Softly and quietly a new omakase restaurant, Shoushin, opened in the busy residential area of North Toronto on Yonge Street. A curious location that is teeming with family-friendly outposts that finds a happy medium between quality meals for busy families more so than high end cuisine. Not to say the clientele of the area doesn’t demand quality and service. But will they understand the art form and simplicity of authentic Japanese sushi? Will they understand that this is not the place for California Rolls…not that there’s anything wrong with that but there are two other great sushi restaurants across the street, The Sushi Bar and Shinobu, that I would entrust to offer that option. Let’s be clear, they are the only two in the neighbourhood to trust consistently, as is Shoushin now, but it’s different here.
This new comer to the sushi scene in the city is beyond expectations in many ways. Master sushi chef, Jackie Lin, is in complete control of the restaurant that serves Omakase style dinner at three price points ($80, $120, and $250 per person). For those of you who don’t know, Omakase means you place complete trust on the chef to serve you what he wants. Here at Shoushin, there are no other options but I’m good with that. I’ve been twice to this restaurant since my friend Calvin had introduced me to Chef Lin.
The first three dishes I had were warm dishes from the kitchen including a brothy rich miso based soup. Both times I was there I enjoyed it also included clams. Then, the sushi starts to come. Seated at the restaurant’s sushi bar, Chef Lin is mesmerizing to watch as he completely immerses himself into the art of sushi making. Each piece of the freshest fish sourced according to seasonality is carefully and meticulously cut to perfection. Nothing is prepared ahead of time and don’t ask for soy sauce. Chef Lin has already given the fish a light bath in it – but only the ones that he feels warrants it. Ginger is offered in a separate little plate and up to you when you feel you need a piece. The sushi rice is at the perfect temperature. He puts so much love and care into each creation as he tenderly places each piece by piece in front of you to enjoy. He watches at the side of his eye each time with attention pacing out what and when to serve next.
What’s the difference in the Omakase prices points here? It’s not quantity but about quality and variation on what is offered each day. I noticed a lady seated next to us one night who had opted for top billing. Her dishes included caviar and other delightful rarities. On my first visit I only had an hour to visit. My mistake. This is definitely not a place to rush through and you just can’t. So, on the second visit we opted for the mid-range selection and made no other plans that evening. Hey, if you’re going for the experience you might as well go all the way and do it properly. As each piece was served we were able to connect with our friends and let the evening take it’s course. I actually lost count of how many sushi had come and at one point Chef Lin came over and I whispered to him “I’m getting really full,” to which he laughed a bit and told me not to worry, he would give my remaining sushi to my hubby. I really wish I could have kept eating but I didn’t want to burst and when sushi is this fresh and this good, you don’t want to over do anything. Just enjoy and remember the blissful moments.
There’s much respect in this sushi experience and it was mentioned at my first visit that Chef Lin encourages us to savour each sushi piece within 3 to 10 seconds of him placing it in front of you. Difficult to do when I was trying to take photos the first time around. The second visit Chef Lin actually said “please eat this right away” so I had put down my phone. “The unagi is at the perfect temperature.”
Shoushin is all about experiencing sushi the way it is meant to. Chef Lin is clear and focused on a vision of sharing the intimacy between sushi chef and sushi lovers. But don’t take that to offence, something I feel the North Toronto type-A crowd may need to adjust to. Expectations are definitely high in this area but so are Chef Lin’s- of the restaurant and in himself. You can see he is a complete perfectionist on everything he has his hands on.
I sense that while locals are curious, the clientele he’s attracting are those in-the-know as I listened in on conversations of their dining experiences and world travels — and that’s what everyone was talking about and he already has a loyal following from his previous 12 year stint at Zen Japanese a very popular restaurant located in Scarborough. One woman had been to the famous Jiro in Japan — and this wasn’t her first visit to Shoushin in the less than two months since he’s opened. She had made a comment that Chef Lin’s egg is just like Jiro’s to which he shyly replied, “I’ve heard that, thank you.”
The restaurant itself is minimal and serene. The sushi bar is Chef Lin’s stage. All the fish is prepped here including 80 lbs of fresh tuna that was delivered on one of my visits. There were only a handful of us late one night that lingered as he hauled the tuna onto the counter and began to prep it for the next day. This is something that is usually done off hours or away from customer sight but here, I get the sense he wants us all to have an appreciation and an understanding of the process.
The sushi bar itself is of particular interest. Made from Hinoki wood (a Japanese Cypress tree) that was sourced by his designer and shipped by specifications to be flawless pieces usually reserved for palaces and monasteries, Shoushin is one of only two North American establishments to have such rarity. The sushi seats about 15 people in total and there’s a private dining area in the back that seats about 10. A small table also is available at mid-point of the restaurant. The front part of the sushi bar requires diners to remove their shoes again to experience the ritual the way it is meant to be.
The restaurant is also licensed and the menu is intriguing. First on the wine list is Ikezo Peach Sparkling Jelly — as someone who doesn’t drink (much) I had two glasses. They have an extensive sake list, a couple of shochu and plum wines. Beer offerings include Asahi Super Dry and Echigo “Koshihikari” Mugi Shu.
Dessert comes with the meal but currently offered for the holiday season is a special collaboration with Butter Avenue. Two exclusive offerings includes a “RaspMerry Cheers” made of Darjeeling tea toasted meringue, raspberry Earl Grey tea mouse ove ran almond toffee tea crumble. The other dessert is “Snowy Fuji” made of Shizuoka matcha mousse, caramel matcha sauce and 66% dark chocolate crumbles.
Shoushin is located at 3328 Yonge Street, Toronto. Reservations highly recommended.