Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ki: Inspired Modern Japanese Cuisine at BCE Place

Ki is Japanese for pure; undiluted; raw. It's also the name of a magnificent modern Japanese restaurant nestled on the northwest corner of BCE Place at the corner of Wellington and Bay, in Toronto's financial district. Designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects, BCE Place is a complex of two modern towers connected by a graceful atrium of soaring parabolic shapes, called the Allen Lambert Galleria. This 'crystal cathedral of commerce' also houses the south entrance of Ki with it's spectacular glass wall sculpture designed by Jeff Burnette, one of Canada's premier glass blowers.

Jeff Burnette, one of Canada's premier glass blowers, created this extraordinary 
glass wall outside Ki's atrium entrance

Started in 2005 by Toronto dining impresarios David Aisenstat and Torsten Drees, both formerly of the Keg and Hy’s, the restaurant's stunning modern interior was designed by Vancouver designer Elaine Thorsell for a cool $7.5 million. And it seems that no expense was spared — the space is absolutely gorgeous. 

The Modern Room, located along the sushi bar

The Orchid private dining room

Entering through the over-sized doors, one is immediately greeted by a pleasant hostess and shown to one of Ki's many dining areas, from the two raised dining areas surrounded by ponds overlooking Bay Street, the refined and elegant sushi bar with it's 36-foot black granite bar, to the three stunning private dining areas for groups of 8 to 30 guests, there's also a fabulous outdoor bar and patio, which is enormously popular for the after-work crowd. With soft lighting, dark wood accents, plush comfortable seating and striking pieces of original art, the ambiance screams success. Absolutely packed on a sunny Friday afternoon, it's quite apparent Ki is the hot spot for the Bay Street power-lunching crowd.

The battalion of sushi chefs at Ki creating the most delicious and innovative 
sushi, sashimi and signature plates in Toronto

At Ki, the experience is meant to be a series of sensations to be shared and lingered over, whether it’s a cozy meal for a few or a lively evening out, the beautifully designed space has been artfully designed for both social and intimate dining experiences. At the sushi bar, expert chefs work their magic, creating a dynamic and interactive dining experience where guests can savour sushi, sashimi, small shared plates or the full menu plus one of the largest sake lists in Canada. 

Two ice cold Sapporo beers - perfect on this hot, humid and hazy afternoon, 
on Ki's spectacular 11-metre black granite sushi bar

Seated at the 36-foot long black granite sushi bar in their gracious round high-backed chairs, we were first handed two hot towels and then presented with a cocktail list and luncheon menu. At Ki, chefs prepare dishes in both the hot kitchen and at the sushi bar, featuring an array of dishes that are meant to be shared, from soups and salads, kushiyaki skewers, tempura, nigiri + sashimi, classic makimonos, Ki modern makimonos, signature hot and cold plates and daily bento box selections. Our friendly and knowledgeable server Ingrid, suggested that we select about 4 dishes each. We ordered two Sapporo beers and started with some Miso Soup with tofu, scallions and wakame.    

Ki menu designed as a square format, just like the logo

Ki luncheon menu

Miso soup with tofu, scallions and wakame

Following Ingrid's recommendation, we followed with two of Ki's signature cold dishes, the Toro Tower topped with crispy shallots and garlic ponzu dressing, and the Torched Sake with Asian pear and baby radish drizzled with a shiso yuzu dressing finished with a soy drizzled flash fried rice cracker. Light and delicate, both the Toro Tower and Torched Sake were beautifully presented and  portioned easily for two people to share. We also chose the Tempura Butterfish Modern Makimono with Alaskan king crab, salmon, butterfish, avocado, cucumber and tobiko with a tempura crust and and an order of Ikura salmon roe sushi. Warm with a light tempura batter, the Tempura Butterfish Makimono was outstanding. 

Toro Tower topped with crispy shallots and garlic ponzu dressing

Torched Sake with Asian pear and baby radish drizzled with a shiso yuzu dressing
and finished with flash fried rice cracker

Tempura Butterfish Modern Makimono with Alaskan king crab, salmon, butterfish, 
avocado, cucumber and tobiko with a tempura crust (R) and Ikura salmon roe (L)

Following with some hot dishes, we decided to try the Shrimp and Scallop Kushiyaki skewers brushed with a mango hot sauce, the Saikyo-marinated Black Cod with rapini, salmon roe and orange reduction, and side dish of Wok-Tossed Seasonal Asparagus and Local Shiitake Mushrooms.

Shrimp and Scallop Kushiyaki brushed with mango hot sauce

Wok-tossed seasonal asparagus and local Shiitake mushrooms

Saikyo-marinated Black Cod with rapini, salmon roe and orange reduction

At the end of our meal, although we chose not to indulge in dessert, we were presented with two chilled dark and white chocolates in a wonderful handmade origami box. Ki is not cheap, but it's worth every penny. Everything was excellent, from the service, to the décor, to the cuisine. Ki is a serene and sumptuous oasis in the middle of Toronto’s financial core — a culinary journey I hope to repeat with alarming regularity. Arigatou gozaimasu.

Chilled dark and white chocolates in a handmade origami box!