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Over this past summer, Sake Bar Kushi opened its doors on Eglinton, a five minute walk west of the Yonge/Eglinton subway station. Don’t let the loud welcome scare you – it’s a surprisingly intimate Japanese Izakaya restaurant.

Sake Bar Kushi

I loved the cozy and intimate atmosphere of the space – the restaurant is lined with private booths down both sides of the space with a long communal table down the centre. There’s also plenty of seating at the bar if that’s your preference.

Sake Bar Kushi

While the front of the restaurant may seem quite small and cozy, they have a large room at the back of the restaurant which is perfect for large parties.

The private back room

Sake Bar Kushi has an extensive menu of small sharing plates so bring your friends (and appetite!). They also have an entire menu dedicated to skewers and have an impressive selection of sake – over 40 different kinds!

Just a few of the sake options

As I’ve already mentioned, the restaurant over the summer. Over the past six months, they’ve been working on improving their menu. Last week, I was invited for dinner to try out some of their new and improved dishes.

Can’t come to a restaurant named Sake Bar Kushi without odering some sake

We started off the meal with the Spinach Gomae – blanched spinach with sesame sauce ($4). It’s such a simple dish but it’s one of my favourite dishes at Japanese restaurants. I appreciated the fact that it was lightly dressed –  sometimes it can be so overwhelmed with dressing that you can no longer tell you’re eating spinach. Definitely not the case here!

Spinach Gomae

Up next was the BBQ Unagi – torched unagi with BBQ sauce ($6). Mike and I both loved this dish which came with four tender, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of unagi. The torching of the unagi really brought out the flavours of the eel. Delish!

BBQ Unagi

I feel like Ebi Mayo – deep fried prawns served with a mustard mayo sauce ($7) is a quintessential izakaya dish, so it was no surprise this was one of the dishes served. While the prawns themselves were fine, I felt they were coated in a little too much dressing – not in the sense that they were making the prawns soggy but I just found the sauce to be a little too tangy for my liking which overpowered the prawns.

Ebi Mayo

Another fried dish we tried was the Tempura Salmon which our server had indicated was not on the menu yet. I’m generally not a big fan of deep fried salmon since it can often be dry and sometimes the deep frying kills the texture of the fish. But this was a pleasant surprise – the pieces of salmon were lightly battered and were surprisingly moist inside.

Tempura Salmon

Up next was the Cheese Okonomiyaki – Japanese pancake with cheese on top ($7), my favourite dish of the night. The dish consisted of thin pancakes covered in a sweet sauce, salty bonito flakes and a generous layer of gooey cheese. It’s like Japanese comfort food! Sure, it’s heavy and filling but it’s a damn satisfying dish. Don’t miss out.

Cheese Okonomiyaki

One of the several menus at Sake Bar Kushi is dedicated to skewers so I’m glad we were able to try a few of them. First up was the Kushi Katsu Skewer – deep fried chicken ($2.80) and Honey Rice Cake Skewer ($1.90). The katsu chicken was well fried – crispy, not at all greasy and juicy in the centre. But the stand-out for me was the honey rice cake (vegetarian). It had a crispy and sweet (from the honey) exterior but still had a nice chew to it. Gotta love rice cakes!

Kushi Katsu and Honey Rice Cake Skewers

The other skewers we tried were the Buta Bara Pork Belly Skewer ($2.60) and Bonjiri Chicken Tail Skewer ($3.50). The pork belly wasn’t particularly memorable as I found it a little on the chewy side but the chicken tails were fantastic (super fatty!). I don’t really know what “chicken tails” are even though I’ve eaten them on several occasions. Are they just a more pleasant way of saying chicken butts?

Buta Bara Pork Belly & Bonjiri Chicken Tail Skewers

The last savoury dish we tried was the Mentaiko Bibimbab – salted Pollock roe with rice and vegetables in a hot stone bowl ($17.50). When the dish first arrived, we thought it was the pork bibimbab as we didn’t realize there were other bibimbab options on the menu. But after Mike bit into one of those orange things, he was in for quite the surprise as it turned out to be salted (VERY salted) pollock roe.

Mentaiko Bibimbab

After his mistake, I took my piece of salted pollock roe and mixed it all into the rice which made a world of difference. It gave the dish a much needed punch!

Mentaiko Bibimbab

For dessert, we had Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches. Instead of cookies sandwiching the Oreo ice cream, it was sandwiched with what tasted like white sponge cake. It was an enjoyable way to end off the meal and we particularly enjoyed the Oreo pocky that it came with.

Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches

Overall, I was quite impressed with the dishes at Sake Bar Kushi. I had never previously heard of the restaurant so I’m glad they reached out to me. Great food, an intimate atmosphere and incredibly friendly staff – a very underrated izakaya in the city!

*This was a complimentary meal. The opinions in the post are my own.*

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  1. Jamie S. (Reply) on Saturday 1, 2014

    Thanks for the review! The meals look very appetizing, fresh and flavoursome. The honey rice cake and Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches sound and look exceeding!

  2. Blair Currie (Reply) on Saturday 1, 2014

    The food shots above look great but the actual delivery we experienced was nothing like it. There was a problem in the kitchen as a chef was sick. As a result the meal was 90 minutes late and food very unappetizing. There was also a major mistake in the drink order as the $27 bottle of sake (small) we thought we ordered was actually $270. Rather than admit there was anything wrong or “sorry for the mix up” the manageress said “This is Toronto” and said if you didn’t pay all they would call the police. Which they did. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t go.

    • Jess (Reply) on Saturday 1, 2014

      Sorry to hear you didn’t have the same great experience I had!