With a seemingly endless supply of sushi restaurants spanning from the downtown core to the city limits, an exhaustive investigation ofToronto’s sushi offerings is somewhat of a pipe dream. I speak from experience: I once crafted a “Sushi List” made up of the 50 most highly-rated places in Toronto ranging from cheap ($) to splurge ($$$$), and planned to visit one every week until I’d tried them all.
Truth be told, I never made it past the $$ joints. Ever in search of the most affordable green dragon roll, I simply couldn’t justify spending $15 on something that I could find, albeit of a lesser caliber, for $7. With sushi, though, it’s well known that you get what you pay for—so it’s worth finding a midpoint between cost and product quality.
Tonari Sushi strikes that balance exquisitely. Located on Yonge just south of St. Clair, Tonari is one of midtown’s best-kept secrets. Its sushi fare straddles the price spectrum, with special rolls ranging anywhere from $8 to (gulp) $20. Lunchtime bento boxes begin at around $8. On the occasion of my first visit to Tonari, I order the second-most expensive roll on the menu, theBlueMountainroll ($17). One might flinch at the cost, but I dare you to read the following description without salivating:
Special spicy salmon roll, mountain shaped with mixed tempura bits, spicy salmon, cucumber and avocado wrapped with soy bean sheet.
Drooling yet? Enjoy this visual.
Objects in photo are larger, much larger, than they appear. Portion sizes at Tonari are very generous; the above roll easily qualifies as a meal, and then some.
The Blue Mountain Roll receives top scores for both flavour and architectural prowess. Even when my chopsticks dig into the first large piece from the top of the ‘mountain’, the roll keeps its delicate shape with the tempura crisps resting gently atop the remaining structure. The flavour combination is a to-death-do-us-part kind of match. (N.B. My “eating face” must have been a source of great entertainment to the waiter, who made a point of coming over to tell me that I was ‘clearly enjoying’ my meal.)
My companion orders a familiar-sounding Bento Box, which comes more decadently ornamented than most lunchtime sushi joints (Glass noodles? Yes, please).
The restaurant has an admittedly weird ambiance: it doesn’t seem to get very busy… ever. In fact, I have been the only table (for two) in the restaurant every time that I have visited. But who’s complaining? Since the staff consists of a single chef and one host/waiter, the lack of bustle guarantees good service every time. In fact, the service is more than good: it’s outstanding. Our waiter brought out complimentary desserts after our meal. On my most recent visit, he even served me a gratis miso soup so that I could eat at the same time as my companion.
If you’re looking for a truly memorable sushi experience in an environment where you can have a real conversation, Tonari Sushi awaits. Just don’t take my table.