There’s certainly no shortage of Japanese food in Toronto. Long gone are the days when the only options were sushi restaurants or a few izakayas. Recently, the strip on Dundas between University and Bay has seen a surge of Japanese food businesses featuring everything from ramen noodles to cotton cheesecakes, often attracting large crowds and a frenzy of the social media obsessed that want to capture the latest food craze. The area has been affectionately dubbed as Toronto’s Little Tokyo or Little Japan, depending on who you ask.
Here are some of our favourite picks of where to eat.
This café specializes in drinks and tasty treats using matcha – Japanese green tea. Tsujiri just opened earlier this year in Toronto, but the Tsujiri name was first launched in 1860 in Uji in Kyoto, Japan by Reimon Tsuji as a tea company. While Tsujiri has an abundance of drink options from traditional bowls of matcha tea to matcha lattes, most people line up for their matcha soft serve or their matcha shaved ice. To get the best of both worlds, you can order their Tsujiri Shaved Ice which is topped with the soft serve, as well as mocha rice balls, chestnut and red bean paste. Their soft serve is deep green and has a strong matcha flavour, it’s not too sweet and has a slight bitterness. There is also the option of ordering it as a vanilla and matcha swirl if you want something lighter to break up the matcha flavour. Other matcha treats that are worth trying are their crepe cakes, cookie puffs and roll cakes.
(Tsujiri Shaved Ice with vanilla and matcha soft serve)
Fugo Desserts opened just last month in July and is already drawing crowds with their fun and playful frozen treats. Fugo features global flavours like Thai Milk Tea and Japanese Hojicha, but it is not exactly a Japanese specific dessert shop. However, Fugo is more than deserving of a mention for its creative offerings and over the top cones. The Instagram favourite has been the Cookie Monster which has a bright blue cookie dough hard ice cream topped with mini Chips Ahoy on top of a cone generously embellished with oreo cookies. Fugo also excels at soft serve sundaes like the Crispy Comb with vanilla soft serve, corn flakes, matcha powder and a real piece of local Canadian honeycomb. Fugo Desserts’ will surely satisfy your inner child.
Uncle Tetsu Angle Café
In March 2015, Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake created quite a stir when they opened their first location outside of Asia. Torontonians were more than willing to line up for several hours just for a taste of their fresh out of the oven, light and fluffy cheesecakes. Their newest shop, Uncle Tetsu’s Angle Café is Toronto’s first maid-style cosplay café and sit-down location. Waitresses dressed in cutesy French maid outfits are unusual in Canada but costume-play cafes are quite common in Japan. The original Uncle Tetsu only sells whole cakes but at the Angel Café, customers can order the cheesecakes by the slice, unadorned or with a small variety of sauces. You can also order the Uncle Tetsu Angel Hat, which is dome shaped and even fluffier and cheesier than the original with the use of three kinds of cheese. If you plan your visit ahead, you can reserve a spot for their one hour long stage show where the maids sing and dance to cheery Japanese music.
(A waitress at Uncle Tetsu Angel Café holding a classic Uncle Tetsu Cheesecake)
Sushi burritos are one of the new food trends in Toronto with food trucks like Sushitto on the Road and Sushiburri who opened earlier this Summer. However, Rolltation is Toronto’s first sushi burrito restaurant and just opened earlier this month. Everyone loves a burrito sized sushi roll and Rolltation has been consistently packed during peak lunch hours. Their bestseller is their Classic Salmon with kale, avocado, corn, tangerine, wasabi tobiko and spicy mayo. The tangerine might sound strange but the sweet citrus helps make the roll taste fresh and light. Rolltation has several signature combinations like the Kimchi Beef and Wasabi Tuna but if you’re feeling creative you can actually choose to “Roll Your Own” and pick from their long list of ingredients to your liking. Aside from their sushi burritos, you also have the option of choosing to eat your meal as a poke rice bowl or a salad instead.
Sansotei Ramen is not new on the block but has had a loyal following for their Japanese noodle soups since it opened back in 2012. Sansotei’s signature item is their Tonkotsu Ramen with a rich, almost creamy pork-based broth that is made daily. The Tonkotsu Ramen also comes with 2 slices of their deliciously fatty pork belly, black fungus (wood ear mushrooms), green onion and a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg. Order the Tonkotsu Black, with the addition of roasted garlic oil for a punchier flavour. Sansotei also does a Tomato Ramen as a vegetarian option and Dan Dan Noodles which are seasoned with sesame oil for their soup less option. Even though this ramen restaurant is four years old, at dinner hours there’s cues outside the door.