Friday, November 20, 2009


Dennis and I went to Tojo with Andy and Michelle. There are two types of Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. The majority are the ones that focus mainly on rolls, sushi, teriyaki, and discount bento boxes. These are very popular amongst non-Japanese Vancouverites, but you will seldom see many actual Japanese frequenting them. In fact, the owners and staffs of these restaurants are usually Chinese or Korean. Japanese don't actually eat that much sushi and rolls in Japan, and teriyaki is a Western invention. People are most likely not getting an actual authentic Japanese meal and experience going to these restaurants. Then, there are ones that focuses on robata (cooked food). These are often small restaurants with more rustic designs (Zakkushi is a wooden box in a wall seating no more than 22 people.) and they are often owned and run by actual Japanese. These restaurants are often packed to the brim, with a line outside, with Japanese customers.

Then, there is Tojo, owned and staffed by skilled, experienced Japanese chefs and waiters, but they cater mainly to Westerners. They serves mainly rolls, sushi, and teriyaki... with a even more Western flare. It's one of the most famous Japanese restaurant in Vancouver, but Japanese patrons are a rare sight.

Food: 3.5/5
Andy and Michelle agreed that they have better rolls for cheaper. Dennis liked his vegetable rolls, but the rest wasn't very memorable. I was expecting the dishes to represents the Tojo's famous culinary prowess, creativity, and commitment to quality and esthetic, but everything fell short. I too had more delicious, more creative, and cheaper sushi before. Yoshi, another sushi house with similar price tag and style, has significantly superior quality dishes. Tojo's Omakase, set meals that change everyday, and it was another let down. Having worked in a restaurant before, I believe the Omekase dishes are made with excessed product and left over scraps from the kitchen. While it does offer you little bit of everything from the manu, the entire experience felt cheap. The dessert, green tea creme brulee, was delicious though.

Service: 3.5/5
It was nice to see the same staffs for years after years. One of the waiters even remembered us. They were down to earth, friendly, personable, energetic, and humorous. While I like them, I wasn't impressed with their service. I believe they were understaffed and there were mistakes with our orders, and it took a long time to get the attention of the waiters to correct it. I do believe the waiters did their best, but they needed to hire more staffs.

Ambience: 3/5
If a restaurant is going to demand reservation, cloth napkin, and all the fancy gimmicks (and the price tag) of a high class restaurant, it is a mortal sin to have wobbly tables.

Overall Experience: 3.5/5
They serve shochu and a respectable wine list, for which they get a bonus mark. I also like their bizzard happy birthday song.

Total: 13.5/20

I would gladly go back, if someone else is paying.

Tojo's on Urbanspoon

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