A little background: Zen Japanese Restaurant is aiming for the preservation of the traditional culture of Japanese cuisine, which gives the best impression of the cuisine to the guests while being loved by them.
Owner and Chef, Kashiwabara San, proudly being Japanese, believes strongly that running a Japanese business requires having an understanding of the fundamentals of Japanese cuisine.
Canada is a multi-cultural country comprised of people with diverse backgrounds. Zen Japanese Restaurant is formed, in part, from this diversity and strives to become a place where guests could dine comfortably. They believe that the restaurant is also a form of entertainment. By providing great service, beautiful food presentation and delicious cuisin, they believe patrons will have the best impression possible of Zen Japanese Restaurant and Japanese cuisine. They believe, as long as they continue with this thought, it is natural for guests to fall in love with Zen.
My visit: My first ever omakase experience was at Zen when they were still located in the sketchy little strip mall in Scarborough and I was utterly blown away by the freshness and quality of their fish. Needless to say, I was looking forward to relive my dining experience at their new location in Markham.
Our omakase meal started with the squid in a light sweet sauce.
Following was a shiny piece of suzuki nigiri. The chewy mild flavored white fish was finished off with a little salt and lime juice.
The arctic char resembled a salmon but its taste was mild and similar to trout.
Afterwards we had the scallop sushi which was tender and sweet.
The chutoro had a well-balanced flavor and was scrumptious.
The madai garnished with a pinch of salt had a watery, clean, delicate sweet aroma with a fibery texture.
The hamachi was complex with tons of flavor without the strong “fishy” taste.
The saba had great flavors that stood up well to the kelp and lime zest.
I love kinmedai but the one served here was a bit leaner than the ones I am use to.
My favorite piece of the night, the kanpachi had a soft flesh and delicate taste.
I was a bit disappointed in the uni as it had an unpleasant aftertaste.
Next up was an extremely fresh and crunchy piece of ebi sushi.
The otoro was beautifully marbled and melted in my mouth like butter.
The aji was clean and slightly oily. The grated ginger and scallions helped enhance the flavor of the fish.
At this point, I noticed that the chef was behind on his orders and was cutting corners to get the food out. Unfortunately, that affected our toro roll. The onions and tuna belly were not chopped properly effecting the texture and taste in each bite.
For dessert, we had the delicious and light mandarin pie which is a staple that had been carried over from their previous location.
Verdict: I miss the old location as I found it more intimate with the lower ceilings and smaller more rustic sushi bar. The new Zen is nice and modern but it lacks warmth. Food wise, in comparison to my past visits to this experience, the quality has been less on par. I did verify with my brother, who is a regular at Zen and was also present at the night, and he agreed that the food was not as enjoyable. The fish however still excels compare to many other Japanese restaurants in Toronto. So I am confident this was a one off experience.
Happy eating 🙂
Zen Japanese Restaurant
7634 Woodbine Ave, Markham, ON L3R 2N2, Canada