Restaurant review: TORA

TORA, the latest sushi concept from Aburi Restaurants Canada (the team behind Miku), combines traditional food with sleek tech and modern design.

What’s the vibe:

Tucked away in the south east corner of Yorkdale Mall (near Sporting Life and Restoration Hardware) and further removed by an elevator ride, TORA is a hidden gem. But only when it comes to location – the new restaurant has already seen lineups. TORA’s chic décor fits with the mall’s upscale aesthetic while simultaneously making you forget that you’re dining in a shopping centre. Modern design, frosted glass accoutrements and cushy booths set the scene. If the pop beats and cool aesthetic make it hard to remember where you are, take a look out the large glass windows for views of shoppers below.

Not to be confused with the conveyor belts that allow you to snatch what you please, TORA’s state-of-the-art sushi laneway brings your order direct to your table. Select your items on a glossy iPad, sit back and wait for the high-tech sushi concierge system to shoot your dish straight to you. In the Pavlovian fashion, after you’ve enjoyed the first round of snack plates, you’ll start to salivate as soon as you hear the gentle whirring sound of the tableside laneway starting up.

What to eat:

Snack-sized plates encourage sharing and allow you to partake in a wide variety of dishes before getting full. Even the maki rolls are served in smaller portions than your average sushi joint. Familiar items like gyoza and chicken wings appear alongside more interesting eats like miso baked scallops and chicken nanban – fried chicken topped with tartar sauce and a side of Asian slaw.

Flown in several times a week, the fish is incredibly fresh and flavourful. A relationship with one of the biggest seafood providers in Japan allows TORA to get their hands on the best quality fish. Try a few selections of the edoprime nigiri. These tender pieces of sushi are comprised of the most premium cuts of fish laid over Akazu Shari – sushi rice made with red sake vinegar. The kinmedai (Japanese golden eye snapper) and the arami (bluefin tuna) were especially delicious.

Taking a backseat to the edoprime nigiri, the regular nigiri is still fresh, delicious and offers a myriad of options – choose between sockeye or Atlantic salmon and albacore or yellowfin tuna. The eponymous flame-seared sushi that Aburi Restaurants is known for also has a place on the automated menu system. TORA has a larger selection of aburi oshi than any of its counterparts.

For dessert, go for the ice cream encased in chewy mochi – the texture combination is similar to a fruit gusher but on a larger and much better scale. If you’re in the mood for something a little more out there, try the wa parfait. Matcha ice cream is piled high with adzuki beans, squares of castella (sponge cake), shiratama (gooey rice flour balls), strawberries and to top it all off, cornflakes. It’s a myriad of textures and flavours that keep the surprises coming as you dig in.

What to drink:

Only a single name graces the sake section of the menu. Aburi ginjo was specially created by sake sommelier, Miki Ellis to pair perfectly with TORA’s dishes. Made in Yoshinogawa, Japan, this house sake is smooth, with a subtle taste that doesn’t overpower the umami fish flavours. It’s a great starter sake if you’ve never imbibed Japanese rice wine but can also be appreciated by seasoned drinkers of the stuff.

For non-sake drinkers (they exist) there’s a brief wine list or brews from Sapporo and Asahi.

Dinner and drinks for two: around $80

612B-3401 Dufferin Street, 647-349-1193;