Tojo's is a Japanese restaurant on Broadway that is consistently rated one of the top restaurants of its kind in Vancouver.
I have always had omakase at Tojo's sushi bar, so I cannot comment on the experience of those who sat at the tables or ordered off the menu. From my personal experience though, you absolutely get what you pay for here - unbelievably fresh fish, expertly prepared by the master chef Tojo and his army of apprentices in ways that you have likely never experienced before.
Tojo's new location is a huge improvement over his old restaurant; the decor and ambience finally match the quality of the food. Service is still hit or miss, although sitting right at the sushi bar helps a lot in that regard.
The meals are expensive - I have paid everywhere from $110 to $165 a person for omakase at the bar. Not once have I regret dining at Tojo's, and my dinner companions share my sentiment.
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.
We got the omakase.
Want to know something counterintuitive? An old wine doesn't necessarily mean a good wine. Want to know something else? Good sushi is not about the fish.
It's about the rice. Yes, the rice. The little white specks of not so nutritional grains that Asian people seem to think is the cat's whiskers. Fish obviously plays a role, nobody is going to think that the best sushi rice in the world topped with canned tuna on sale at Costco is so delicious, if the apple in the Book of Genesis tasted like it, you really wouldn't blame Eve.
Tojo's rice is bland, mushy, and on par with a generic all you can eat sushi restaurant that litter first world nations today. With that mediocre rice, the sushi chefs haphazardly create nigiri that fell apart as I tried to eat it (no, I am not the boxer that defeated Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle), and rolls that have rice as uneven as an emo kid's haircut and cut as straight as the Fab Five on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
And what kind of self-respecting, "high end" sushi restaurant doesn't even use real wasabi? Tojo, dyed horseradish != wasabi!
His "original" rolls are probably original, but then again a five year old can piece together ingredients from a walk-in, name it something funny, and proclaim it as sushi. That's what Tojo does.
On his website, Tojo says he has 2,000 recipes in his head. Virtually all must be worthless, for our final dish was... a Rainbow Roll.
For all the sushi fans out there who think this is real sushi, stop. This is not real sushi, or even good food. Take a trip to Tokyo and dine at Umi in Aoyama, or Kyube in Ginza, and see how it's done.
My first time at Tojo's after hearing all the hype -
First off - there is no disputing the quality of the food. Defintely fresh, meticulous presentation. And for the $80 chef's special set menu, I was sufficiently full aftewards despite being a bit worried at the outset because each plate of food is so tiny. But the customization of the dishes to our individual tastes was well done.
However, the service and atmosphere is where I'd give lower ratings. The service was a tad disorganized, as the transition from sitting at the bar to our table was not handled smoothly. At the table, our waiter was pleasant, but tough to track down when we needed him (and the point is, you shouldn't 'need him' - he should be around enough to take care of you). The decor was average - the open kitchen layout was nice, but you could view must of the 'mess behind the counter' so to speak. All in all, the atmosphere was not high-end calibur.
You expect the best, and you are certainly paying for it, 2+ times more than any other Sushi place in town I'd say. Lets start with the interior, the old location was nothing more than a shack, the new one, is quite modern, comfortable, but not really the wow factor I expected for The Sushi Man in town. I was expecting modern, west coast, japanese, but it seems more like an modern airport bar.
The food-high quality, careful preparation, fresh and can not be questioned. I feel like I can get comparable quality sushi at Okada or Yugi's for 1/2 price or less.
The vibe - the well heeled, the expense accounters and the curious or special occassioners. You'd have to have deep pockets for this to be your neighbourhood sushi joint or take out place.
The service- well, not traditional japanese, that's for sure.
Overall, it was very good sushi but I felt like I could have had the same quality food and as enjoyable experience elsewhere for far less $$
My wife and I went to this restaurant twice in the last couple of weeks. The service was quite good the first time, but very poor the second time. The food was excellent both times. The price was high for what is definintely not a fine-dining establishment, with fairly cheap-looking seating, tables and decor.
Given the prices and Tojo's reputation, one would have thought that more emphasis would be placed on excellent service, ambiance, and food. My wife had to wait over 30 minutes for her drink, sparkling water, and it took at least four requests to finally get the water delivered.
Reservations are also a problem, and both times it seemed like people being seated in no particular order of arrival, regardless of whether they had a reservation or not. The first time, we were seated before a couple that had an earlier reservation and, the second time, I had to point out to the hostess that I had seen people who were just walking in off the street were being seated, while we were still waiting for a table after 20 minutes even though we had a reservation. We were then promptly seated in a very unattractive corner, even though I had been assured that we were going to be given a "nice table".
On the plus side, you have to try the cold sake in the bamboo container, it is awesome, as is the food. Balancing it all out, the restaurant is pricey for what you get, though I would still go back.