Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Yasu: Omakase Sushi on Harbord - Taste of the Sea

Tucked in a narrow white room on Harbord Street, Osaka-raised chef-owner Yasuhisa Ouchi delivers glistening sushi, one piece at a time, to 10 guests seated at his marble-topped bar, Yasu. The city's first sushi-only omakase restaurant, Yasuhisa's edict is simple — "In a global world where borders are becoming seamless, Toronto can now have access to the freshest seafood like what we have in Japan. Yasu took this opportunity to return to the roots of sushi, in which simplicity was the key ingredient in bringing out the taste of the sea. He uses classical methods to draw out the umami of seafood, with fish that is freshly sliced and placed atop warm, loose rice then brushed with a touch of nikiri soy for a perfectly balanced bite. In short, Yasu is all about capturing the essence of sushi. Seasonal ingredients are prepared at the sushi bar and served immediately for maximum flavour and freshness, for a true omakase sushi experience — served only just-warm, vinegar-seasoned rice draped with superlative fish, made to order right in front of you and served a single bite at a time.

Having tried for a reservation at the coveted sushi bar for months, we finally succeeded. The menu is Ouchi's choice of 18 impeccably fresh pieces of edomae sushi for $80 per person, which can include Striped Jack from Kyoto, Sea Bass from Greece, Uni from Vancouver and Hokkaido, Fluke from Boston and Hamachi from Japan — the very best I've ever been served. The Marinated Bluefin Tuna from Mexico literally melted in our mouthes and the house smoked Bonito from Portugal sublime. The fish selection changes constantly, and the sake pairings, served in glasses cradled in a traditional wooden masu box, are a delightful trip through the various styles of Japanese rice wine and well worth the price. For sushi enthusiasts, Yasu is an experience unlike like any other. Place yourself in chef Yasu's hands, and you'll leave in a blissful state of sushi euphoria every time.

Yasu Sake, Wine and Beer menu with featured Sake Pairings selected by Chef Yasu Ouchi 
to match the evenings sushi 

A selection of the Sake at Yasu, available for the pairing menu and by the bottle

The first Sake pairing of the evening was from Kyoto

The Striped Jack, flown in fresh from Kyoto, was exhibited on the server's iPad

Striped Jack from Kyoto

Sea Bass from Greece

Uni from Vancouver: a creamy roe had a complex, briney flavour with a velvety richness 
that has been described as foie gras from the ocean

Fluke from Boston

The second Sake pairing was from Yamagata, served Hana-Hié – “flower cold” - 40°F to 50°F

Yamagata Sake from the Watarai Honten Dewanoyuki Brewery

Hamachi from Japan — the very best I've ever tasted

 Red Snapper from Japan, with a sliver of green shiso leaf under the flesh 

The 3rd Sake pairing was from Nagano, with a fragrance of young Fuji apples

Karakuchi Kiippon Junmai Ginjo from Nagano

Chef Yasu Ouchi prepares to slice the Tuna Belly

Tuna Belly from Spain

Chef grating lime zest over the Ikura

Ikura Salmon Roe on Nori, with grated lime zest

Wild Shrimp from Argentina

Takatenjin ‘Sword of the Sun’ Tokubetsu Honjozo Sake

The fifth sake pairing, the Takatenjin ‘Sword of the Sun’ from Akita with aromas 
of melon, pear, and banana

Mackerel with scallions and ginger topped with a paper thin slice of pickled daikon

Yasu sous-chef skewering the Bonito...

...then smoking it lightly 

Smoked Bonito from Portugal

Chef Yauhisa preparing the Tuna and Scallion Roll in crisp nori

The Tuna and Scallion hand roll presented by chef Yasuhisa 

 Anago, fresh sea eel from Japan

Chef Yasuhisa slicing the Tomago, a type of Japanese omelette which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg and made in a a rectangular omelette pan called a makiyakinabe

Tomago Japanese omelette

Chef Yasuhisa asked if we'd like one more extra piece of sushi and we agreed, asking him to make the choice — a special Uni from Hokkaido

The final Sake pairing, a sweet Plum wine

Nakano Shuzou Plum Umé

Black sesame Ice Cream for dessert