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Posted September 4, 2012 by samuek in Food Joints

Noka Contemporary Japanese Toronto

So I met restaurant owner Chef Lin of Noka at Kampai the exciting and tasty sake sampling held by the Sake Institute of Ontario.  We got to talking and I decided to stop by and try his food.  I really enjoyed the dishes but it was the chef’s passion that stood out to me.

He opened his restaurant in the Annex.  More accurately he opened the restaurant directly beside Sushi on Bloor…oh no!  Now if you know The Annex area, you will know that it is pretty much all sushi, coffee and FroYo establishments.  This was of concern to me as a marketer, so as usual I asked questions about what makes them unique, what value they offered to the “young asian student” that dominates the area’s demographic.  They had great answers to the questions, like being a chef run sushi restaurant which many are not.  Like buying product fresh from farmers markets, sourcing interesting fish like Bonito and in keeping with “chef run,” making almost everything from scratch.

This was of interest to me so I thought I’d see what others thought about the food, the prices and the atmosphere.  So I invited people from the Toronto food scene to check out Noka and provide feedback.

So what was the consensus?  Attendees really appreciated the Chef’s creativity and passion, including a demonstration of how to make a simple yet tasty house salad dressing.  It was felt that with a few adjustments that the restaurant had potential.  This was demonstrated by some killer home run dishes like the lamb chop.  I provided the owners the feedback and like a true restaurant professional they listened to their customers and made adjustments.  If you check their twitter feed you will see wonderful bright red tuna, lightly seared fish and many daily treats.  I can’t wait to try the seared bonito myself and the other daily specials.

The pictures below are from my solo visit as well as from the event.

Easily one of my favorite dishes.  Silken tofu with king mushroom and house teriyaki sauce.  I love silken tofu and this was a great dish boasting a cool tofu and a warm sauce.

Lamb chop cooked perfectly with a killer chili basil sauce.  One of my favorites for sure.

A simple sashimi provided to sample the house made soy.  Any Japanese restaurant worth their soy (salt?), either makes their own soy or adapts existing soy to their liking.  Good chef will temper with bonito, kombu, dashi and many other things to get to a wonderfully elevated soy.  Noka’s soy is mild and has a hint of sweetness.  It is a definite improvement from stock soy.

Nice thick and juicy slices of salmon to again sample to the house soy.

The maki trio was beautifully presented and had clever names.  I rarely order maki but this was part of the tasting so I got to sample it.  Stuffed Tuna Roll had tuna, spicy scallop and leek, the Ex-Girlfriend Roll had mango, tuna, asparagus, and avocado and the Vegetarian Delight Roll had avocado, beets, mango, papaya and asparagus.  The spicy leek roll was ok but was not spicy and the other two rolls were what I expected from the description.

Another version of the killer silken tofu with mushrooms.  Such a nice dish.

A beautifully presented dish that was my least favorite of the night.  First they used real amebi or fresh shrimp and then fried them.  They are amazing as sashimi and would of loved to had them served that way.  Also, the green puree was bland.  The highlight though was the frying of the shrimp heads.  If you have not tried you must.  They are eaten whole like soft shell crab and are simply lightly salted.  I love me some fried shrimp heads.

I rarely enjoy desert at Japanese restaurants and this one was in line.  If you like deserts like mochi and red bean, you may enjoy this.  It is not my cup of tea.  To recap I will be back to eat some of the fresh fish specials for sure.  Let me know what you thought of Noka.

Noka Contemporary Japanese cuisine & sushi on Urbanspoon




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