582 Yonge St., Toronto
by David Fujino
It’s a hole in the wall — or how about a narrow slash of a restaurant on Yonge Street at Wellesley Street West? Now, we all have our go-to Japanese restaurants in downtown Toronto — perhaps Konnichiwa on Baldwin Street and Ema Tai on St. Patrick quickly come to mind — but so does Tokyo Grill qualify, located forever, it seems, on the west side of Yonge Street, just a few steps north of Wellesley.
Tokyo Grill sits right in my neighbourhood and recently I dropped by for what I knew would be a good ‘home cooked’ meal. For beverages, I ordered both green tea and a cold and rich Asahi dark beer. They presently have Asahi dark here! (Availability not guaranteed.)
As for my main course, I chose salmon teriyaki today, though I often choose chicken katsu. (By the way, this is not a sushi joint. They do have aburo age in small packets on the counter, and in the summer offer a refreshing somei, but I’ve enjoyed the somei only once, and that was some years ago. This is a home- cooked place.)
In any case, Tokyo Grill’s been at its present location since the early 80’s, and I believe it was originally founded by Mrs. Torizuka (previously she ran Sakura café at Village by the Grange Mall on McCaul Street); but after a couple of ownership changes (?), the good home-styled food continues today and the wait and kitchen staff are mostly Japanese or Japanese from Japan.
It’s a “cash only” restaurant — where credit cards are not accepted — and it’s very Japanese in terms of their strictly maintained business hours. After lunch hour, Tokyo Grill’s always closed from 3 to 5 pm and is not open on Tuesdays. If it was Chinese-run, you know it would be open any time, any day.
Regardless, it’s always worthwhile to drop by for chicken or pork katsu, or tendon, or a salmon teriyaki dinner, which is served with white miso shiru, teeming with green onions, finely diced tofu and broad dark green ribbons of kombu, accompanied by a medium-sized bowl of steamed white rice. The salmon teriyaki is lightly deep fried — I always eat the skin — and features a mild tonkatsu sauce and sits on a bed of lightly fried bean sprouts and fried shredded cabbage while the other half of the plate glistens with a fresh green lettuce salad and a mild vinegared sauce. The whole plate begs to be devoured. It makes me hungry just to think about it. (They also serve Japanese curry rice, tsukiyaki don, and unagi udon, but I tend to be a little ritualistic about my food choices. I really should break out and try the unagi don.)
Incidentally, the main course is usually sufficient, but very occasionally I’ve had dessert, which is mango or green tea ice cream. What a nice way to cap off a good meal. Oh, and they usually play jazz quietly over the radio here, too. What’s not to like?