va­ri­ety of sakes (like the pop­u­lar Okuno­matsu) and three brands of Ja­panese beer.


The heart of the menu at Shiso Tree fits into the “wafu” style: the bones of western dishes, par­tic­u­larly Ital­ian pas­tas, clothed in Ja­panese in­gre­di­ents. Unagi don is an in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of noo­dles in a shimeji mush­room sauce (made creamy with white miso) and the epony­mous bar­be­cued eel ($17). The okonomiyak­i fries get an umami hit from bonito flakes and a house-made BBQ sauce ($8) while pou­tine turns Ja­panese with dashi gravy and sea­weed ($9).


This sweet shop was in busi­ness well be­fore Un­cle Tetsu came to town. Here, the souf­flé cheese­cake is nim­ble with­out be­ing feather light ($4.75). The black sesame tofu cheese­cake is strik­ing: the grey­black top layer packs a heavy dose of sesame flavour that con­trasts nicely with the lighter base layer ($4.80).

Af­ter you’ve fin­ished your crawl, Ten23 is a con­ve­niently lo­cated last stop for karaoke. Af­ter all, boozy con­coc­tions-by-the-pitcher work best on a full stom­ach.

J-Town, 3160 Stee­les Ave. E., Markham

L-R: J-Town By The Sea’s Hokkaido don, Nakamura’s cheese­cake

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