My first time eating fresh sashimi was at Sapporo Sushi – an accidental discovery while waiting for the BF to finish his interview. I can never forget the way that the fish just melted in my mouth; that short, incredible moment dulling the hundreds of affairs with AYCE and sub-par sushi joints. It changed sashimi for me forever. Yes, it was that good.
Which was why I decided to go to Solo Sushi Bekkan with the BF to celebrate his birthday. Solo Sushi has received rave reviews on the net for the freshness of its fish. Service seemed questionable, as the main sushi chef and owner, Jyo, has been reputed to treat his customers badly when they ordered certain items on the menu which he deemed were “for the lesser crowd”.
If you read my previous blog, “Pie and Omakase”, then you already know that Solo Sushi Bekkan is a newer branch of the original Solo Sushi Ya in Newmarket. The chef at Bekkan is one of Jyo’s apprentices, whose skills apparently don’t match up to his teacher’s. If you are having Omakase at Solo Sushi and want to guarantee a good meal, make sure to call ahead and ask if Jyo-san is in. For your reference, he’s usually at the downtown location (Bekkan) on Tuesdays and Fridays and at the Newmarket location all other days except for Monday, when the restaurant is closed.
Solo Sushi Bekkan is located on 3 Grosvenor Street. It’s a rather small restaurant, with around 5 tables and a seating capacity of less than 20 people. If you want to talk about atmosphere, there is really none. And service? Not great. Even though I made a reservation, we were still sat right in front of the door. And even though I was told on the phone that I could make requests for the Omakase menu, the waitress said the exact opposite when we got there.
The food came pretty fast after we ordered. The first course was three small plates of appetizers, set onto the table in the order of right-to-left. First was a spinach salad with mayo, then teriyaki salmon, and finally a spicy tuna tartare. There isn’t much to say about the salad – it was nothing special. The salmon was well-cooked and seasoned, but I like my salmon pan-seared with a crispy skin. The spicy tuna tartare was the best of the three. It was unquestionably fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, and seasoned just the way I like it - although the BF said that it was a little too spicy.
Sashimi was the second course. It came with two slices of salmon, two slices of tuna, two slices of seared yellowtail, and a large sweet shrimp with the head on. The BF really liked the salmon, but it was just mediocre for me. The salmon was sort of fishy, and I’ve had better. The tuna, though, was fantastic, just like the tuna tartare from earlier. The yellowtail was alright, not my favorite. But the shimp. Oh my GOD the shrimp. It was like a thousand shrimp making love in your mouth - starting with an extremely concentrated shrimp flavor, an almost crunchy texture, a subtle sweetness and ending with a buttery finish resembling fish eggs.
Third up was chawanmushi, japanese steamed egg in a covered cup. It was smooth, light, and very flavorful. There were seaweed, mushrooms throughout and shrimp at the very bottom. The BF absolutely loved this. He said that it was the highlight of the meal and said that he could eat it every day if I could make it for him.
Following the chawanmushi was a baked scallop with onions and mushrooms topped with a cheese and japanese mayo mixture. The scallop was perfectly cooked , and the flavoring was good, but not amazing. The BF said that it could have been a little more cheese-y, and I agreed. Truthfully, I’d rather have the baked oyster from Guu than this scallop dish.
The fifth course was nigiri. There were four types of nigiri – salmon, tuna, red snapper, and eel, all sitting on room-temperature, loosely packed rice (which the BF found too vinegar-y). The salmon on the nigiri was much better than the salmon sashimi. Tuna was perfect, yet again. The red snapper was unfathomably fresh and indisputably the best I have ever tasted. The eel was fatty and delicious. Yet despite all this, I wished the nigiri were smaller, and was disappointed by the fact that Jyo-san didn’t include more “exotic” types of fish.
Finishing off the meal was a last course of dessert. There were two choices – coffee jelly or green tea ice cream. As the type of girl who liked to try a little of everything, I opted for one of each. But honestly, Solo sushi is not a place for desserts. Especially not after that mind-blowing Strawberries and Cream pie from The Pie Shack earlier in the day.
Eating Omakase for the first time at Solo Sushi Ya was a great experience. I tasted real, strong wasabi for the first time, not that gross green stuff that comes in tubes. The soy sauce, which was made in-house, had a subtle sweetness and depth that I have never before tasted in a soy sauce. Jyo-san turned out to be a friendly guy – he came out of the kitchen to personally pour tea for us after the meal and waved goodbye to us when we walked out.
But was it worth $55? I’m not exactly sure. It was certainly one of the cheaper Omakase dinners that I’ve looked at, and the meal was fantastic experience, but I’m just not sure if the value was all there. Maybe I’ll change my mind, after I’ve tried more Omakase dinners. However, I do still recommend the restaurant, based on the quality of the food alone.