Tojo's is a Japanese restaurant on Broadway that is consistently rated one of the top restaurants of its kind in Vancouver.
I am amazed wtih all the incredible japanese restaurant in Vancouver, there are people who still think Tojo's is the best in town. I had been skeptical about it from various reviews and word of mouth, but I had some friends who were visiting and wanted to try. All I can say is for those of you who still sings Tojo's praises and keep saying it's worth it, you need to check out other places in Vancouver.
We had the $110 Omakase and was it a big disappointment. There was no Toro, no Umi, no Lobster, no Fois Gras. Sure the fish were fresh, but so are the fish at almost all the good Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. I was expecting some innovation nouveau Japanese cooking given you can get all the usual stuff at other places for same / better quality, but nothing that special at Tojo's. The presentation is nice, but I am there for the food first and foremost.
For those who say the prices are within what you expect for good Japanese restaurant in North America, that is true, but the other places are WAY better and more innovative. So as a traditional Japanese place, Tojo's is way below standard, while being an innovative place, it is not.
I think unfortunately, many people who go to very expensive restaurants refuse to admit they've been had even when it's obvious everything is overpriced.
I will not go back to Tojo's for sure. I didn't even have to pay for the meal and still thought it was mediocre. Lastly, ever wonder why there aren't any Japanese people eating at Tojo's? I think they know their Japanese food best...so why aren't they at Tojo's when you see them at Aki or Guu or all kinds of other good Japanese place? Some food for thought!
Yes, it's overpriced. Yes, it's amazing food.
The first time I went to Tojo's, I was at the other location (the new one does more justice to the food). Our server overcharged us and became quite upset whn we figured this out. The second time, I was at the Broadway location--it was quite funny, because the same waiter looked at my Dad and said "Ohhh, I think I have served you before sir.." However, upon biting into a decadent piece of Toro, I discovered and almost choked on a bone. Imagine! A bone in a piece of fish costing upward of $4.00. Quite crazy. Needless to say, that soured my third experience (no, I didn't order Toro again) in which our server seemed to pop up every 5 minutes wanting to see if we were done with our table. A "Great Pacific Roll" ( salmon and avacado) cost $18.00...cmpared to a $3.75 roll of the same ingredients at most other Japanese restaurants. Altogether, an experiece not to be missed.
Remember, Tojo invented the California roll, the BC roll, the Spider Roll, and the idea of putting the rice on the outside of a roll.
Went to Tojo's yesterday. Food was a cut above most sushi restaurants I have eaten at, however not as good as I expected.
For the price, I expected a lot more that I got. The service was so..so. The waitress was pushy and rude! She pushed the omesake and told people to stop talking so she could tell us the specials.
The only way to go at Tojo's is Omakase. Let Tojo make a meal catered to your favorites and be sure to mention what you don't like! He'll create a unique 5 or 6 course meal for your that includes a couple appetizers, two major entree style dishes, and an amazing dessert! Each time its very different (especially if you visit in different seasons). Also you must try the Bacon-Wrapped, Shrimp cooked Beef Rolls (name escapes me)... they are morsel of pure heaven (hell for the heart).
Also Tojo's cold Sake selection is good especially enjoyable served in a chilled bamboo serving set! Sure its expensive, but its worth every penny.
I was taken here for my birthday and the five of us sat at the sushi bar. I was told that when you are at the bar, you don't order off the menu - which was refreshing! Tojo came and asked us if we have any food allergies and then he started doing his thing. He was so nice and down to earth, and I heard that New York and LA tried to recruit him but he stayed loyal to Vancouver. So Vancouverites, stop being cheap about the price! If you have to think about the cost, this is not the place for you. I did ask to see the cocktail menu and all the martinis looked incredible... I settled on Carmen's Guava which was divine and so fresh. I also had a glass of Tojo's select white wine which was awesome. We started with the marinated Tojo tuna - the best raw fish you could ever have! We gave Tojo a challenge - we told him we are big steak eaters and we'd love some beef! He rose to the occasion with the most flavourful and delicious beef I have ever had. We had so many courses, I won't describe everything, but it was all intricate, with different flavours and textures, and made with the freshest most quality ingredients. This restaurant is the best of the best, so don't come here if you are expecting large portions and lots for your money. You are paying for exciting, fine food - it is not for the masses.
If this place were priced much lower, this reveiw would have been a tad different. I can't help but think how ripped off I felt. Hearing about this place so much over the years made me realize within the first taste, that it was a typical Vancouver hype job.
For someone as imaginative as this chef, I can't help but think I was served fare that would be available at most sushi places, even a food court or two. If I wanted a rainbow roll, I would have gone to Metrotown.
Only plus for this place is the quality of ingredients, however, poor service, mediocre dishes, and an atmosphere that reminded me of sitting in a carpet warehouse, makes this review a negative one.
Save your cash, impress your clients elsewhere, or make sure the person you're taking along has never tried sushi before, otherwise you're in for disappointment.
We went to Tojo's with a friend who has since moved out of Vancouver and wanted to go back for nostalgia sake. Unfortunately it was nothing like he had remembered it to be. The menu was limited - couldn't even get a california roll which Tojo's invented himself. The new location lost some of the quirkiness of the old location - it feels like any other sushi restaurants in the city now. As for the food - overpriced. I can't say that enough. We ordered the sushi plate and about 5 rolls. Cost almost $200 and we left hungry but had no desire to order anymore of the overpriced food on the menu. Although the fish was very fresh, I felt the rolls lack the creativity which Tojo is supposedly known for. Each roll had about 5 - 6 pieces so each piece was at least $5 - unbelievable! I will never go back again.
I think this restaurant is over rated and pricey. The food was ok. Not that I am familiar with Japanese food, but when asking questions it was as if the servers themselves were not knowledgeable with it. When the food came out it was not like how the server described it. I did not like the service here. It took a while for the server to get to us, and when they did it seemed like they were pre occupied. The waitress was pushy and rude! Don’t expect too much from this place. I would not recommend it.
While the presentation was excellent, and the food was at worst solid, there was nothing outstanding about this place.... On a blind test taste I am confident that I could not discern a qualitative difference between Tojo's and an AYCA sushi place..... though I concede perhaps someone with a far more refined pallet may be able to do so.
The last time I visited this place, I was more astounded with the cost of the meal and I was with either the food or service. I will not return. I just don't feel the price, especially in this economy, is anywhere near justifiable.
They took our reservations for Friday night but lost it so we were forced to wait for two hours at their bar. If you leave the bar for a walk then they take you name off the list. They are rude, arrogant and the food is average at best! Don't waste your money on Tojo's they don't respect their customers and there is better Asian food in a dozen other Vancouver restaurants. They didn't have the wine we wanted and brought us a 'substitute' at the same price which I later food out was $8 cheaper at the wine store.
I have read the mixed reviews about Tojo's, but still went for our anniversary dinner. We ordered the omakase. First things first our food was extremely fresh and flavorful. Each dish presented just right. It was a nice showcase of simplicity and elegance. Everything was cooked perfectly.
Prices.... well it is expensive. Does it worth it? Yes, sir. Tojo' s is one of the best japanese restaurants in North America. It is an experience to eat in his restaurant. And anywhere else in the world, you would pay similar amount of prices for Sushi. So I dont get the smart-ass remarks on this column about how over rated is this restaurant. I think Vancouverites are a bit stingy on money for dining out of this type. Oh well you can't satisfy everyone... Tojo well earned his reputation. Go for it!
This restaurant is overpriced and over-rated. On top of that, chef/owner Tojo was arrogant, insulting, and condescending.
The restaurant's interior design was a bit dated and the ambience was dull. One would expect a much more sophisticated atmosphere for the price he charges.
We found the food was not creative and original as Tojo proudly claimed. For those who don't know any better, don't be fooled by what he tells you. Really, I didn't think our dinner was anything worth raving about. If you travel more and you have been exposed to world cuisines, you'll know what I'm talking about.
It didn't measure up to the numerous restaurants on the streets of Tokyo (Tojo implied he was superior to his Japanese counterparts), and they were friendly and reasonably priced.
We had something called 'Omakase', meaning that the chef would decide what he would 'creatively' conjure up to impress his guests (and of course he would also decide the $$$$amount of the bill). Usually it is pretty nice, and we are no stranger to it. But at Tojo's, what a mistake that was!!! What a rip off that was!!!
What we had:
1. Sashimi of local salmon, tuna, snapper, and geoduck clams.
2. Diced mixed seafood in sea urchin sauce, served in a half sea urchin shell. The sauce had an over-powering sourish taste.
3. Handrolls of mixed fish. It was as ordinary as any other handrolls.
4. Small pile of cooked dungeoness crab meat served on a large crab shell. I love crabs, so I liked it. Again, nothing creative and original about it.
5. Smoked sable fish in broth. This one was ok.
6. Cut rolls or more like a stripped down California Rolls. I couldn't believe it, we were having Omakase and he served us rolls. I was expecting something I'd never had before. Well, of the 8 pieces we only ate 3.
7. Plain uni sushi without seaweed, I guessed Tojo ran out of ideas.
We stopped at that because we were disappointed and to be honest, it was filling.
The food was ok in general. No surprises. But for that price, I expected to be 'WOW'. I was, not by his foods, but by the 'check'.
The check came and the food was CAD $260 for the 2 of us. The small bottle of sake was CAD $38. It said 'Tojo's choice' on the sake menu, that too was average.
This is for people from Hong Kong:
When we first sat down, Tojo asked where we are from, we said HK. The condescending bastard said (with hand gestures) "Tojo up here, Hong Kong down here, 300 places below." I wondered if that was necessary. But with a comment like that, I suggest my HK friends can delete Tojo's from their list when they visit Vancouver from now on. Oh, he also kept bragging that he's got MONEY.
Last but not least, we noticed he doesn't smile to his customers. He looked miserable throughout our entire dinner as if he didn't give a damn. We did not feel particularly welcome.
Every highly-rated and expensive restaurant suffers from the trepidation and expectations that diners set up in their minds before they go. For many those expectations become impossible to meet, and not matter what the experience, they feel cheated.
Tojo's is especially vulnerable to this because
1) It's "Japanese" and the expectation is that Japanese food is cheap.
2) The media coverage is truly amazing - and it's not because of his "PR Machine" - he doesn't have one. Truly: none. everyone comes to him.
3) Tojo's is not a typical "fancy" night out. Never was, never will be, in spite of the new, classier decor.
There are three truly exceptional passionate chefs in Vancouver: Vikram Vij (and his wife) are one (or two); Pino Posteraro is one; and Tojo is one. There are other very very good professional chefs (Hawksworth and others). But these three gentlemen are complete and total insane chefs. Not businessmen. Chefs. They live for food and for creativity. If you go to any of these, but let's talk about Tojo' here, go to taste the world through their sensibilities. Don't go to compare your favorite Japanese dishes. Don't go for a romantic candlelit date. Go to see and feel and taste what Tojo and a staff of totally dedicated superior souchefs have made out of what happens to be fresh and local and interesting today.
Do not order from the menu - how are you going to reach beyond what you already know? Do not sit at a table: enter into a conversation at the Omakase Bar. Don't keep looking at your wallet. If you went to Jean Georges in New York or Andy Danko in San Francisco, you wouldn't begrudge the prices. Tojo's is not a sushi place. Don't compare it to other sushi places. In Japan there are sushi places and places that specialize in cooked dishes. Tojo's does both superbly. That's very rare. Take the time to find out what he can offer you.
I've been eating at Tojo's various places (Maneki, Jinya and both Tojo's) regularly for more than 25 years. I can honestly say I've never had the same meal twice. If you truly want to experience what this passionate and obsessively creative chef can offer, put yourself in his hands, and come more than once. Learn the seasons. Learn the Vancouver climate. Learn to taste.
Having been to Tojo's about 5 times, I would highly recommend going early (6ish), sitting at the bar and ordering the omakasa (tasting menu) with house saki. The sushi and ala cart menu items are fine but overpriced and nothing special. The omakasa however is really terrific and often very inventive with a wide range of dishes which complement each other very well. Also sitting at the bar means you are not dependent on the wait staff which can sometimes be good and sometimes frustrating. As many reviewers point out, the price is high but I've been very pleased the last few times I've gone, as have all my guests, when we have done the above.
We went to dinner last Saturday at 8:00 PM and arrived to a half-empty restaurant. Sat at bar.
Tojo started off by telling us that he would prepare us food we’ve never had before- amazing, different things that would surprise us. “Bring it on!” we thought, as we ordered some cold sake and settled into our seats. First up- chunks of tuna dressed with a ponzu sauce swimming in grated yamaimo (mountain potato) and topped with fresh uni. Delicious, fresh, subtle. Similar to dishes I’ve had but a fantastic version. The next dish would definitely count as something neither Jesse nor I had ever experienced before- morel mushrooms that size of golf balls, stuffed with a mixture of shrimp and scallops, flash fried and topped with a sauce. First of all, I’d never seen morels so large in my life- the ones here, if and when you can get fresh ones, are tiny in comparison. They were slightly crispy on the outside and the tender filling was the perfect foil.
Things just got better with a bowl of barely-cooked, thinly sliced octopus. Minus one suction cup at the very top, the slices were smooth and clean so it was hard to tell that it was octopus at all. Each piece was super tender and lightly dressed so the flavor of the seafood really came through. We were pretty happy at this point, but oddly getting kind of full.
Here’s where things started to go downhill, at least for me. No, the quality of the food didn’t fade (save for one soy-paper roll that was just inedibly soggy- we left it). Our sushi was all fresh, the toro was the best I’d ever had, the sweet shrimp succulent and tender. The problem was Tojo. Smiling, beaming Tojo. What could I possibly have against this sushi master? Here it is- his constant banter about what a sushi master he truly is. Between each course he couldn’t help but mention how people travel from far and wide to eat his food. Oh yes, he was on “No Reservations” of course. Isn’t this the best (fill in the blank) you’ve ever eaten? “Tojo’s food is the best! Tojo creates dishes like no other!” Look- I can appreciate when people have pride in their work, but this was too much. I started to feel obligated to give some over-the-top reaction and roll my eyes back in ecstasy every time I took a bite of something.
The real bummer came with this story that he not only told in detail but actually kind of acted out. He told us about one of his regular customers who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The customer called Tojo and said he wanted to eat his last meal at Tojo’s, so of course Tojo complied. Tojo then looks at me and Jesse, pretends to be this dying guy and motions with his hand like he’s picking up a piece of sushi, slowly brings it to his lips, puts this pretend sushi in his mouth, closes his eyes, sighs, then says “I can now die a happy man.” He then followed with “A LOT of people want to eat their last meal at Tojo’s.”
For the love of God, if someone is THAT good at what they do, is there any need to constantly run around telling everyone? It didn’t bother Jesse as much, but being Japanese I was stunned to witness such bravado from a fellow countryman. The melodramatic reenactment of this man’s last meal was enough to make that one meal at Tojo’s MY last meal there as well. I mean, what would Bourdain say? I guess I’d like to hope that he have a sarcastic comment up his sleeve for this sort of behavior but then again he’d probably tell a no name blogger (aka ME) that everyone has their quirks and the guy can cook so who cares?
For the record, the meal was the most expensive I’ve ever had at any restaurant- sushi or otherwise- other than Urasawa. No joke. Yes, the food was good, but certainly not worth the price. Nor the commentary.
This has been famed the best sushi restaurant in vancouver and its website suggests that some think it is possibly the best in north america -I think that this is definitely over-exaggeration.
THE FOOD: overall, pretty good, but I wouldn't think it worths the price it charges as I have had better sushi elsewhere (in richmond) which serves similar quality for a lot less.
The omakase menu had some good dishes (e.g. the prawn with stuffed fish, the dungeon crab roll and the sesame pudding). but everything else, including the sablefish, was only slightly above average, i.e. not amazing. We also ordered bluefin toro nigiri sushi and sake (wild salmon) sushi separately. I liked the toro and my sister liked the sake one although I think both of them are, again, just slightly above average.
SERVICE was a bit patchy. Our server greeted us with a very loud voice and he had not-so-funny jokes at random times during our meal. But we were given a free dessert, so that was a nice jesture.
AMBIENCE was as expected (after reading the reviews), very poor indeed. Not romantic, not trendy. It might try to have a traditional Japanese flair to it, but it fails quite miserably on that -it just had a very worn out look, especially with its sofa / chair colours.
So, all in all, I would go again if I want to go for some Jap food with assured quality, although I would not set my expectations too high again. Perhaps for that price, I ought to go somewhere else for new adventures.
After hearing all the rave reviews we finally went to Tojo's. Lets start with the good. The Sashimi was some of the best i've had. Very fresh but for the price I was paying it had better be. Now for the bad. We ordered some chicken Teriyaki, the grilled halibut, spider rolls and spicy tuna rolls all of them were rather bland and average. You can get the same quality from other restaurants for half the price. I was expecting much better for a so called "fine dining" restuarant. To top it off we ordered the Shrimp Tempura for I think $22+ or so. It came out soggy!!! Not to mention we only got about 5 shrimps! Even my local cheap sushi place will have crispy tempura for less than half the price!
The service was sub par as well, very slow and not very attentive!
The sashimi was excellent but give me a break there is little preparation involved with sashimi. They just have to pay through the nose to get quality fish that is really fresh. So I can't give them too much credit for that! Any restaurant can have good sashimi if they are willing to pay the price for top quality fish.
So in conclusion good sashimi, everything else is sub par and over priced!
I have to agree with fella - I don't understand what the fuss is all about. Its good food and you can be assured the quality is tops but its a little over priced. Expect to pay $17.00 for a spicy tuna roll. And it isn't even spicy! I find the menu selection to be quite limited and its not soooo good that the premium you pay for the sushi is really worth it.
I'm a lot happier dining at Yoshi's and its far cheaper. Yoshi would be my pick for best Japanese restaurant in Vancouver, not Tojo's.
The décor in Tojo’s new location was very Zen, tasteful, but a little cold, both in terms of temperature and atmosphere. We had the omakase at the sushi bar which was an experience in its own. If you’re not familiar with Tojo’s omakase, they charge based on a sliding scale. If you stop after 5 courses, it’s one price, if you keep going, it’s another price and the sky’s the limit depending on how much you eat. My wife and I were both very hungry and as a result, our meals cost $170 each not including drinks. Chef Tojo sources some of the best ingredients in Vancouver and therefore their sashimi and seafood is top notch. Where they fell apart was in the service and atmosphere. First, the server never came once to refill our tea and sakes. Secondly, my wife requested for no shellfish, and lo and behold one of our courses was fresh oysters in the half shell. Third, after the 5th or 6th course, the server started to ask us whether we wanted to “keep going” (i.e. have more food), but he does this on every subsequent course which becomes extremely annoying, almost feels like I’m begging for food. You have to give Chef Tojo credit for bringing fusion Japanese to the mainstream in Vancouver, but for some reason, I just don’t feel welcome when I’m eating at his restaurant, maybe it’s his demeanor, or the service, or a bit of both.
Ask for the chef's special creation and you will not be dissapointed. Of course it is a bit pricy but what do you expect with such fresh ingrediants and inovative design. Eat slow or you'll lose the experience. Marinated tuna is the best. The servers will tell you what to put sauce on and what to eat plain. I guess we non-japanese drench all our sushi with soy sauce and wasabi. Hey call me old fashion but the plain sushi still tasted better with a little soy and wasabi. The variety was incredible. Too bad I can't pronounce most of the items otherwise I would definitely be looking for a cheaper substitute elsewhere. This is a special occasions place for sure.