Just Opened: Hashimoto comes to Toronto proper after years of wowing Japanese food fans in Mississauga
“There’s nothing else like this in Toronto, maybe even Canada,” kaiseki chef Masaki Hashimoto explains over tea at his newly opened location at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in North York. “The Hashimoto in Mississauga was the first step, and this is the second.”
The difference—aside from a $300 price tag on a nine-course meal (the original location charges $250 for eight)—is that the new menu is a blend of kaiseki and what Hashimoto calls traditional Japanese home cooking. Expect a first course of rice soup to sate appetites so that hungry diners won’t hastily scarf down the dishes that follow, such as slices of sashimi and stewed, steamed and grilled seafood. Like a fine prix fixe with wine pairings, each course here has a matcha tea pairing courtesy of the Ko-no En tea shop next door (the teas are imported from Kyoto). Of course, since the ingredients are shipped from Japan each week, the menu is set in stone. Hashimoto has given full control to his suppliers to send whatever is fresh and in season across the Pacific.
The restaurant is a recreation of the dim alleyways and tea houses of Kyoto. After being greeted by Hashimoto’s wife (who runs the front of house) and son (who also helps out), diners walk by portable shrines hanging on the walls and sit at one of the three tables in the dining area for their meal. After eating, satisfied customers are shepherded into the adjoining tea room.
The space here is bigger than the Mississauga location, but Hashimoto keeps the capacity down to 10 people each night to ensure quality control in his food. “And if one restaurant is open, the other is closed. I want it in my control,” he says. No wonder he requires reservations a week in advance.
Though the price tag and mandatory reservations may sound intimidating, Hashimoto has a cult following among foodies (it was his local fans who coaxed him to open a Toronto location), and diners swear it’s a full-on culinary excursion rather than a mere meal. “Torontonians tend to eat for the sake of eating, rather than enjoy the experience of eating,” Hashimoto says. “They have to enjoy all the five senses.”
Hashimoto at Toronto, 905-670-5559, 6 Garamond Ct., kaiseki.ca.