Restaurant review: Chotto Matte Toronto

Toronto is the latest outpost of this upscale Nikkei restaurant empire, offering diners in the Financial District exciting small plates and barbecue dishes with a Japenese-Peruvian flair.

What's the vibe

One of only four locations, Toronto joins the select league of upscale Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine) restaurants in the Chotto Matte family.

In addition to Miami, London and a pop-up in St. Tropez, the international dining destination has put their stake in the ground at Brookfield Place, offering Financial District punters the choice between sophisticated after-work hors d'oeuvres or a full-scale meal.

The entrance on Bay Street greets guests in a moodily-lit, graffiti-decorated bar and lounge area (called AkACHAN), with plenty of plush seating from which to enjoy a cocktail. Keep walking, though, and you’ll arrive in a bright, dining room filled with more traditional seating, plus a sushi bar and Robata grill counter where diners can watch their sashimi and ceviche being prepared.

What to drink

Peru’s national drink of Pisco is well represented on the drinks menu (although it's Chile’s El Gobernador that Chotto Matte uses), but it’s the Japanese end of the fusion stick that’s stirring up most of the cocktails.

Classic beverages like the Bloody Mary are given the Tokyo treatment with the addition of yuzu (Maya Mary), while their delicious G&T (Mama Rose) uses wasabi to spice things up.

What to eat

While Peruvian cuisine is a recent introduction to the Toronto food scene, with restaurants like Mira and Kay Pacha springing up, until now, Nikkei cuisine has been absent from the city’s repertoire.

With chef Jordan Sclare at the helm, Chotto Matte brings together the best parts of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine – think fresh fish and delicately sliced cuts of quality meat prepared with punchy, citrus flavours. The menu runs the gamut from cold and hot appetizers (around $20) all the way up to nikkei robata barbecue dishes and tasting menu options. We stuck with the former, eating our way through shareable dishes like the excellent Nikkei gyoza, five pork and shrimp dumplings with a gooey sweet potato and ponzu sauce filling, and the warm beef tataki with a passion fruit salsa and pear dressing.

The tentáculos de pulpo, hailing from the anticucho section of the menu, which cooks meat over hot coals after marinating in a sauce made from aji panca (Peruvian hot pepper), is a sight to behold. Once you’ve taken a picture (and you really must) of the dish – with its pastel pink dots of yuzu and its bed of purple potato – dig into the spicy octopus.

Though we didn’t have a chance to try it, those looking for a true Nikkei flavour should order the tiradito, a combination of sashimi and ceviche that perhaps best encapsulates this unique cuisine.

Dinner, drinks and dessert for two; about $140

161 Bay St, 416-988-8097;