Fresh off the launch of Kinton Ramen in May, James HyunSoo Kim, who also brought Vancouver’s popular Guu chain to Toronto, has opened yet another new Japanese restaurant: JaBistro, which took over the Markaz Grill and Shisha Lounge space on Richmond Street just west of Simcoe. The place bills its cuisine as “modern Japanese” and offers traditional sushi and sashimi as well as aburi (blow-torched sushi) and oshizushi (“pressed” sushi), which are much harder to come by in the city. Driving the concept is chef Koji Tashiro, whose 12 years of sushi experience includes stints at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Vancouver’s Miku restaurant (he also briefly worked at Guu Sakabar in order to gain experience with Toronto diners).
JaBistro’s interior is reminiscent of the rooms at both Guu and Kinton Ramen, with plenty of light wood, exposed brick and custom-made wooden chairs and stools (all three restaurants were designed by Bennett Lo of Dialogue 38). The sushi bar menu includes sashimi ($30, $50 or $100) as well as classic nigiri sushi ($25 for seven pieces), aburi ($27 for seven pieces) and kyukyoku sushi ($55), which offers the “ultimate fresh pieces” of the day. For the high rollers, there’s a $98 omakase menu (chef’s selections), along with an optional $45 wine/sake pairing. On the bistro side of the menu, there’s a duck breast salad ($14), a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) sandwich ($18) and a salmon pie ($26) with mushroom, oyster sauce and prawn bisque. There’s also a list of sake- and shochu-based cocktails overseen by J.R. Graham.
JaBistro is currently in soft-launch mode, and the grand opening will take place in early December, at which time they’ll open for lunch as well. The restaurant also has one feature that should appeal to anyone who’s spent hours in cold waiting for a table at Guu, Sakabar or Kinton: unlike Kim’s previous establishments, JaBistro will actually take reservations.