A new pop-up dining experience delivers a culinary symphony on Queen West

A new pop-up dining experience delivers a culinary symphony on Queen West

A multi-course tasting menu inspired by Johnnie Walker’s Blue Label Elusive Umami scotch whisky

Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa

To celebrate the launch of its limited-edition Blue Label Elusive Umami Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker teamed up with MICHELIN-star chef Ryusuke Nakagawa and the team from Aburi Hana for an exclusive culinary experience in Toronto. 

The specially designed pop-up bar at 797 Queen St. W., recognizable by its quintessentially Kyoto-style neon lighting, opened for 20 exclusive seatings from Oct. 16 to 20. The excitement was palpable, as guests eagerly awaited the chance to experience a limited-edition tasting that promised to wholly capture the complex fifth taste.

Beyond traditional tastings

The Elusive Umami is a unique iteration of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, meticulously concocted through a partnership between the esteemed master blender Emma Walker and the renowned Japanese chef Kei Kobayashi.

Umami is a captivating savoury flavour with an air of mystery—often described as meaty or brothy—thanks to its presence in meats, mushrooms and soy sauce. Only one in 25,000 Johnnie Walker casks make the cut to become Elusive Umami, as they are carefully chosen to achieve a delightful balance of tasting notes fit for pairing with Japanese cuisine.

Inspired culinary pairings

The six-course tasting menu, curated by chef Nakagawa and the Aburi Hana restaurant crew, commenced with a glorious maguro and caviar monaka paired perfectly with the crushed-ice momotaro cocktail, highlighting the Scotch whisky’s white peach undertones with its dominant yet subtly sweet yuzu garnish and elderflower liqueur. 

An amuse-bouche of maguro and caviar monaka, paired with a momotaro cocktail (named for a popular hero of Japanese folklore)

As the tasting progressed, Nakagawa’s meticulous attention to detail was evident in every dish. Each was presented as a work of art, emphasizing the flavours and textures of traditional Kyō-Kaiseki cuisine.

The integration of such traditional Japanese cooking techniques as grilling and steaming showcased the true essence of Nakagawa’s creations. From rich miso dashi to intricately presented Wagyu sukiyaki, every plate was a testament to his expertise and a catalyst for guests to indulge in the barrier-breaking essence of Johnny Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami.

Butternut Shinjō yakinasu soup

Among the many standout cocktails served on-site, the umi featured Johnnie Walker Blue Label, grapefruit and a smoky ginger ale, garnished with nori and takonoki cordial—perfect for sushi lovers. The baransu, alternatively, boasted a shiitake-washed Johnnie Walker Blue Label with sansho ginger cordial and sencha, for a captivating burst of flavour to pair with nutty, mushroom-forward dishes.

The umi cocktail, topped with nori and takonoki cordial

Throughout the experience, the whisky’s rich flavours of blood orange and red berries, harmoniously accompanied by the warmth of sweet wood spice, intrigued every guest’s palette. The subtle hint of smoked meat, with a touch of salt and pepper, led to a long sweet-fruit finish that lingered between equally complex and Umami-rich bites.

To learn more about the limited-edition Johnnie Walker Blue Label Elusive Umami Scotch whisky, visit johnniewalker.com.