Japanese eats in Toronto

I just ordered a plate of aburi sushi and a salmon hand roll from our local sushi joint, inspiring me to write up this post on my favourite Japanese restaurants in Toronto. As you know, Japanese cuisine is one of my absolute favourites. A couple years ago, I had the chance to eat up a whole lot of it on my dream trip to Japan, and I wasn’t even remotely tired of it by the time I returned home. Since travel is still off the table for now, I am stuck with experiencing the tastes of Japan locally, but luckily there are many opportunities to do so here in Toronto.

As of 2010, there are about 20,000 Japanese Canadians residing in the Greater Toronto Area. This is a relatively small population compared to other ethnic groups in the region, and interestingly, several Japanese restaurants in the city are not run by Japanese owners. Nonetheless, many of these places are still very authentic and of excellent quality.

Here is a small selection of what I think are the best Japanese eateries in Toronto, Canada.

Skippa

📍 379 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M6G 1H8

You may remember my mention of Skippa in this recipe for shiso pesto salmon and maitake mushrooms. Skippa is undoubtedly our number one choice of Japanese restaurant in Toronto, which is saying a lot, because we have been to many of them! Located in the Harbord Village neighbourhood, Skippa is helmed by chef Ian Robinson, whose credentials include apprenticing under Toronto’s premier sushi chef, Matsuhiro Kaji. This modest looking restaurant with only about 30 seats serves a range of southern Kyushu dishes, along with a delectable omakase selection including fish sourced directly from a market in Fukuoka. The menu changes based on seasonal ingredients, and we have enjoyed everything we’ve ever eaten here, including the pickup meals that were offered during lockdown. In fact, Mr. Chuckles and I are such big fans of this place that we have been deemed ‘loyal customers’ who are invited to a special patio seating when they open up again in early August. We are eagerly looking forward to that!

Yasu

📍 81 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S 1G4

I was reminded of this place by a commenter on my post about the best lockdown takeout in Toronto. Also located in Harbord Village, Yasu is one of the city’s top restaurants for omakase. The prix fixe menu for $135 per person includes a selection of 20 items, including appetizers, sushi, and dessert. We came here once a couple years ago and really enjoyed it, although nowadays we prefer Skippa for its down-to-earth ambiance and more innovative dishes.

Miku

📍 10 Bay St # 105, Toronto, ON M5J 2R8

Miku is a much-hyped Japanese restaurant that originated in Vancouver and expanded to Toronto in 2015. I had never come across it while living in Vancouver, but had the chance to eat here once at the Toronto location situated in the financial district. The setting has a bit of a sterile feel, but the food is good. I had a sashimi platter the first time I ate there, and during lockdown we have ordered sushi a couple times via Uber Eats. They are best known for their flame-torched aburi sushi and also serve a fixed course kaiseki meal. Speaking of which, we had an amazing kaiseki dinner at Michelin starred Gion Nanba in Kyoto, which we highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Japan.

Guu

📍 1314 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6K 1L4

Taking a break from sushi, Guu is a great place to go for izakaya, otherwise known as Japanese tapas. This place is part of a chain, also originally from Vancouver, that had three locations around Toronto but was subsequently bought out and rebranded a couple times. We typically go to the location in Parkdale, where we are greeted with a loud “Irasshaimase!” upon entry and are offered a yummy selection of small plates. I recommend the cheesy clay pot rice, takoyaki, and grilled oysters. The dangerous part about this place is that you’ll be tempted to order everything, so pace yourself or you might be in for a shock when you get your bill.

Zakkushi

📍 620 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1E4

Zakkushi is our go-to spot for yakitori (grilled meat skewers) in Toronto, at their new Queen West location. This place brings back memories of our brief time wandering through Omoide Yokocho, although it is a proper sit-down restaurant rather than a cramped alley-side izakaya that was characteristic of that classic Tokyo neighbourhood. At Zakkushi, we like to get the premium set of yakitori which includes Wagyu beef, pork, chicken, and duck breast – all grilled on a stick. A skewer of chicken cartilage tops it off. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, I recommend trying the beef tongue or chicken gizzard. Nom nom nom.