Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blowfish - Toronto, ON

As a sushi lover from Ottawa, Toronto has long been regarded as Sushi Central of the East (comparable to Vancouver for the Canadians who live in Canada's wild, wild West). As such, when my companion and I were in Toronto, we were definitely going to search for the best sushi restaurant Toronto had to offer. I had wanted something a little more "high-end" for our only dinner in Toronto, something similar to the fine-dining sushi experience we had at Japonais Bistro back in Edmonton. After perusing Urbanspoon, I settled on Blowfish (specifically the one on Bay Street). From the website and online menu, Blowfish seemed to have everything my companion and I were looking for on our dinner date: it featured modern contemporary decor with eye-catching neon lights throughout the restaurant and a menu full of interesting modern- and fusion-twists on classic sushi dishes. As soon as we sat down, our waiter filled our glasses to the brim with water and handed each of us a menu. She returned moments later with a hot, complimentary bowl of salted edamame which I appreciated. The edamame was warm, well-salted, and well-cooked though nothing special; I still think I would have preferred a bowl of hot miso soup to start off my meal as opposed to a bowl of edamame.
Hot Edamame
As I perused the menu, I noticed two things about Blowfish: 1) the clientèle were quite well-dressed, suggesting Blowfish was definitely a popular venue for business parties and special occasions alike and 2) there was a definite lack of both Asian clientèle and Asian service, which was a bit disconcerting, as that is what I use as one of my primary "once-overs" to judge the quality of the sushi meal. The menu was not as extensive as I was hoping, but had fairly interesting options otherwise. For our dinner, we decided to go with Salmon Sashimi in Miso, Lotus-steamed Lobster + Shrimp Dumpling, Red Hot Curry Salmon, Battered Tuna, and Golden King Crab.

Salmon Sashimi in Miso
The restaurant was fairly empty when we entered and I was expecting the food to come out rather quickly (the next stop on our Toronto tour was the CN Tower, and we wanted to catch all the attractions after all). It wasn't a long wait, but definitely longer than what I would have expected for a relatively empty restaurant (though, to their credit the restaurant did start filling up quite quickly after 7:30PM and the later dishes actually arrived in a reasonable amount of time). The first dish we started with was the Salmon Sashimi in Miso which was topped with red onion and peas. It's one of the newer items on the Blowfish menu and subsequently is not listed on their online menu. The salmon was actually a nice thickness and had great flavour from the miso sauce. The peas and red onion also gave a surprising crunch to what would have otherwise been just salmon in miso sauce. This dish was easily our favourite dish of the night and was a delightful start to what we anticipated would be an equally delightful meal.

Red Hot Curry Salmon Makimono
The next two rolls came out simultaneously. The first was the Red Hot Curry Salmon Makimono ($13) which featured hot smoked Atlantic salmon, mango, cucumber, lettuce, pine nuts, tobiko, seasame seed, Japanese 7-spices, and curry drizzle. It was definitely our most adventurous roll of the night. While it brought an interesting array of flavours, neither my companion nor I particularly enjoyed it. It had a very strong Indian curry flavour to it, which I suppose we should have expected given the name, that completely overwhelmed any fish or sushi-like flavour. We were both expecting a sushi roll with curry-fusion twist rather than full on curry flavours when eating sushi.

Golden King Crab Makimoro
The second roll of the night was the Golden King Crab Makimoro ($17) which consisted of king crab, treviso, egg, pine nuts, avocado, cucumber, asian spices, and golden tobiko. Like the previous roll, I found the Golden King Crab to be a confusion of flavours in a sushi roll rather than a fusion-twist on a classic Japanese favourite. While the pine nuts added a nice flavour, crunch, and twist in the roll, many of the other ingredients left me feeling fairly confused as to what this roll's main theme was. The egg was soft and a little rubbery, cut so thinly that it hardly added any flavour or substance to the dish at all. The treviso, a newly trending Italian vegetable also called the "Winter Flower," which is primarily used as a bitter addition, was barely detectable. It seemed that the Golden King Crab roll was more trendy than actually tasty.

Batter Tuna
Our last roll of the night came shortly after the other two rolls were served. The Battered Tuna ($16) consisted of maguro tuna, avocado  cucumber, negi, shiso, tempura batter, Japanese 7-spice, and sweet Korean chilli  The roll itself was probably my favourite roll of the night, which doesn't exactly bode well for Blowfish. The roll had a nice clean taste to it, highlighting the maguro tuna quite well. The roll was not overly battered in tempura batter, though I felt there was a lack of actual crunch in comparison to other "fried" rolls I have had previously. Despite boasting the same "Japanese 7-spices" that was featured in the Red Hot Curry Salmon, the roll had very little semblance to the aforementioned roll; instead, it seemed that for this roll, the sushi chefs at Blowfish elected to use just a dash of it in the sweet Korean chilli sauce. The Korean chilli sauce was a little on the sweet side, with not quite enough heat, but still tasty in combination with the roll. Overall, I found this roll on the wrong side of the taste-meter, being just a little on the bland side. However, it was the only one that really tasted like good ol' sushi and was subsequently my favourite roll of the night.

Lotus-steamed Lobster + Shrimp Dumpling
Both my companion and I were fairly disappointed at rolls thus far in the night, especially since we were still quite hungry after three rolls! With $15+ rolls, we were expecting fairly large/filling rolls, which was hardly the case. The rolls itself, while a nice bite-sized portion, were not filling in the least. We were already planning out our dessert ventures before our last dish came out. Our last dish was the Lotus-steamed Lobster + Shrimp Dumpling with spicy tobanjan sauce ($12). The presentation of this dish was my favourite of the dishes and sitting alone on the table, the dish looked very dainty in its own right. The dumplings were fairly well made, with just the right amount of steamed rice paper and a generous portion of lobster and shrimp inside. While the portion was generous, I found the filling too filling...if you know what I mean. The lobster and shrimp, while both were cooked perfectly and had excellent seasoning, were a little too dense for my liking and sat heavily in my stomach after just the first bite. Needless to say, we both decided against dessert after finishing the dumplings.

Blowfish is a trendy restaurant, with great decor and a very chic atmosphere - great for business parties and that "dinner-before-a-night-out-on-the-town." The service was fairly average, though not lacking by any means. In terms of the actual food itself, I was fairly unimpressed; the sushi was for the most part not filling, and focused more on being trendy than actually being tasty. Unlike my companion (who is a hardcore sushi traditionalist), I occasionally like the fusion twists and am fairly adventurous when trying new sushi. However, Blowfish takes the fusion-aspect one step too far, and they really lose a lot of the natural flavours - like the freshness, the fish, the simplicity - that make sushi one of my favourite types of cuisine. Definitely not what I was looking for on my search for The Best Sushi in Toronto.

Top Pick of the Night: Salmon Sashimi in Miso


2.5/5 Erics'

Blowfish on Urbanspoon

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