Wednesday, December 21, 2011 0

Omakase at Mikado - excellent service and delicious homestyle food

By kc in ,

What makes Mikado different from the other (sadly only handful of) authentic Japanese restaurants in the city is that it's not just about the raw fish. Just like how Chinese food cannot be summarized by the terms "dim sum" or "fried rice", there's so much more to Japanese cuisine than just sushi.

Mikado is a hidden gem in the mid-town of industrial companies, across the street from car repair shops. Complete with an ordinary storefront sign and a middle-of-nowhere location (which seems to be the characteristics for authentic and delicious Japanese food in Toronto, e.g. Kaji, Zen, Aoyama, Cafe Michi, Mikado... anyone else noticing a pattern?), one step in and it's as if you're transported to another place of another city. The warm wood and tatami interior gives off a traditional yet homey vibe.

I had made reservations for two in advance, requesting omakase.

Omakase is a multi-course, customized meal where the chef prepares beforehand. He/she plans out the menu, the dishes he would like to serve (usually, innovative and creative dishes not on the menu), the ingredients needed for such meal, the freshest best quality ingredients available at the time (especially when it comes to sashimi) and even the order of which the dishes will be presented is thought out in advance for a balanced meal. You can also personalize your omakase by letting the chef know any allergies you may have (or like me, notify them the things you prefer not to eat haha).

Some restaurants offer a choice of omakases, some don't. For example, Zen offers a raw omakase where the entire meal is focused primarily on sashimi and sushi. Other restaurants may have omakase that is a mix of both raw and cooked foods, like this Mikado review.

Lastly, omakase is usually offered at different price points, which differ by each restaurant. It can be anywhere from $40 per person to $120 per person (in Toronto, that is). The price dictates the quality of the ingredients used and the dishes prepared. It also ensures that you will get the freshest and the best fish of that day.

In summary, the word omakase means entrust - basically, you're entrusting your meal to the chef, leaving all the choices and selection to him.

Wow, it feels like I'm writing an essay instead. I guess this is what happens when you're passionate about food!

They have these cute slippers you can wear too!

For our very first dish, this was an appetizer consisting of seaweed on the left and what I believe to be saba on the right. It was okay, not very impressive.

Fish soup with enoki and shiitake mushrooms. Very flavourful and homey, perfect for any fish lover.

Monk fish liver. A dish I love to order! As well, it's a nice substitute for foie gras. Creamy, rich, yet slightly tangy.

Fried fish head. Very crispy while not overly oily.

Omakase sashimi!
While the selection was fresh and varied, there were one or two pieces that were not perfectly cut, resulting in some having tendon still. Other than that, very fresh and good quality sashimi. The most outstanding of them all would be the hirame which is a type of flounder, rolled up with a delicious ponzu-pepper sauce in the centre.

Zoom up on the three toro's - otoro, chutoro and toro. Very fresh, yet very, very fatty. Make that EXTREMELY fatty melt-in-your-mouth-ness.
It was so fatty that it instantly gives you that itis feeling, just like when you a bite into a thick piece of pork belly/fat. I could barely finish my portion of the toro's without feeling overwhelmed by its nicely marbled fat. SOOOO FATTY YET SO GOOD!

What looks like an oyster, but was actually a baked clam with mushrooms. A little too much oil but still not bad.

Top, left to right: toro (fatty tuna belly), something I don't remember >_>, tuna, snapper, clam.
Bottom, left to right: Japanese mackerel, scallop, king crab legs (cooked), Spanish mackerel, and eel (cooked).

Omakase nigiri time!!! Gosh I love omakase. Amazing dishes, one after another.
Mikado also does the style of nigiri where the meat on top is long and slender, a dollop of rice underneath and with just enough of wasabi to balance the flavours. Very good rice to fish ratios.

One more picture of the nigiri.

By this time, we were both extremely full. We had to push ourselves to finish the last few pieces of nigiri so that they don't go to waste.
At this point, the waitress came and asked if we were still hungry, and if so they would start preparing the next dish. Both my brother and I were waving our hands rapidly, indicating please no more!, for now at least. I had to pause and hoped that my stomach would digest faster. One of those moments where your brain says YES I WANT MORE MORE MORE! and your stomach is saying YOU FATTY, I CAN'T DIGEST FAST ENOUGH! I'm 100% sure that was the dialogue between my organs.

Desperately finding space in our already full stomachs for our last dish, it was surprisingly the dish that stood out to me the most throughout the entire dinner: fried eggplants with sweet miso glaze. These were AAAMMMMMMAZING. So amazing that I'm capitalizing every letter, and making them underlined and bolded.
Small pieces that you can easily pop into your mouth, full of flavour and not soaked with oil. Although I was full, I ended up finishing most of the dish myself - truly too good to stop. Seeing how it's only $4 a la carte, I can't wait to come back for more!

Okay, so that wasn't the last dish we had after all. The eggplant was the last dish I had. This is beef tataki - slices of raw beef. My brother said it was good, but nothing outstanding. I don't think we had space to finish this dish.

So I lied again - that wasn't our last dish either, but technically this wasn't a dish by itself. The chef took the heads of the prawns we had earlier and deep-fried them, making them extremely crispy, delicious and entirely edible. I'm not a fan of fried foods, but this was not very oily, and crunchy texture of the shell makes me salivate already. But before you devour it, make sure you suck the brains out of the head - sounds disgusting, but trust me, deliciousness awaits you. I might even add that these were better than the fried prawn heads at Kaji!

What's a good meal without dessert? Looking back, I don't know how I had the room in my stomach to even eat this much but I guess it's true that all girls have an extra stomach just for dessert. And some guys too. That and the meal turned out to be 3 hours long.

Cream Caramel Pudding. It was not bad, but my mind kinda completely blocked out the memory of eating the pudding because it was occupied with eating this instead:

This is their famous Mikado Pie with mandarin orange. After one bite, I realized why it is their most popular sweet dish. Not overly sweet, creaminess in every bite with a hint of crust. My brother is not a big fan of cakes, but he also said he enjoyed this pie a lot. Besides the eggplant, we agreed that this was the other dish that stood out the most throughout the entire meal.

Overall, service was undoubtedly excellent! Both the waiter and waitress were very, very nice and expertly paced our dishes so that we wouldn't wait too long in between courses. They also regularly checked up on us to fill up tea cups, to answer our random questions on what's in this dish and what's the name of this fish, and even wrote down the name of the ponzu-pepper sauce we loved so much. It really felt like we were guests at their house and they were cooking us a host meal!

Since we did not indicate the monetary value of omakase we wanted to try and judging by the amount of food we had, I'm assuming they charged the highest amount, which I guess is $85 per person, excluding the dessert.

With the amount of food, the quality of food we had and lastly the impeccable service, both my brother and I do think the meal was worth its price. Although Mikado is small and located at a rather rural area, it is definitely worth a visit from any Japanese cuisine fanatics.

However, if you're looking for the freshest, best cuts of sashimi in town with the best selection of fish, I would recommend the sashimi omakase at Zen instead, which I also enjoyed immensely. As for everyone else, please don't come to Mikado expecting simply sushi and sashimi; open your mind and taste buds to try a more homestyle of Japanese cooking. There's more to Japanese cuisine than just raw fish and it's equally amazing in its own way. I completely recommend this place!

One last note: I had made reservations beforehand for this meal, requesting an omakase of both cooked and raw. My brother had previously walked in for omakase at Mikado before without reservations, and said that it wasn't as balanced nor delightful.

Must-try dishes:
- fried eggplant!!
- Mikado pie
- generally, their entire omakase meal :)

114 Laird Drive
Leaside, Toronto

Hours of Operation
Tuesday to Friday: 11:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Tuesday to Thursday: 5 PM - 10 PM
Friday to Saturday: 5 PM - 10:30 PM
Sunday: 5 PM - 10 PM

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