Saturday, February 10, 2007

Yama Japanese Restaurant in Bloor West Village

Darcy and I caught an awful cold last weekend, so tonight was actually the first time in 6 days that I've left the apartment. We were coincidentally both thinking of how long it's been since we've been to our favourite Japanese restaurant up on Bloor Street, so we went for an early dinner.

Yama used to be called Delite Sushi and Noodles up until about 3 years ago. It's a small, cozy, 20-seat restaurant run by a Korean family. I know what you're thinking: how good could it be if it isn't run by Japanese people? I've found that what makes a good Japanese restaurant is the freshness of the ingredients and the care that is put into the cooking and presentation rather than ethnicity. It similar to how Tony Bourdain says that the majority of French food served in high end New York restaurants is made by Mexican cooks. There is a sushi restaurant close to Runnymede station that is run by Japanese people, but the quality was very poor when we went there. The lacquer dishes were chipped, the lettuce in the salad was wilted and discoloured, and the sushi was sloppily made. At Yama, they care about all those details. All the garnishes (even the wedge of lemon) are pretty and fresh and everything is beautifully presented. I know that if you want very high quality authentic Japanese food, most likely you can't have it at a Korean-run restaurant. But, since we're not in Japan, you won't be able to have it anyways. So, follow your tastebuds.

When it was still Delite Sushi and Noodles, it was a very casual place where you could get great zaru soba, which you don't see in many Japanese restaurants in Toronto. Zaru soba is cold soba topped with nori and served with a soy-like dipping sauce. It's one of my favourite things to eat and my mom used to make it a lot when I was a kid. After the re-branding and renovation, the menu and dishes became more upscale so they don't serve it anymore, but they do have great sushi, sashimi, and bento boxes.

If you are absolutely starving, the bento boxes are great. At Yama, they serve your bento in courses, so it's like having a five-course meal for less than $20: miso soup, house salad, sashimi, entree (box), and dessert. It is a prodigious amount of food of excellent quality. Tonight, we were less ambitious so we ordered a few appetizers to share: gyoza (pork dumplings), wakame (seaweed) salad, and vegetable tempura, as well as chicken katsu (schnitzel-like thing) for Darcy and dragon rolls (maki sushi with barbequed eel, shrimp, crab, and avocado) for me.

The gyoza was so much better than I expected. At Yama, they deep fry it (my mom steams or pan-fries it), so I didn't think I'd like it, but the skin was light, crisp, and ungreasy. The filling was a little bland, but it wasn't overstuffed.

Darcy had house salad with his chicken katsu, so I had the wakame salad all to myself. It was a very generous amount of seaweed soaked in a sweet/sour dressing, topped with sesame seeds, and served on a bed of angel hair daikon. I love seaweed. It's delicious and I feel so healthy when I eat it.

The vegetable tempura was pretty good. I remember it being better in the past. There was red pepper, green pepper, sweet potato, daikon, and a couple more starchy vegetables that I couldn't identify.

The dragon roll was very pretty and yummy. I know it's sort of howaito-san (i.e. for white people), but I love barbequed eel and avocado. I kind of had buyers' remorse immediately after ordering it because I had been craving fresh fish, but I figured it's something I can't make. I have no idea how they slice the avocado so thinly and keep it from discolouring.

For dessert, they sweetly gave us free mango ice cream. Ever since coming back from India, I've been missing ice cream, especially mango. Marcelo and I would have ice cream at least twice a day. It was exactly what I wanted, but I thought I was too full. I'm glad they made the decision for me.

There is next to no information on the web about this restaurant, but it is very good and it's been around for at least as long as we've been in living the neighbourhood, which is about 6 years. If you're in this neck of the woods and want some great Japanese food for a reasonable price, you must come here. There is a larger, fancier, usually more crowded place a couple of doors west called Yumi, but Yama is better and they treat you like gold. For the address and phone number, see picture.

1 comment:

Naomi said...

I ordered from Yumi a few months ago and it was downright awful. Soggy, unappetizing and sloppily presented. Yama is very good quality and especially in comparison.