Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ki Modern Japanese Cuisine: A Symphony of Flavours






Ki is Japanese for pure; undiluted; raw. It's also the name of a upscale modern Japanese restaurant nestled on the northwest corner of Brookfield Place at the corner of Wellington and Bay, in Toronto's financial district. Designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects, Brookfield Place is a spectacular complex comprised 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. Created 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 — sleek and contemporary, the space is absolutely gorgeous, and so also is the cuisine.




The beautiful interior entrance from the Brookfield Place's Allen Lambert Galleria

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

Jeff Burnette's glass sculpture inside the Allen Lambert Galleria foyer of Ki

The 36-foot long black marble clad sushi bar



At Ki, chefs prepare an array of dishes that are meant to be shared, from soups and salads, kushiyaki skewers, tempura, nigiri + sashimi, classic makimonos, modern makimonos, signature hot and cold plates and daily bento box treats. Seated comfortably at the 36-foot long black granite sushi bar in gracious round high-backed chairs, we were presented with both a cocktail list and dinner menu, and decided to jump-start the evening with two of Ki's signature libations: A Kyoto Sour made with Tozai 'Living Jewel' Junmai sake, yuzu juice, miring, calico fennel seeds and honey, shaken with egg whites and finished with angostura bitters and a sprig of rosemary, and a Passion Flute Cocktail made with Chambord, passion fruit juice and Serenissima Prosecco.




Kyoto Sour made with Tozai 'Living Jewel' Junmai sake, yuzu juice, miring, calico  fennel seeds and honey, shaken with egg whites and finished with angostura bitters and a sprig of rosemary

Passion Flute Cocktail made with Chambord, passion fruit juice and Serenissima Prosecco

The menu at Ki features both hot and sushi dishes, including kushiyaki, tempura, makimonos, signature hot plates as well as nigiri, sashimi and sushi

Monogrammed linen napkins are a lovely touch to the table settings



Our server suggested that we select about 3 to 4 dishes each from the menu, which we did, but as soon as she placed our order, a delicious amuse-bouche arrived — Japanese Horse Mackerel nestled on a flower-shaped slice of sweet omelet drizzled with a miso-balsamic reduction and topped with micro greens. Sweet and delicate, it was as tasty and it was artfully presented.



An amuse-bouche of Aji (Japanese Horse Mackerel) on Sweet Omelet with a Miso-Balsamic Reduction, prepared by Ki's sushi chef

Sushi chefs at work their magic behind the sushi bar




Having dined at Ki before, there were a few favourites we were destined to order, such as the Spicy Maguro and Sake on Rice Cakes, a two-bite version of a classic sushi pizza, and the Tempura Butterfish Makimono which is served with Alaskan king crab, salmon, butterfish, avocado, cucumber and tobiko with a warm tempura crust. The combination of flavour and textures makes this one of Ki's most popular makimonos. The other dishes we ordered were selections we had not had before, such as the Hamachi and Jalapeño with fresh sliced ginger and yuzu shoyu, Dynamite Makimono Roll with tempura shrimp, mayo, tobiko and cucumber, and the Eel and Avocado Makimono with unagi, cucumber, avocado, tamago and yuzu sansho kabayaki sauce. The final dish that arrived were beautifully prepared Sake-Braised Pork Belly and Green Onion Kushiyaki Skewers, glazed with teriyaki and served with chili ponzu sauce. The menu is extensive enough that it's possible to return time and time again, and explore different dishes without ever getting bored. Apart from a boisterous party of sake-infused Bay Street revellers that were behind us this night, Ki is generally a sophisticated and delicious destination for modern Japanese cuisine. 





Spicy Maguro (tuna) and Sake (salmon) on crispy rice cakes

Hamachi and Jalapeño with fresh sliced ginger and yuzu shoyu

Dynamite Makimono Roll with tempura shrimp, mayo, tobiko and cucumber

Tempura Butterfish Makimono with Alaskan king crab, salmon, butterfish, avocado, cucumber and tobiko with a tempura crust (left) and Eel and Avocado Makimono with unagi, cucumber, 
avocado, tamago and yuzu sansho kabayaki sauce

Sake-braised Pork Belly and Green Onion Kushiyaki Skewers, 
glazed with teriyaki and served with chili ponzu sauce 

A pot of Orange Pekoe tea was the perfect end to a delicious meal









Kyoto Sour
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Ki

8 oz Tozai ‘Living Jewel’ Junmai Sake 3⁄4 oz Yuzu juice
2 oz Mirin
1 oz Calpico
2 oz egg whites (about 2 eggs-worth)
24 Fennel seeds
4 sprigs of rosemary 20 drops of angostura


Muddle the fennel and rosemary with the Mirin. Add all the other ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into coup glasses and garnish with Angostura bitters and sprigs of rosemary.