Review: Yunaghi, the Japanese bistro at Harbord and Manning, is unusual but rewarding
538 Manning Ave., 416-588-7862
Before opening this peculiar but ultimately rewarding Japanese bistro, the chef Tetsuya Shimizu spent 12 years studying kaiseki in Tokyo and two years in the kitchen at Yours Truly, the recently shuttered molecular gastronomy restaurant on Ossington. Both inform his set-course dinners of seven or nine dishes, which are by turns traditional (a pot of dashi tea poured tableside over a slice of yellowtail sashimi, the heat of the liquid slowly poaching the luscious fish) and experimental (a Gehry-esque scattering of fall veg—roasted beets, blanched beans, pickled squash—comes dressed with a bacon-infused snow and a tofu–Grana Padano smear). Awkward, inarticulate servers have a tough time explaining each complicated plate’s constituent elements. One night’s highlight: a fantastically tender roast duck breast with rounds of confit leek, their crispy, chip-like exterior hiding a dense and deeply oniony core. Desserts, like a silky panna cotta layered with wafers of crunchy feuilletine, are comparatively simple. The room, formerly J.P. Challet’s Ici Bistro, has been stripped of its francophilia, the only décor an orchid in the window, while the plink-plonk-plink of Herbie Hancock makes an apt accompaniment to the meandering meal.