Friday, June 14, 2013

Japango - Toronto, ON

After a rather tumultuous and overall unsuccessful search for sushi in Toronto, Shannon and I finally stumbled across Japango on a last minute whim through the advice of our friend. After walking a decent 40 minutes from Say Cheese! I had built up a hearty appetite and was overly excited to try Japango's sushi offerings. Japango is a quaint little Japanese sushi restaurant located an easy five minute walk from Toronto's main Yonge and Dundas Square (for those of you have been to New York, Yonge and Dundas Square is the equivalent of Time's Square, though a few notches down in terms of pizazz). When I say little, I mean tiny; Japango has a maximum carrying capacity of perhaps twenty-diners, which makes for a rather cosy dining experience overall. On one wall runs a dark wooden bench which serves as the "booth-seating" while the rest of the seating arrangement is made up of dark wooden chairs and tables.

Although Japango's concise menu offers mostly "traditional" Japanese rolls, they still have a number of new-age / fusion rolls. After perusing the specials board and the menu, Shannon and I decided on the special of the night, the O-toro Sashimi as well as the Hawaiian Roll, Crunchy Salmon Roll, and of course, the Japango Signature Roll. My friend, who had been to Japango previously and was familiar with their menu, also suggested the Salmon and Green Onion Roll which we gladly ordered.
O-toro Sashimi
The first dish that came out was the O-toro Sashimi ($23) or blue-fin tuna belly. I had never tried blue-fin tuna belly before, though one of the staples of my sushi dinners almost always inevitably involves Toro Sushi, which is regular fatty-tuna belly. Shannon had tried blue-fin sushi at Kaji so it was a no-brainer of a dish, especially since it was on special that night. After a pleasant, though slightly prolonged wait (especially for a dish that really just involves cutting up pieces of fish), the dish was served to us by the manager himself. He mentioned that he had added two extra pieces for our party of three (almost double the portion, considering that a normal order comes with three pieces) free of charge as our party size was a little large for the dish! Now that's what I call a classy restaurant giving top notch service. The O-toro Sashimi was served at the perfect temperature and had a clean, fresh taste to it. Compared to regular toro, the O-toro is slightly fattier and denser, which overall gives the dish a more substantial texture and a creamier taste. Between the three of us, even those extra pieces did not last long!
Japango Roll
The next roll that came out was the house signature-roll, the Japango Roll ($13). Japango's online menu does not advertise its ingredients, so it's hard to accurately predict all the components of the Japango roll. From what I remember / tasted, the Japango roll was a combination of scallop / salmon roll layered on top with red tobiko, tuna, spicy mayonnaise, and a touch of terryaki sauce. This was easily my favourite roll of the night as the sauce brought out the natural flavours of the fish and scallop without overpowering the roll. The combination of teriyaki sauce and spicy mayonnaise added the perfect amount of sweetness with a nice, sharp kick that resulted in the perfect amount of heat in the roll. The nice thing about Japango's spicy mayonaise was that the heat didn't really linger, and thus did not "ruin" the taste of the roll itself or subsequent rolls. Despite the amount of sauce, the roll remained light and fresh and definitely left me wanting more!
Crunch Spicy Salmon Roll
The next roll that came out was the Crunchy Spicy Salmon ($9) which was composed of spicy salmon and tempura flakes. This is often a roll I often order at AYCE sushi and since I first ordered it seven years ago at my first AYCE eat sushi restaurant in Ottawa, it has grown to become a staple of all my sushi meals, whether the restaurant is AYCE or not. Like the Japango roll, the the spicy salmon had a nice amount of spiciness - the perfect amount of heat for me - which highlighted the quality and freshness of the salmon. Unlike AYCE sushi places, the tempura batter used for the "crunch" part of the roll, was light and crispy and not at all soggy (as tempura batter tends to become when sitting in hot oil for more than five minutes), which I very much appreciated. The Crunch Spicy Salmon roll was definitely above average in comparison to its counterparts that I have tried at other sushi restaurants, but is definitely not a "special" roll by any means. If you are a diner that likes to stay on the safer side of things, I would highly recommend this roll, but it may be a little boring for the more adventurous souls.
Hawaiian Roll
The Hawaiian Roll ($9) followed the two other rolls shortly and was composed of similar components found in the Crunchy Spicy Salmon roll. My friend was fairly enthused about the roll and dived right into the roll as soon as it arrived at the table; however, I managed to cut him off ninja-style with my chopstick just in time to snap a quick picture before we all dove in. (I may have startled him a little bit, but after being friends for well over a decade, he was probably used to it by then). In addition to having similar components as the Crunchy Spicy Salmon roll, the Hawaiian roll had other elements that added a more Hawaiian twist, such as greens (leeks or cucumbers, perhaps?) and a sweet mango drizzle. Again, like the Crunchy Spicy Salmon, the tempura batter was perfectly light and crisp. While the roll was good, it didn't have any component that specifically screamed "Hawaiian" at us. I suppose we were all expecting a splash of pineapple - similar to Hawaiian pizza - but was otherwise it was quite an enjoyable roll.

The Salmon and Green Onion ($6) was the last and most simple roll that arrived at our table. Like the name suggests, it was composed of fresh salmon, green onion, and wrapped in layer or rice and seaweed. Though simple-sounding, the roll was still quite enjoyable. It was on the more traditional side and its simplicity really highlighted the fresh, clean flavour of the salmon. The little splash of green onion added a nice subtle note of flavour to the roll overall as well.

Japango was an excellent experience. Between the three of us, we only paid $25 (including tax and tip) for a filling and sushi-satisfying meal (unlike our experience at ND Sushi). Management and service was great, and I especially appreciated the fact that we were given extra portions of the O-toro sashimi free of charge. The sushi itself was tasty with excellent fusion rolls that incorporated different flavour notes, without actually overpowering the simply freshness and cleanliness of the sushi flavour (take note Blowfish!). I would highly recommend Japango to native Torontoians and visitors alike, and I will definitely be back to Japango the next time I am in Toronto!

Top Pick of the Night: Japango Roll


4/5 Erics

Japango on Urbanspoon

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