Japango – My Go to Sushi Shop

Considering my love for sushi I’m a little surprised that I actually haven’t tried that many sushi places in the city.  I’ve been to a couple all-you-can-eat shops but I think I’ve come to an age where all-you-can-eat sushi is usually a bad idea, especially when you go in with the mentality of, “getting your money’s worth”.  This usually results in eating way too much and feeling a little sick afterward.  I’m usually turned off fish in general for about a month after these instances.  I haven’t been to an all-you-can-eat sushi place in over a year but still have sushi on a relatively regular basis.  Of the half dozen or so sushi shops I’ve been to in this city, Japango has become my regular stop.

This little shop that seats no more than 20 people is tucked away behind city hall, just south of Sick Kids Hospital on Elizabeth St.  On any given night or during the weekend lunch rush, the restaurant is usually full and there is sometimes a line of people waiting for take-out.  I went today and decided to try the Japango Deluxe Bento Box.  The first entree was a small selection of sushi, chef’s choice which is usually the fresh fish of the day.

In my many experiences here I’ve never been disappointed with the sushi (except on one occasion which I will explain in a bit).  The fish is always fresh, the taste is never overly “fishy” and the texture is lovely.  The rice is packed well and doesn’t fall apart when you go to pick it up but also isn’t so packed tight that you feel like there is too much rice.  My friend always refers to the R:F ratio when discussing sushi (rice to fish).  The R:F ratio at Japango is excellent.  Enough rice to soak up enough soy and wasabi with compromising the flavor of the fish.  This particular dish came with a few California rolls as well.  They were good.  Pretty standard for a good sushi shop.  The next entree was the tempura.

The tempura is nicely battered with a light and flakey batter.  The variety of vegetables include yams, carrots, eggplant, broccoli, cucumber, a green bean and probably something else that I’m forgetting.  It also comes with a long and meaty piece of battered shrimp.  The tempura isn’t overly greasy and is crisp to the bite.  In terms of taste, it’s good.  Kind of what you would expect from deep fried vegetables.  My only complaint is the amount of batter can really vary from piece to piece or visit to visit.  On this occasion, everything was perfect but I thought one side of the shrimp was overly battered.  It could just be a matter of preference since I don’t like things overly battered since it can take away from the flavor food itself.  The teriyaki beef and salad came out next.

The beef is a nice lean cut (flank steak?) cut into thick slices and cooked medium (maybe a little more on the well-done side for the edge pieces).  This is definitely one of the better beef teriyaki’s I’ve had to date.  It was really tasty.  The rice had a Japanese seasoning on it to give the easy to pick up balls of rice a nice flavor when eaten alone.  The salad had a nice sesame dressing which I find refreshing and mildly addictive (wonder if I can buy this in stores somewhere or if they make it in house).  It doesn’t say so on the menu but it also included a wakame salad.  I think they just didn’t want to leave an empty compartment in the box so they just threw that in.  If there is one thing they do well here it’s there presentation.  You here people talk about eating with your eyes.  If that’s the case, my eyes tell me the food and Japango is delicious.

I’ve only had one of the starters here, the Gyoza.

I’m pretty sure they come right of the fryer and on to the table.  I burnt my mouth since I dove right in so I know to give it a few seconds before jumping in (this seems to happen to me a lot…you would think I would learn to check the temperature first).  The outer layer is nice and crisp but a tad on the greasy side (which is kind of expected since it is fried).  The meat inside is flavorful and has a nice flaky texture to it.  On this trip I also tried the tempura udon.

Noodles…good.  Broth…good.  Veggies…good.  Tempura…kind of got all over the place.  Maybe putting tempura in a noodle soup isn’t the greatest idea since all the batter gets soaked and falls off the shrimp and veggies and into the soup.  Everything still tasted great but there was just a lot of batter floating around in the soup.  It was almost overwhelming at the end.  I think the next time I get the udon, I’ll stick with the chicken or beef.  The noodles are cooked perfectly and have a nice bouncy texture.  The broth is soy based but isn’t too salty.  In fact, the broth has a nice hint of sweetness to it which makes it drinkable by itself.  Some of the best deals here are the lunch bento boxes.  Below is the chicken bento box which comes in at $9.

The chicken is nicely grilled with the crisp skin still left on.  The portions are generous and the meat is juicy and tender.  This particular box also comes with gyoza salad and rice.  Below is the sushi bento box, I think this is around $12.

This box has a nice variety of fish including salmon, tuna, hamachi and a few other I don’t know the names of (I believe there was fluke, mackerel and maybe butter fish).  The bento boxes, or all combos for that matter, also come with miso soup and green tea.

The miso soup always comes out piping hot and is consistently awesome.  The green tea is good.  Not too strong but still having a lot of flavor.  It’s also green.  This may just be something with me but I always find it strange when I order green tea and the tea isn’t green.  Sometimes it will be a light brown color or even a yellowish color.  Maybe they are telling me it’s green tea and serving me something else.

I took a friend here for a birthday dinner.  We ordered the deluxe sushi and deluxe sashimi combos which were great.  We also ordered a Japango roll.  It’s an eight piece roll with a ton of stuff in it including avocado, cucumber, fresh water eel, salmon, salmon roe and a few other things.  I wish I took a picture of it since it looked really colorful and delicious.  On this occasion they also had the Blue Fin Tuna in stock.  This is supposed to be the Mother of Tuna sushi I guess.  I would hope so since one order of  it is $20.  So, seeing as neither of us had tried it before, why not give it s try.

First off, top marks for presentation. My friend thought it looked cool but was a waste of limes.  She made a comment on how many gin and tonics this dish could garnish.  The fish was also sprinkled with gold flakes.  The fish itself unfortunately was still a little frozen.  In terms of taste and texture, I thought it was good but not WOW good.  Certainly not worth all the hype and price tag.  This was the only disappointing experience I’ve had at Japango.

I get take out from Japango on a regular basis as well.  I have them on speed dial so somedays when I’m walking home from work I’ll give them a call and place an order.  By the time I walk up to the place, my food is almost always ready.  Below is the deluxe sushi combo, take-out.

The deluxe combo comes with a nice mix of “premium” fish and a shrimp tempura roll.  It is kind of pricey though at around $20.  The lunch deals are certainly a better deal.  It may just be me too, but I find the take out pieces are a little smaller than when you dine-in.  If you are getting take-out for multiple people though, the best deals in the whole place are the party platters.  The smallest platter is around $30 and feeds 3-4 people (or 2 people like me).  Here is the sushi and maki platter I ordered when my sister was in town a few months ago.

We also had a Philly roll on the side that my sister wanted to order (as I mentioned in another post, I just don’t think cream cheese and sushi mix).  It wasn’t an easy task to finish this between the two of us.  It probably was a bad idea to eat this much before a soccer game too.  Oh well, the food was great and I made it through my game.

If you are looking for a small intimate location that serves up some great Japanese food and sushi, Japango is a great option.  The service is very friendly (the server and sushi chefs greet everyone upon entry and thank everyone upon exit).  The lunch menu and take-out platters offer a lot of value for the price and the overall quality of the food here is as good as you’ll find at several other sushi shops around town but at fraction of the price.  This is why Japango has become my go to sushi shop… it also doesn’t hurt that it’s right across the street from me.

~ by jlowjlow on May 23, 2010.

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