Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto, Traditional Japanese Tasting Menu in Toronto

Travelling Foodie does Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto

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Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto is one of most expensive Japanese restaurants in Toronto, owned and run by Chef Masaki Hashimoto along with his son Kei.

With a $300 price tag for dinner ($200 for lunch), you have to wonder why a meal can be this expensive. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner and Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto is one of the closest you can get to a 3-Michelin star experience in Toronto, in my opinion.

It’s an experience where it’s not all about the food, but the art form, the cultural learning, and the story that Chef Hashimoto wants to tell his diners.

Table Setting at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto in Toronto

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Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto Experience

Coming into Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto, we were greeted by Kei who has been waiting for us at the entrance to welcome us in. He took our coats and guided us to our table.

We didn’t realize before how intimate and private this experience would be, as we were ushered into a dining section with just a table and two chairs.

It turns out they only have 3 tables to ensure an exceptional private dining experience. Therefore, it is best to make reservations at least 1 week in advanced.

Ginjo Sake

Kei described what to expect for Kaiseki and mentioned that there is a complimentary tea ceremony as well at the end of the meal if we wish to participate (only available during dinner).

He showed us the tea and alcohol menu, and carefully explained each variation of matcha tea and sake on the menu. Since we were already doing the tea ceremony after, we opted for a bottle of the Ginjo sake, which has a very full-bodied taste and is the best sake I’ve tasted so far.

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Kaiseki Dinner at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto

The full Kaiseki experience started: Eight courses of carefully crafted dishes with artistry combined.

Kei delivered each course and told us the story behind it and the ingredients associated. For me, the storytelling is very important in a tasting menu because learning about the dish actually makes you appreciate the dish even more.

One thing you’ll realize, much to my dismay, is there really isn’t a lot of raw fish here. There was no sushi course and only one sashimi course with only one type of fish.

If you’re looking for sushi/sashimi omakase, you’re better off going to Zen, Kaji, or Yasu for that.

Favourite Kaiseki Courses

Two of the standout courses for me were the Shii-zakana (Signature) course and Tome-zen (Main) course.

Shii-zakana (Signature Course)

  • Kuruma-Ebi (Shrimp), Tachiuo (Belt fish), popped rice, Ginko nuts, mountain potato
  • Signature Daikon Crane served with Carrot dressing

The Shii-zakana is the epitome of artistry and food combined in the Kaiseki. Delicious fried shrimp from Japan with very playful popped rice that still resembles unprocessed wheat.

You actually get to play with your fingers as you pop the rice out of the shell to eat, and they were very good.

It was my first time trying Ginko Bilboa nuts as well, having only tried them as a supplement with water. They are sort of like eating chestnut but with an edamame taste.

Perhaps the most impressive thing in this course was the Signature Daikon Crane. As a kid, I grew up learning about origami and this beautiful piece of daikon was like a perfectly constructed edible origami.

Try it on its own, then try it with the carrot dressing to see the difference in flavours.

Shii-zakana at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto in Toronto, Ontario
Shii-zakana

Tome-zen (Main Course)

The main course was A5 Wagyu Joshu Beef. Enough said!

The beef was grilled perfectly such that the grill flavour supplements the beef but still maintaining the marbling texture on each bite. It’s placed on a bowl of Japanese sushi rice so the rice soaked up the oil from the beef, which is absolutely delicious.

This course also came with a Soba noodle soup with small red fried shrimp, which is a good accompaniment after the wagyu. The small red fried shrimp was so full of flavour that the overall soup taste became flavourful as well.

What makes this even better? We were informed that, in Kaiseki, the Tome-zen course is complimentarily offered for a second round. So, you can get the A5 Wagyu Beef again, which I obviously did! I would even do a third-round if they offered it.

As a background, Joshu wagyu is wagyu beef from Japanese Black cattle raised in Gunma prefecture in Japan. Raised with a unique feed adapted to the environment and advanced fattening technologies, Joshu Wagyu Beef is of the highest level wagyu in the country.

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Tea Ceremony at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto

After the Kaiseki dinner, we then proceeded to the Tea Ceremony, which is in a totally different room so Kei asked us to gather all our things since we won’t be returning to the table.

The typical Tea Ceremony is quite elaborate and intricate which I didn’t expect. Kei said a typical Tea Ceremony in Japan lasts 3 hours, but what they offer here is a simplified version which takes 30 minutes since the Kaiseki took at least 2 hours already.

He explained the setup of the room we were in, the tools and equipment for the ceremony laid out on the floor, and started the ceremony.

At any time during the ceremonial sequence, you can ask him questions on what’s happening. It’s quite interesting to learn all of this as I never would’ve imagined how much effort is put into a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

After he instructed us the proper way of drinking the tea during the ceremony, I got to taste the best matcha tea I’ve had so far. Kei said they use the highest level of matcha for the ceremony.

Japanese Tea Ceremony at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto in Toronto, Ontario

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Meet & Greet with Chef Hashimoto

After the Tea Ceremony, the entire experience has completed and we realized that we’re in Toronto instead of Japan. Kei told us to wait as we put on our shoes because they usually take photos of their customers to send in email, which also included all the photos of the dishes we had that night.

This is something I’ve never seen a restaurant do before, and it really makes the experience even more special.

After the photos, he also told us to wait as Chef Hashimoto would like to come out to greet and talk with the diners. This added a nice touch to the experience.

We got to meet Chef Hashimoto himself, and he’s such a nice and talkative person. You’ll definitely see he’s very passionate about his craft once you talk with him.

Travelling Foodie Raymond Cua with Chef Masaki Hashimoto in Toronto

He explained how much thought process goes into his menu for the day as it changes every day based on the ingredients, his mood… and even the weather outside!

One thing we also learned was that he initially had a different menu in mind for tonight. He wanted to use a deepwater shellfish that’s normally available at this time of cold weather.

However, because the weather the past few days had been warm, the shellfish he wanted to use didn’t come out for harvesting. I love shellfish so I was a little saddened that we missed that course he had in mind.

This means that menu can be very volatile here, and each visit would definitely be different. Based on what he said, I would recommend going in the cold weather.


Overall Thoughts of Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto

My verdict is: I highly recommend to try this place, once at the very least.

The overall experience was exceptional. As I mentioned, this experience is very similar to that of a three Michelin star restaurant, which you won’t really find much in Toronto.

If you have the money, by all means, try it as many times as you can. If money’s not an issue, I personally would want to try it each season since they emphasize that “Kaiseki is an exploration of delicate textures, flavours and colours that define each season, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.”

It would be interesting to try and see how each season differs at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto

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Other Courses at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto

Onjyaku-zen (Amuse Bouche)

Rice Porridge Onjyaku-zen (Amuse Bouche) at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto in Toronto, Ontario
Rice porridge with yam and Chestnut, Sesame Tofu, White miso with Buttercup Egg tofu

Sashimi

Tennen Madai Sashimi
Tennen Madai (Wild Porgy), Wakame Agar Agar, Daikon, Fresh Wasabi

Owan-mono (Soup)

Madai Owan-mono (Soup)
Madai steamed with shrimp and mountain potato, Domyoji rice, squash, green bean, Yuzu

Yakimono (Grilled)

Shima-Aji Yakimono at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto in Toronto
Shima-Aji with sudachi, persimmon with mochi and eggplant baked with miso, Lotus root

Takiawase (Steamed and Stewed)

Ama-dai Takiawase (Steamed and Stewed) at Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto in Toronto
Ama-dai steamed with grated Turnip, Mizuna, Yuzu, Konbu, and ponzu sauce

Shii-zakana (Signature)

  • Kuruma-Ebi (Shrimp), Tachiuo (Belt fish), popped rice, Ginko nuts, mountain potato
  • Signature Daikon Crane served with Carrot dressing

Tome-zen (Main)

Joshu Wagyu rice, warm Soba with small red shrimp fried with vegetables

Dessert

  • Matcha mousse, red beans, pudding, strawberry Agar Agar
  • House made ice cream; Strawberry, Vanilla, Matcha, and Hojicha

Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto
Website / Address: 6 Garamond Court, Toronto, Ontario, M3C 1Z5

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