What’s on the menu at Sushi Yugen, a new restaurant in the Financial District with two omakase menus

What’s on the menu at Sushi Yugen, a new restaurant in the Financial District with two omakase menus

“It’s a sanctuary where people can disconnect from urban life”

Acclaimed sushi chef Kyohei Igarashi places a piece of fish on rice at Sushi Yugen

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Name: Sushi Yugen
Contact: 150 York St., sushiyugen.ca, @sushiyugen.ca
Neighbourhood: Financial District
Owners: Kamen Sun, Rocco Wang
Executive chef: Kyohei Igarashi
Accessibility: Fully accessible
 
The Japanese word yugen (幽玄) doesn’t seamlessly translate into English, but it’s something like the emotional experience of contemplating the profound beauty and mystery of the universe. It’s a tall order for a restaurant concept, but at this new omakase spot, the philosophy is earnestly embraced. With meticulously executed Japanese cuisine served in a dreamy oak-lined room tucked away in a Financial District office tower, Sushi Yugen feels like a place out of time.

Sushi Yugen chef Kyohei Igarashi and co-owner Kamen Sun
Chef Kyohei Igarashi (left) and co-owner Kamen Sun

Co-owner Kamen Sun worked in accounting for a decade before pivoting into the restaurant industry. The move was inspired in part by her late father, an entrepreneur who loved food and took Sun to many restaurants throughout her childhood.

Related: What’s on the menu at MSSM, sushi chef Masaki Saito’s more casual omakase spot in Yorkville

This is Sun’s first venture as a co-owner, and for it, she recruited chef Kyohei Igarashi, whose decades of experience include 15 years in high-end kaiseki and sushi restaurants in Japan. “The idea is to have patrons enter the unknown world of our omakase experience, where their soul will be nourished as well as their body,” Sun says. “It’s a sanctuary where people can disconnect from urban life, look inward and have their yugen moment.”

Acclaimed sushi chef Kyohei Igarashi slices tuna at Sushi Yugen in Toronto

Chef Kyohei Igarashi slices fish at Sushi Yugen

The food

The menu comprises two distinct omakase concepts, each with ultra-premium ingredients and the strong focus on seasonality typical of Japanese cuisine. Sushi Yugen’s premium offering is an intimate eight-seat chef’s counter experience ($275) of 18 to 20 courses served over roughly two and a half hours. Before the sushi comes out piece by piece—for optimal freshness, guests are encouraged to eat the moment a piece hits their plate—there’s a parade of intricately constructed appetizers. Some edge beyond traditional Japanese cuisine to showcase chef Igarashi’s global influence, like delicate shiromi (white fish) in an umami-bomb truffle sauce or a silky tomato jelly that tastes like the very essence of tomato.

There’s also a 12-seat main counter with a set menu for lunch and dinner ($80 and $98, respectively) featuring 10 nigiri, a hand roll, miso soup and dessert (and, for the dinner option, an appetizer). Think casual luxury—you could squeeze the 45-minute lunch seating into a (very fancy) workday.

A puréed organic asparagus soup with a touch of milk and Japanese salt
It isn’t typical to start an omakase experience with cold soup, but chef Igarashi’s global experience makes itself known here. This is a puréed organic asparagus soup with a touch of milk and Japanese salt. It’s a refreshing vegetal start to the meal. In the most recent menu, this course was replaced with a tomato jelly

 

Sushi Yugen's chawanmushi, a silky, steamed egg custard with delicate pieces of poached shrimp, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushroom and a sauce made of shrimp and dashi.
Here we have chawanmushi, a silky steamed egg custard with delicate pieces of poached shrimp, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms and a sauce made of shrimp and dashi. It’s garnished with mitsuba, an herb in the parsley family. It’s a deceptively simple umami-rich delight

 

Mild, sweet Japanese tilefish sits in a base of dashi spiked with matsutake mushroom for additional depth. It’s garnished with ingen, a Japanese long green bean, and sudachi, a citrus fruit similar to lime that’s commonly paired with matsutake mushrooms.
Mild, sweet Japanese tilefish sits in a base of dashi spiked with matsutake mushroom for additional depth. It’s garnished with ingen, a long Japanese green bean, and sudachi, a lime-like citrus fruit that’s commonly paired with matsutake mushrooms

 

This is seabream shabu shabu, perfectly poached sea bream served with green onion in a citrusy house-made ponzu
This is sea bream shabu shabu: perfectly poached sea bream served with green onion in a citrusy house-made ponzu. On the side is a house-made yuzu kosho—a spicy, citrusy paste made with yuzu and green chilies

 

A tangle of hand-pulled somen noodles sits in a blend of three kinds of dashi
A tangle of hand-pulled somen noodles sits in a blend of three kinds of dashi with such depth of flavour that it’s almost smoky. It’s garnished with mitsuba, two kinds of edible flowers and myoga ginger

 

Wild Japanese flounder in an assertive truffle sauce is topped with shaved Burgundy truffle, and garnished with kelp salt and gold leaf. It’s served in an ice dome.
Wild Japanese flounder in an assertive truffle sauce is topped with shaved Burgundy truffle and garnished with kelp salt and gold leaf. It’s served in an ice dome (!!!) to keep the fish at an optimal temperature—plus, it’s just plain beautiful

 

Sweet, creamy Hokkaido sea urchin, red and black caviar, fatty tuna with spring onion and freshly shaved wasabi are served around a small mound of perfectly cooked rice
Here we have the uni gohan, or rice bowl. Sweet, creamy Hokkaido sea urchin, red and black caviar, fatty tuna with spring onion, and freshly shaved wasabi are served around a small mound of perfectly cooked rice. Igarashi recommends mixing it all together before taking a bite

 

This is aji, or horse mackerel, lightly cured in salt and vinegar, garnished with a dot of green onion paste
Key components of any top-tier nigiri are the rice and the vinegar used to season it—and Sushi Yugen’s are both high-end Japanese varieties, carefully cooked to highlight each individual grain. This is aji, or horse mackerel, lightly cured in salt and vinegar and garnished with a dot of green onion paste

 

House-made white sesame ice cream with purple plum compote and a tuile with one leaf made of Nikka whiskey
Dessert is a house-made white sesame ice cream with purple plum compote and a tuile with one leaf made of Nikka whiskey

 

Scallop nigiri at Sushi Yugen
Gorgeously sweet scallop nigiri

 

Kohada, or gizzard shad, nigiri
Kohada, or gizzard shad, nigiri. A rich, flavourful fish somewhere in the neighbourhood of sardine or mackerel

 

Akami, or lean bluefin tuna, nigiri
Akami, or lean bluefin tuna, nigiri

 

Chu toro, or medium fatty bluefin tuna, nigiri
Chu toro, or medium fatty bluefin tuna, nigiri

 

Torched anago, or saltwater eel, nigiri
Torched anago, or saltwater eel, nigiri

 

Sushi chef Kyohei Igarashi brushes soy sauce onto a piece of fish

The drinks

For the chef’s counter, guests can opt for a sake pairing, and the main counter offers sake trio flights. There’s also a solid selection of Japanese whiskey and beer; a handful of seasonal cocktails with lychee, yuzu or matcha; and a few lovely loose-leaf teas like hojicha mango.

A trio of sake, available as a flight in Sushi Yugen's main lounge
A trio of sake, available as a flight in the main lounge

 

A glass of Amabuki Kyoto matcha yuzu sake at Sushi Yugen
A glass of Amabuki Kyoto matcha yuzu sake. $15 ($18 for a highball)

 

A woman pours sake at Sushi Yugen, a Japanese restaurant in Toronto

The space

On the bottom floor of an office building at 150 York Street, Sushi Yugen is an unlikely oasis. In the lobby, there’s an unassuming waiting area lined with Zen gardens. Inside, there’s a miniature Japanese maple tree (with 600 “leaves” that are really tiny paper cranes) and a glowing mural of overlapping semicircles behind a bonsai tree, meant to symbolize sunrise and sunset. Beyond a sliding screen door is the chef’s counter room. The space is minimal but warm, with pale oak finishes, ornate stoneware and elegant floral flourishes.

The entrance to Sushi Yugen

Mini zen gardens at the entrance to Toronto's Sushi Yugen

The chef's counter at Sushi Yugen

The semi-private chef's counter inside Sushi Yugen, an omakase restaurant in Toronto

The main dining room at Sushi Yugen

The sign for Sushi Yugen, a restaurant in downtown Toronto