Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Japango, or, ridding the world of those pesky fish

Probably no more than 16 lucky people at a time can fit into Japango, a tiny japanese resto and sushi bar, hidden away on Elizabeth street in Toronto. The staff are friendly, and the chef right off the bat shows me the nights special : baby crabs, still alive, scurrying around in their tupperware home. They’re served deep fried and he covers his eyes and prays for the customer each time he throws one into the oil. We couldn’t resist. Actually my mum did, preferring the karmically sound route, however Robin and I got to choose our crabs as you would a fish in a Chinese restaurant. Probably more theatrics than gastronomy but no let down, Robins escapes the waitresses chopstick wielding grasp and runs around the floor a bit before being re-captured. Mine attacks me, pinching my finger quite painfully, so I decided we were meant for each other. They reappear later in the meal.
We order some appetizers, a sushi plate (chef’s choice) and some beer. After a brief chat to catch up, and a few sips of beer the apps arrive. Firstly, agehdashi tofu, meltingly soft tofu squares,coated in panko and deep fried. Then served with a bit of japanese soup stock, some soy, some minced green onion , and . Great, and the panko is a nice addition I’ve never encountered before.
Secondly, some griled eggplant. A little more bland, but beautiful and simple, they’re dressed in soy with a few bonito shavings shivering over the grilled and peeled aubergines adding their fishy smokey dimension to the dish.
We get to the main course sushi plate and it looks spectacular. I’m not one for tempura shrinp rolls, but these take the cake, fresh and crispy. And there, clinging onto the shrinp tail are our crustacean friends from the first paragraph. Whole in their shells, they are crunchy with a meltingly soft interior. I will avoid the allusions to terrestrial beasts with exoskeletons but there you have it, crispy deep fried crab minus the batter.
There is less rice in all the sushi than we are used to, and the rice is mildly sweeter, both of which work well with the ultrafresh fish. The salmon is delicious, top of the line, the tuna belly, which I always find overrated is less so here, but I still don’t see what the big deal is. Snapper, imported from Japan, comes with a small piece of shiso on top. Here again is a first for me, but the dosing is just right, shiso the size of a dime, fish, and mildly sweet rice all coming together to equal more than the sum of their parts.
All in all a spectacular meal, although I have more and more problems with sushi from an ethical depopulating the fish world point of view, this remains an outstanding sushi restaurant and at $90 for three people, one of the best quality/price ratios around, so get there before everyone else does and their pricing and location move uptown. Remains to be seen if you can open an ecologically friendly sushi restaurant. Oh and if you’re a regular you get to put your set of chopsticks behind the sushi bar in a little case.

1 Comments:

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