In a city blessed with world class sushi, Tojo’s Restaurant in downtown Vancouver stands alone. Master chef Hidekazu Tojo single-handedly introduced Vancouver to sushi back in the 1970s. Today, his restaurant attracts sushi cognoscenti from around the world, as well as celebrities from music and film and even the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
What sets Tojo’s apart is the expertise that chef Tojo brings to the sushi bar, as well as the fresh, locally sourced ingredients. In fact, Tojo pioneered the use of local seafood in Vancouver sushi and is credited with inventing the B.C. Roll, which incorporates salmon from British Columbia.
Among Tojo’s other accomplishments is the creation of the California Roll, also known as the “inside-out roll.” To appeal to Western palettes, Tojo reversed the layout of the traditional sushi roll, concealing the seaweed under a layer of rice. Today, the Cali Roll is a standby in sushi restaurants around the world.
Inside, Tojo’s has an elegantly simple décor. The open room is dominated by a large dining area, but the best seats are at the sushi bar. Chef Tojo is hard at work most nights and can be seen slicing, dicing and sharing stories with regular customers.
While Tojo’s does have a traditional menu, most sushi lovers choose the omakase, or chef’s choice, option. Based on your likes and dislikes, Chef Tojo and his assistants will prepare a personalized tasting menu, incorporating everything from delicate soups to finely seared tataki to creative sashimi, rolls and temaki. The emphasis is on using the freshest fish and vegetables and on combining ingredients in innovative ways that push the envelope of Japanese cuisine.
Just a warning: Tojo’s omakase experience is not cheap (Dinners start at $110 per person). However, as critics from The Washington Post, The New York Times and scores of publications around the world have concurred, a dinner at Tojo’s is worth every penny.