Toronto | 81 Harbord St. | 416-477-2361 | yasu-sushibar.com
Eleven of us sit at the white L-shaped counter on the ground floor of an old house on Harbord Street, awaiting our maestro. The space goes from merely quiet to dead silent as Yasuhisa Ouchi descends the stairs, followed by his lieutenants. The sound of one of them grating pink Himalayan salt into a dish is like an orchestra tuning up.
Omakase dinner at Yasu is a tightly marshalled parade of 18 pieces of nigiri sushi. The chefs drape a juicy slice of perfectly fresh raw fish – red snapper from Portugal – over a bullet of seasoned rice, brush it with slightly sweet nikiri soy and place it on the black serving tray in front of me. Osaka-born Ouchi, tall and slender with a sly smile, isn’t much for chipper stage banter. It’s all discipline and restraint as he announces the type and origin of each fish: “Amberjack… [dramatic pause] … from Hawaii.” We nod respectfully and reach our fingers toward the next offering – a thinly sliced scallop from Hokkaido, dusted with that Himalayan salt. Each bite is like a ceremonial handshake between strangers.
A round of monkfish liver – the other foie gras – bursts with a pleasing fattiness that’s brightened by a single leaf of shiso. A floral sake brewed by Masumi in Nagano, poured to the rim of a small glass cradled in a wooden masu box, primes my palate for what’s coming next: a duo of tuna, lean (crimson red) and medium-fatty (bubble-gum pink), sourced from a single specimen caught off the Pacific coast of Mexico. Behind those two simple bites, there’s a big fish.