126 Willowdale Avenue
North York, Ontario
(Major Intersection: Sheppard Ave E & Willowdale Ave)
While the name of this restaurant may not be familiar to many people, I've been hearing lots of buzz about it. In fact, now that I've eaten there, I realize how many pictures there are on Facebook of one their most popular rolls (rest assured I ordered this and took some nice pictures of it!).
Inayaka is located just north of Toronto, and really there isn't much else in that area. It's a really small location and sits probably sits under 20 people. The restaurant was quite dark upon entry, but I felt like it had a nice peaceful atmosphere. The waitresses have a pretty heavy Japanese accent, but they were so courteous and helpful --especially when it came to deciphering the menu which was all in alphabetized Japanese. Most of the menu was izakaya influenced, where you could order small appetizer-sized dishes. Their fishes are all imported from Japan, and I think I found the dishes and fish to be much more authentic than Guu.
"Isaki sashimi" ($40)
One of the most interesting things here, is that you can order an entire fish, and have it cut up into sashimi. The menu had like 9 or 10 different fish names, but since we couldn't differentiate them, we just told the waitress to bring us the fattiest specie of fish. Isaki as I would later find out from a website, is called "Grunt" in english. It was sliced very thinly and tasted amazingly fresh. It was melt-in-your-mouth fatty, and had a rich yet delicate taste. This fish ran us about $40, but it was honestly worth every penny.
"Sashimi Starter" ($14)
While the sashimi from the Sashimi Start didn't have the novelty of the Isaki fish, it was still very fresh. The sashimi had a certain fresh sweetness that is quite rare. You could also tell that the fish was not once frozen, and less dense than most Japnese places. The salmon and tuna were softer, and (for lack of a better word) very "limp". It's resembles more what I thought biting into a raw fish would be like. I didn't have any of the shrimp, but Rob said the brains was the best part, comparing it to the roe that you find under a crab's shell.
"Volcano Roll" ($18) - Butter and olive oil sauteed sliced onions, blanched zucchini, rolled and torched sliced certified Angus beef on top, served on an iron plate with teriyaki sauce and thinly sliced scallions in volcano fire"
So this is the iconic roll I was talking about previously. I'm guessing there must be other places that serve flaming volcano rolls, but this is probably the first I've had. One thing that I found was interesting, is that despite the name, this roll was not one bit spicy. In fact, I thought it tasted like beef fried rice. I'm guessing the flame torch, and the Prince Igor vodka that was added to light the roll on fire probably cooked everything.
"Maguro Yamakake" ($9) -Chunk cut tuna sashimi with grated Japanese mountain potatoes, quail egg and dried seaweed
This was the last dish that arrived, and was probably the most underachieving. The description explains pretty literally what it is, and it is meant to be mixed before eaten. I thought it would be similar to the Tako Wasabi at guu, but found it to be a little bland. We decided to add some wasabi to it (which by the way, the wasabi here is really spicy!) and it added some slight flavour. What it really lacked was different textures. The concoction had a one dimensional mushy/slimy feel to it, and would've been great if it was served with some crunchy seaweed.
Despite the less than amazing final dish, this is probably one of the best Japense places I've been to in Toronto. Granted that a meal would cost you a very pretty penny, the authenticity, quality, presentation, and freshness is top notch. One of the other things that I wanted to try but didn't have the stomach to, is the Wagyu beef cubes. This is also another popular facebook picture I've seen, and it looks delicious!
"Wagyu Beef Grill" -($40)
(Photo Credits: Chaznangie @ Urbanspoon)