Introducing: Yunaghi, the Japanese tasting restaurant that replaced Ici Bistro on Harbord
Name: Yunaghi, Gastronomie Japonaise
Contact Info: 538 Manning Ave., 416-588-7862, faceboook.com, @yunaghi_toronto
Previously: Ici Bistro
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Owners: Yurika (who used to work at Ryoji), and Yasuko Miyata
Chefs: Executive chef Tetsuya Shimizu (formerly the sous chef at Yours Truly and chef-consultant for Ryoji’s recently overhauled menu) and sous chef Koichi Fujioka (Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver)
The Food: Shimizu studied traditional kaiseki—the highest form of Japanese cuisine—for 12 years in Japan before moving to North America. At Yunaghi, he uses French techniques to create modern Japanese food that you won’t find at a ramen shop, izakaya or all-you-can-eat sushi joint. Expect a refined tasting menu ($68 for seven courses; $80 for nine) comprised of dainty, complex dishes like black sesame tofu with wasabi and brown butter powder, or white asparagus dressed with almond glass chips and a paste made of tofu and Grana Padano cheese. For those who’d rather not commit to multiple courses, à la carte options are available on request.
The Drinks: Chef Shimizu used to be a bartender, so he knows his booze. His drinks are designed to be sipped with dinner (read: more savoury than sweet). A Caesar comes spiked with fermented chilies, black sesame and a Japanese seasoning blend called yuzukosho. Sakes, wines and beers round out the drinks list.
The Place: The former Ici Bistro space has been given a subtle makeover, with soft gray walls and a few pops of purple. The elevated open kitchen lets diners watch their meals being prepped.