Tojo's is a Japanese restaurant on Broadway that is consistently rated one of the top restaurants of its kind in Vancouver.
Of all the restaurants in my journeys, outside of Gordon Ramsey at Claridges (which is no longer Gordon Ramsey at Claridges), there has never been a more hyped restaurant than Tojo’s. They obviously wallow in the accolades—you can barely see through the glass door with all the stickers on it from various review sites like Zagat, Trip Advisor, or Yelp. I may never again encounter a restaurant with this much buildup. Hell, I was even discussing my visit with Jewel Staite. Jewel Staite! Jewel Staite? Yes, Jewel Staite. You know, Firefly, Stargate—oh forget it, those of you who know, care. She reaffirmed the apparent certainty that Tojo’s was one of the best if not THE best restaurant in all of Vancouver.
Would it then be a surprise that it didn’t fulfill such lofty expectations? I was practically guaranteed transcendence, and no one was more shocked than I at my reaction. It’s admittedly unfair; it already counts as one of the best Japanese culinary experiences I’ve ever encountered, but with this level of hype, I was expecting it to top the list, and it didn’t. As it stands, it’s unfortunately just amazing. I await retribution for stating Tojo’s as simply fantastic, merely astonishing, regrettably excellent.
Based purely on its décor, it deserves high praise. This is not a conventional Japanese restaurant, but a Japanese restaurant’s ecstasy-laced hallucination of itself. It’s enormous, with gaps of hardwood floor shockingly underutilized, still leaving dozens of tables and an expansive bar open as we entered. The bar was reserved for omakase.
No, that’s not some mid-level Yakuza boss in Grand Theft Auto 5, but the term labeled for chef menus in Japanese restaurants. I find the exclusiveness of the bar disappointing, especially since I wanted to try omakase. My girlfriend wasn’t, leaving me trapped at a table ordering the non-omakase chef’s menu…yes there are two chef menus. No, I don’t really know the difference. I could see the owner/head chef, the one that looks like Sonny Chiba from Kill Bill, behind the bar serving a half-dozen men clearly ending their shift as GQ models. How badly did I want to sit at the bar? So much so that the $80 price tag felt like a drop in the bucket, not that I’ve had good experience with omakase.
In another feeble attempt at self-glorification, the last time I had a full-on omakase was at a restaurant in the New World Mall in downtown Hong Kong. Against a backdrop of fireworks blasting beyond a window overlooking Kowloon Bay on the final day of the Autumn Festival, as the Blade Runner-esque cityscape of the Admiralty fired lasers into a starless night made ever blacker by rampant pollution, I enjoyed a $300 omakase. It also gave me food poisoning, which is a tale in itself. A chef obviously lower on the totem pole, but one of some obvious talent was supplying my dinner in Tojo’s. My tasting menu included five courses of what I expected would be alternating variations of raw fish and rice. I held my chopsticks the proper way in anticipation, ironic that most of the delivered dishes were in dire need of fork. I consider myself a chopstick master—got a technique down and everything—I don’t even squish the rice. All but one of the dishes I was served was nearly impossible to enjoy with sticks, but at no point was I offered a fork. Some of the bites were as minute as Adam Sandler’s box-office draw.
The first dish, a tuna tartare, was one of the greatest dishes I’d ever sampled, followed by a salmon sashimi, followed by…I honestly don’t know what it was. I mean it was good, and I recognized the bed of morel mushrooms it sat on. Carrots, I saw carrots. All that led to a dish punctuated but what felt like slightly undercooked tripe, a dish so disappointing, I had to break a personal policy and share my displeasure with the staff (in the most polite way possible, of course). It was only after that was I served some actual sushi, five various pieces of exceptional refinement. Of the five courses, two disappointed while three overwhelmed, a fact obviously perceived by the wait staff, who obviously conveyed this to the chef, and the previous setback was redeemed with a complimentary green tea crème brulee, a dish of which all future crème brulees will be compared.
Tojo’s reputation is obviously well earned; it has reached that critical mass where no bad publicity can stop it. Like a G-type main sequence star, Tojo’s is unlikely to dim in the foreseeable future, feeding on a nearly inexhaustive supply of publicity garnered from celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Tom Cruise, and Jack Black. Wait…is that…Pat Morita (hasn’t he been dead for eleven years?). By the way, funny that Bourdain is the only one labeled; even Cruise is listed under just…”people”. Heaven forbid I offer up a negative review, not that I would give one. The experience, taken on an average of décor, service, and the six dishes served, still comes up with a top grade across the board. Odd that I walked out still…disappointed. How does that work?
Should you visit Tojo’s? Hell yeah. I’m required to visit different restaurants each time I visit Vancouver and I still want to try omakase. It was absolutely worthy the visit...if you have the money. Remember, such a reputation does equate to rather lofty prices. The only sushi combo dinner offered is a staggering $55. That price I quoted for omakase was only to start, with the cost likely to increase, up to triple depending on the details. Thank god, my girlfriend only ordered the California rolls. I left her out of the review until now because her comments perfectly reflect the justification of my review. She hates sushi…hates it. I can’t get her to try anything, but she ordered California rolls, and said they were the best she’d ever had. Thank you, Tojo’s, you might have finally opened up my girlfriend’s culinary horizons, and for that, I cannot offer a greater score.
As others have commented, I am thinking that Tojo-san has gone just a bit above himself.
I have been a Tojo fan since 'way back at Jinya, back in the 80's. It was always fantastic, always worth it. When he set up "Tojo's" near Cambie, it was fun and still worth it.
The new location leaves me cold, as does the value of what he is pumping out. I took Japanese visitors there for omakase, and I was embarrassed, as well as quite a bit poorer.
Service was almost non-existent, but an Indian gentleman who spoke Japanese was very much in the spotlight.
The omakase was NOT worth the money, and even my Japanese visitors figured that out. Lots of premade cooked dishes, a few sushi items and that was it. Tojo-san himself came out to collect kudos. Even with the Japanese, he was a braggart, boastful.
Too bad, but I don't think that I will return, even after all these years of believing.
Can't say if this place can be a regular dinner venue as it was definitely steep but for special occasions or to impress your guests, it does not get better. My spouse had the Omakase and loved it, I had the ala carte as I wanted to have their Northern Light Roll and Tojo's Tuna and they were both spectacular. The tuna was melt in your mouth and the sauce not too sweet. Their Omakase (chef's creations so no ala carte) range from $60 to No Limit. Our server was attentive, thank god we got him as there were some rather strange servers around, see for yourself. One Japanese kid was kind loud for no reason at all and he was trying to be obnoxious but failed miserably, hard to explain. It was a great experience but not life changing. Unique rolls and seafood but was it worth the kind of prices charged ($21 for Tempura, $7 for Agedashi Tofu), I didn't think so. The room also looked dated, one would think for the kind of prices charged, Tojo would kick the decor up a notch. Having said this, I would return, but only for a really special occasion or if someone else is buying. For 2, our dinner came to $144 which included the following:
1. 2 beers and 1 sake
2. 2 rolls
3. Agedashi Tofu
4. Omakase at $60 pp
5. Small order of Tojo's Tuna
After striking out a half a dozen times trying to get a reservation for a party of 12 to celebrate my birthday, we finally settled on Tojo's. Many places would not give a reservation between 6 and 9, some couldn't accomodate a party that size, some were already reserved. Tojo's wanted a credit card to ensure we showed up and would charge $200 if we didn't which was an interesting policy but we agreed since we were having difficulty find a place to accomodate us.
Everyone settled on the $80 Omakase menu where Tojo himself selects each dish. The cooked dishes were all very good, especially the sablefish. The sushi items were less than stellar although there was a tasty scallop roll that had interesting flavours.
The service was very good overall. Drinks were always full and dishes were explained in detail, almost too much information. There were some gaps in food delivery between each course which was a little bothersome especially since most at the table were starving.
Overall, I enjoyed my dining experience at Tojo's. My biggest complaint would be the low overall value; I would definately not order the Omakase option again. I have dined here previously and ordered a la carte and left much more satisfied and heavier in the wallet.
Creamy fresh fish. Toro is melt-in-your mouth juicy! Perfect temperature for the raw fish. Always fresh, except maybe the occassional prawn that doesn't seem AS fresh or as sweet as it should be. Service is flawless, friendly, perfect! Deserving of every last bit of a generous tip! They make the bluefin tuna worth every penny! Or tens of dollars, rather... From food to service, I have no quarrel, except that hopefully, there will be more cooked creations I would lovvvve to try that's prepared by Tojo and his staff. But for the raw variety, this is the best! For more cooked/raw variety, go for the chef creation in the higher price range of the options given.
A lot of very positive and very negative reviews here that's expected. First of all, I agree with the other reviewer who said people in Vancouver expect japanese food to be cheap and very few can imagine paying $100+ for a meal. But when yuo go to Tojo's, it's an experience you cannot find in any other japanese restaurant in Vancouver. I've sat at the bar and at tables. I've had some bad experiences with one or two of the servers (yes, they're sometimes aggressive) but other times they are very observant and on the ball. When you go with omakase, you'll be served works of art. The room is gorgeous and slick. Tojo himself is visible and approachable. If you want to experience the ultimate ripoff in japanese cuisine, try Nobu in the US which shouldn't even be called japanese. Go to Tojo's with an open mind and enjoy.
The first time I came to Tojo's I expected to foot a large bill, as my colleague comes here once a month and had given me the FYI. I ended up paying $220 before tax for 2 (no Sake). The food is incredible. A lot of flaming about the ridiculous pricing, and I agree, it's quite expensive... but Tojo's is a Japanese fine dining establishment - I think a lot of folk who dine at Tojo's for the 1st time expect to pay slightly more than at an AYCE restaurant, which is definitely NOT the case. That aside, we received great service - our waitress gave us a lot of attention and explained the origins of each dish cause she knew this was our first time.
The only negative experience came at the end of the night... we capped off a great meal by not finding my car where I parked it (in the parking lot in the back of the restaurant)... apparently someone from Tojo's called in to Drake's to tow it away.. there are no signs indicating no parking, and Tojo's even advertises that the back parking lot is for customer parking only... but apparently it's for 'frequent' customers (he has to recognize the cars). Sorta sucks, ended up forking out another $93 + cab fare to pick up the car from the Drake's yard... anyways, moral of the story is to not park in the back unless the man himself knows your car...
Back on topic: I'd recommend going to Tojo's for anniversaries or really special occasions - definitely not a 1st date place as this will set a really bad precedent ($$$)... Anyways, I'd say a good benchmark would be +/- $100 per person.
Over-rated, lying bunch of greedy restaurant entrepreneurs who are only out there to make money.
The food is definitely not fine-dining level at I do not think I had food quality that matched my bill of $600.
The portions are extremely small, which is something that represents fine-dining level. A pass here.
The fish was not the freshest - in fact one of the rock cod sashimis had a funny smell so we returned it and got something else. The only part that seemed to be alright was the salmon, but even that part I could taste it is not wild or organic, just your mediocre salmon bought in bulk.
The meat dishes really sucked. The next time I spend $25 on a teriyaki dish will be when I see cows-flying.
I ordered about 6 omakases for my guests and all of them seemed to be a little inconsistent. One of the dishes had flower petals - edible ones - while five of them did not. I asked the server if the chef had forgotten about it and the server said each omakase is different...weird.
Service was extremely slow and snobbish. With $600 worth of a bill, I expected my party to be treated like royalties. Instead I get impatient servers who think pigs should just order and shut up.
The atmosphere was stuffy and everyone did not seem to be into anything. Food was not at level with $600 bill.
I was so fed up that I did not even want to tip them but seeing how I do not want anyone chasing after me after I left the restaurant - thinking that they might because the tip is 15% of the bill - I tipped in the end.
Do not come here because you'll regret it.
Food: I can make better sushi rice than those idiots. There's not a lot of varieties of fish. It's not like southern California, sushi is so good there with all kinds of fish. The menu and ingredients are quite limited Sashimi is so so, not the best sashimi I ever had, certainly not that price. I had much better sashimi but much cheaper and better decor and better service in the States. Why is Tojo so expensive then? They spent all the money on PR and advertising. It's just a hype.
Service: It was so slow. It's a joke. When you pay a lot of money (fine dining price), you really expect good service. I don't care the restaurant is busy or not, if you charge people fine dining price, you need to hire more waiters to keep the service prompted. They want you to pay lots money and not being a cheapo, but they are acting like cheapos themselves. Ya,that's really classy.
Ambiance: Whatever. The decor doesn't look like a fine dining restaurant to me.
These days, with the popularity of food TV, a lot of restaurants got their PR time on TV. They sure turn around and try to sell themselves as some expensive big deal. In fact, it's just a hype like mother used to say "Don't believe TV advertisement." Having a segment on TV is a different form of advertisement. The 30 seconds commercial spot lets you know it's an advertisement already. The TV segment (they can get it from paying the producer or hook up with the producer) is a more subtle advertisement. You think it's show producers' research and point of view. It can be bought. In fact, a lot of them pay for their TV segments.
I’m not really sure what the fuss is about with this high priced sushi joint.
We went with the suggested $80 tasting menu which consisted of 5 high quality, but very small dishes; the sablefish being the only one to really catch my attention. The food was very good, but with a less than fair value. The place settings were that of a all you can eat restaurant, with cheap glass wear, chopsticks and paper napkins. This is certainly not a fancy spot, but then it’s not supposed to be. The service was attentive, knowledgeable and very friendly. In all fairness, the food was very good, but could be found at other sushi rooms in town for far less$$.
I am confident that for $150 a head, you could dine at any restaurant you choose in town.
Before you go to Tojos remember one thing. You get what you pay for. If you're looking for a deal, then go to All You Can Eat Japanese place. If you;re looking for quality then Tojos is your place. Probably the freshest sashimi around and definately the nicest cuts of tuna including Hamachi. Of course the price is expensive, party of 4 with 2 drinks each was $300.00 or $75.00. Great good and service !
When you first step into this restaurant, you'll notice the ambiance, it is soothing and inviting. Relaxing even.
Then you take a look at the menu and you'll notice all the quotes from famous people/publication/tv show and awards for the restaurant. Promising indeed.
Next you open the menu and you go "Whoa...ok then....hope it's worth it." then you go
"maybe i should go across the street and go tomokazu for all you can eat for the price of a roll here...hmmm..."
The service i gave it mediocre because we had to wait quite a bit for everything. Even water and tea! I know the place is bigger than most and it is busy, not packed, just busy, but waiting for 10 minutes to get your water just doesn't warrant anything above mediocre for service. Not to mention a supposed high end dining place.
The food i gave it outstanding because the ingredients are top notch fresh. It is not even excellent when you think about the perceive standard that the price range suggested. The taste is nothing special because i've tasted the same stuffs at other much cheaper restaurants. The portion size is also very small.
That brings the score for value at poor. This is what i got for myself, yes myself.
I ordered baked oysters at 2 for $10 and what i got was half an oyster in each shell, rest filled with mushrooms.
The assorted nigiri came in at $34 and you get 8 pieces of nigiri and a small tuna roll. Fresh fish that you can get else where.
The rolls were minimum $20 each. There were 8 pieces for a roll. Good but not at that price. Oh and my roll came loose.
The only thing that is worth the price is the homemade sorbet, at $6 each.
So to sum it up, i am very disappointed with tojo. It's a good restaurant with good food but the reputation and the price range just don't match the product. There are japanese restaurants out there that serve equally good quality at half the price. I can't recommend this restaurant. If you have to go, don't go hungry or you'll be broke.
There were 6 of us. We all went with the $80 chef special. The special included 5 dishes and a dessert.
The first dish was a tuna/blue fin tuna salad. The tuna was raw. The dish was very fresh and tasty though the sauce (soy sauce?) was too salty. Unfortunately, this is where the good food ended.
The second course was Pacific cod salad with sesame sauce. The cod was cooked. This dish was very bland. The sauce didn't taste like sesame and was bland too.
The third and fourth courses were grilled salmon steak and grilled halibut cheek. Both were overcooked. Following this was a plate of sushi & nigiri. The raw seafood on the nigiri were all very dry, which was odd. Can't say they didn't taste fresh but the lack of moisture made us think it's been sitting there for a while. The last course was a pineapple yogurt dessert which was unremarkable.
The dishes were all tiny and poor value for money. No one in our group enjoyed the meal and wanted to return.
Finally made it in to Tojo's the food and it was amazing. It's hard to say anything about anything else. I went for the food and left amazed by it.
Service was ok, not the best but considering the level of food that was presented it must be hard to keep up we went to experience the menu.
We can't wait to go back
I've been to Tojos four times, and had great but differing experience everytime. Note that I give four stars for food rating; that's because Tojo is inconsistent in that most times the food will be very very good, and a few times it will be to die for. When the food is to die for, it is worth every penny. When the food is very very good, it is also worth every penny, but the value diminishes greatly. The value really depends on the customers bias of the dishes. Anyway, there are no other Japanese restaurants in BC that can make food as good and as consistent as Tojo's.
The service is always excellent, and there was at least one waiter who constantly wait on my table everytime. If you want to get all your money's worth, then do the omakase. It is the only way you'll get the best of your money at Tojo's as ala carte is on a hit and miss basis. The quality of the ala carte dishes depends on customer's preference and luck as there are so many different style and taste on the menu.
My husband and I were in town for a few days. A few years ago he had eaten at Tojos and had a good experience. He had let the chef prepare a menu for less than $200.00, tip included. Still A bit high,but I figured if it's outstanding, let's do it. Well...what we got were small...I mean small...portions of cooked dishes, a few of which contained a few small pieces of fish and the rest sauce and veggies; one small sushi dish and some less than incredible pieces ( 4 pieces to be exact) of sushi. Best of all, didn't get requested fish in roll. And one had roll consisted of rice and a piece of tempora shrimp, only...no joke. Anyway, as we waited on the bill, less than satisfied, we were floored to see that we were charged $370 plus dollars (not including tip) for these little cheaply prepared dished. Although we felt completely worked over, we paid and left. The absolute kicker besides the outrageous bill was that we didn't even get the high quality sushi that had brought us there...even after asking for it. I would not recommend this place.
I am was very disapointed eating at tojos'. $28 for tempura? I bet they get the veggies from the same wholesalers as every other japanese restaurant! I really don't know why this restaurant gets all this attention. Sorry Tojo, this place is a waste of money...
Everything was pretty solid but man is it expensive or what ! . I've been a two times now and both times I felt like I paid too much for what I got . You would think at these prices that we woiuld get the ultimate sushi experience but both times I felt like something was lacking in comparison to the bill . I guess with the cost of a new place comes the big price but that shouldn't mean we have to pay for it in one year . Maybe I need to get a better job ( like rock star) to keep up with this place
We feel like we just got spanked. We sat down at Tojo's and ordered the $110 per person omakase sushi menu, for which the restaurant is renowned. It is in Vancouver, after all; the glorious Northwest fisheries are at your doorstep. You might figure that a restaurant with this kind of presence -- one consistently awarded Best Formal Japanese by a local magazine -- will serve decent sushi. We specifically asked the charming waiter to bring us the best sushi, we can handle esoteric. Someone mentioned toro, aji, hamachi, uni, etc, at which point the waiter asked us if we wanted to order or if we wanted omakase. Oh yes, we'll have the omakase - we are happy to be in the chef's hands. Normally this means that the chef will choose the best fish, add in some strange things, and make you an amazing meal that costs an arm and a leg. At Tojo's, it seems that the omakase is an opportunity for the chef to charge a lot of money for a cheap meal. After the first two appetizer courses - yesterday's toro, marinated in something, then a shiitake mushroom stuffed with fish cake - I warned my companions that we should turn away any more appetizers. So each time an appetizer showed up, we'd ask "where's the sushi?" The charming waiter would then reply, "It's coming." Five appetizer courses later we were each served with a dish of three pieces of sushi, accompanied by four pieces of sushi rolls. We all looked at our plates, figuring that we'd order more sushi when we finished this paltry amount. It was not to be the case. We were served decent uni, as should be expected, as the best uni anywhere comes from less than 200 miles away; there was a piece of ok hamachi, which is unfortunate, as you can get better hamachi anywhere; and each of us got a piece of decent albacore toro, which is really sad -- anywhere on the west coast of North America, it should be astounding. The rolls were boring and fishy and cold. I'd rather have had something from the supermarket's sushi counter, something with cream cheese. But the real nail in Tojo's coffin was that the sushi rice was cold and bland. That's a sure sign that no one behind the sushi counter cares at all what he's doing. Sushi rice is special; it's the thing that separates you with your fancy knife cutting up a piece of salmon from a real sushi chef at a real sushi counter. Sushi rice recipes are jealously guarded; no sushi chef will ever share his recipe with anyone, even his sous-sushi chefs. It takes years of experimenting and testing and learning to develop your own, and it is the mark of a real sushi establishment. Tojo's serves cold, tasteless sushi rice. The sushi was so disappointing that none of us wanted to order any more. We went straight to dessert, a soggy green tea creme brulee that must have been sitting in the refrigerator all day. And then the check came. It wasn't a surprise, of course; I knew how much it would be when I sat down and ordered the omakase, I calculated how much more it would be each time we ordered something else to drink. What was surprising was that they actually had the nerve to charge us what they told us they were going to charge, after serving such a disappointing meal. What was surprising was that we actually paid the bill, and that we added a tip onto the check. But after all, the service had been fine; it was the food that was bad. I mentioned the cold rice to our otherwise charming waiter as we left, and he said that the warm rice is for the people at the sushi bar; and that if we had wanted more sushi, we should have said something. I still have no idea how to respond to this.
Altogether this was a completely frustrating evening. It makes one wonder what experience people have with sushi when they offer such positive reviews of this restaurant. Please don't fall for the hype as we did. I could never recommend this restaurant to anyone whom I did not want as an enemy. You cannot possibly make a more expensive mistake than to visit Tojo's.
I visited Tojo’s last evening for the first time. As a newcomer to Vancouver, I had sought advice from others and this place came highly recommended by the primarily Asian staff at my hotel.
Beginning with the very polite and well spoken young host who seated me, without a reservation on a Friday night at 8:00 PM and continuing with my server, who was also the bartender, I could not have been happier with my experience.
I came in with no experience with chopsticks but felt I owed it to myself to try. The bartender was humorous, encouraging, and helpful to the point that I managed my entire meal using no silverware. He and his helpers gave me a polite applause for my mastery of them.
The food was unique and well prepared. I found the sushi to be interesting but felt the overall meal fell a bit short of satisfying my appetite and ended up ordering an additional appetizer to fill the void. Even this was met with approval from my wonderful server.
Contrary to other comments found on this site, I found this staff very attentive, the food well above average and the facility very comfortable; a pleasant break from hard benches and tacky decorations found in other establishments of this type.
As I have a business dinner meeting this evening, I have called back and made reservations for tonight. You will find me at the sushi bar, looking forward to extracting the stories that others seem to dread from Tojo. I can only hope that he is as interesting as the rest of his staff.