Parkdale is an upcoming neighbourhood in Toronto. It has a great assortment of bars, clubs and restaurants, all with a hipster, try-too-hard attitude. Last week, I went to Kanji for the first time for my friend Samantha’s birthday – Happy birthday Sam! As always, I was being a good birthday guest and I did not take pictures of all our meals. The meal was so delicious that when I got home that night I was raving about the food I ate and insisted to GC that we had to try it soon. Friday night, GC was not working, so it seemed like the perfect time to try some sushi.
Kanji is located on Queen Street, just past Dufferin. The inside is simple, modern and graphic. The walls are covered with wood panels arranged in geometric patterns and accent walls are painted vibrant colours in similar geometric patterns.
The light fixtures were interesting (unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of them) and I hadn’t noticed them the first time I saw them – they looked like nooses hanging light bulbs. Although modern and hip, Kanji sticks to some sushi restaurant musts: the sushi prep area is visible so you can see your meal being made right before you eyes and there is seating at the sushi bar. You won’t find your standard red and green capped Kikkoman soya sauce bottles. Instead, soya sauce is served in cute, rustic bottles that resemble little tea pots. Kanji successfully combines old and traditional textures and items to create the feel of simple juxtaposition that is cozy and cool.
We started off with cocktails – GC ordered the Mister Sparkle (shochu yokaichi mugi, cava, lemon zest, and lemon almond orgeat) and I ordered the Kanji (captain morgan rum, izumi sake, fresh grapefruit juice, soda, and mint). The Mister Sparkle tasted like Mike’s Hard Lemonade with more fizziness and less sugar. It was tart, sweet and boozy – the perfect drink to start a Friday with. The Kanji tasted like a mojito with sake. I have never really liked sake but this drink is a good introduction to it. Both cocktails were delicious and worked perfectly with the sushi deliciousness that was to come.
I started my meal with the miso soup. I had ordered this on my first visit and I fell in love with it.
Miso soup with Soybean broth, tofu, seaweed and scallions. There are also pieces of broccoli and chow mein noodles in the soup. This miso soup puts all others to shame. There is actual flavour and texture to the soup, rather than lukewarm broth with a few measly chunks of tofu. I love the addition of broccoli to the soup – it creates a more substantial broth and soup overall. When you go to Kanji, please start your meal off with this soup, it perfectly sets the tone, flavour and palate of the whole meal.
Next we split an order of the tempura.
This tempura is not like any I have had before. It is light, flaky and not greasy at all. I love the presentation as a precarious tower of fried yums. The star on top of the Christmas tree of tempura was a red onion ring – something I have not seen on any other tempura plate. The branches were made up of shrimp, sweet potato and broccoli. I typically do not enjoy broccoli when it has been breaded and fried like this because it is usually rock solid and raw. This broccoli was tender, bright, perfectly cooked without being hot with every bite.
For my dinner I ordered the Salmon Beauty Plate. Again, this is what I ordered on my first visit here.
The Salmon Beauty Plate – 3 pieces nigiri, 3 pieces sashimi, and spicy salmon avocado roll. Can we reflect on the beautiful simplicity of this plate of sushi? The sushi and salmon are able to shine in this study of salmon three ways.
1. Top left – salmon sashimi. I have never had sashimi before visiting Kanji. It always looked appealing but for some reason, I never ordered it. Going to lower quality sushi restaurants for so long taught me that there is only certain menu items done right, and you should stick to those. This rule does not apply to quality sushi restaurants. This sashimi was delicate and sliced accordingly. The marbling of fat in the salmon was beautiful and the fish itself was meaty and tender. It wasn’t freezingly cold, which sushi sometimes is, but it wasn’t too warm, making you feel ill. It was lightly crusted in a blend of poppy seeds and sesame seeds, adding a slight nuttiness and crunch to the smooth, silky flesh of the salmon.
2. Top right – spicy salmon avocado roll. This was perfectly rolled – it was tight and maintained its form, no matter how hard you have to squeeze your chopsticks to pick it up. The sauce the rolls sat on was spicy, with almost a chipotle like heat to it. The avocado was firm and complimented the tenderness of the fish. The seaweed was crisp and fresh and did not unravel with each bite.
3. Center – salmon nigiri. The salmon was draped lightly over the soft pillows of rice, to create a little bed of sushi. The fish had this perfect lemon hit to it that added a brightness and freshness to the sushi. It was a perfect palate cleanser to finish the plate.
Out of the three ways salmon was featured, I enjoyed the sashimi best. It was salmon in its most pure form. It highlighted the complexity and at the same time, simplistic perfection of salmon.
GC ordered the Spicy Dynamite Roll and the Rainbow Roll.
GC really liked these. The general consensus after finishing our sushi was that we probably can’t go to places like Sushi on Bloor and New Generation anymore. We have been spoiled and we can’t go back.
We finished off our meal by splitting dessert.
Sweet Potato Cheesecake. This isn’t as strange as you think it is, if you remember that Sweet Potato Pie is a thing. I liked the sweet potato crisp on top of the cheesecake. The coulis drizzle was raspberry and balsamic vinegar – a delicious combination of sweet and savoury. The raspberry was so rich and pure. The cheesecake was good – it was a good indication that they knew how to make cheesecake. The sweet potato flavour wasn’t strong enough for me. I didn’t like how the whip cream on the cheesecake was clearly from a can – it’s not hard to make real whip cream and the difference is amazing. Next time I want to try the Yuzu Creme Brulee.
I love this restaurant and like I said before, I don’t know if I can return to Sushi on Bloor or New Generation sushi. I would rather eat sushi less often and when I do, go to a quality place like this. The price isn’t exponentially more like you would assume, just a dollar or two per item. Obviously this adds up but you are paying for quality in ingredients, service and atmosphere. If you are a sushi lover, you need to take it up a notch and visit Kanji.