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Sushi Inn is a moderately priced trendy Sushi restaurant located by Bloor St and Avenue Rd in the Yorkville area of Downtown Toronto. Sushi Inn specializes in Sushi cuisine and features catering in a casual atmosphere
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Review: Utterly fresh fish at amazingly low cost

By Sara Waxman, reviewed on March 23, 2005
On any given day, there is a substantial lineup at a Cumberland Street doorway. It begins at 11:30 a.m. and continues well into the afternoon. At five o'clock they're lining up again. Usually, I hurry past, annoyed that people are blocking the sidewalk. But recently, on an...
On any given day, there is a substantial lineup at a Cumberland Street doorway. It begins at 11:30 a.m. and continues well into the afternoon. At five o'clock they're lining up again. Usually, I hurry past, annoyed that people are blocking the sidewalk. But recently, on an unusually snowy winters day, there was no line, and through the large front windows, I could see an action packed restaurant.

I take my chances on getting a table. Inside, servers dressed in black and red short kimono style jackets move as if they're on wheels, speed walking from counter and kitchen to tables. In moments we're seated at a well-worn banquette. These marble topped tables have been here through many re-incarnations, and except for the paper lanterns and baskets of plastic flowers, nothing has changed. Interesting, that a Viennese bakery café can become a perfectly outfitted Japanese restaurant. The cooler that once held exquisite pastry, now keeps sides of salmon and tuna, octopus and fluke, surf clams and shredded vegetables.

You could call the menu Japanese food for dummies. Each of the 90 items has a number and a corresponding photo-just like many restaurants in Japan. A similarity to modern Tokyo eateries is the fast turn-over of tables, since pressured office workers there get a mere fifteen minute lunch break. Even though patrons here linger for about an hour, there is never an endless wait.

The appeal of Sushi Inn is obvious: utterly fresh fish at amazingly low cost. By 1:30 the ravenous lunch time crowd has devoured the stocks in the cooler and about a half dozen huge sides of salmon are brought in and immediately dispatched into sushi, sashimi, and handrolls and placed into take away bento boxes or plates for table service.

Attempting to read the menu and choose a meal is an exercise in futility. Everything looks so appetizing. And that's one of the reasons Japanese food is becoming more and more popular in Western culture. It meets two important requirements: exquisite eye appeal and dewy fresh ingredients that taste of themselves. Flavour kicks are added by condiments in today's fashion colours: pink ginger and green wasabi.

Miso soup (a la carte $1.50) is included with most meals, and it certainly hits the spot on a wintry day. Tempura appetizer ($5.50) is a beauty. Two large shrimp standing on end appear twice their size wearing airy coats of crunchy tempura batter. With a half dozen assorted tempura fried vegetables this could be lunch in itself. Sashimi appetizer ($6.95) is an elegant plate with two pieces each of velvety salmon, ruby red tuna, lovely tai (snapper), clam and sweet, tender octopus arranged with a cluster of spaghetti cut carrot and lettuce.

The dish that surprises and delights us is the sushi pizza. Even Japanese cuisine follows the fusion banner. A crisp, deep fried rice patty(saucer size) is topped with spicy mayo sauce, loaded with thickly cut salmon sashimi and topped with tablespoons of jewel like, red flying fish roe. They've cut this pizza into tiny two-bite triangles for easy eating. Sushi Inn special hand roll is a pop concert of flavours rolled into one cone shaped sheet of dried seaweed: grilled eel, avocado, crunchy salmon skin and tobiko.

Tables don't stay empty for long. At all times, the restaurant is 80 to 100 percent full, well into the afternoon. Smiling servers never waiver from their speedy and friendly attitudes. They know their job is to serve and clear efficiently, and this they do well.

The one disappointment is salmon teriyaki. After all the luscious satin-like salmon we've eaten here, these two thin fillets are over-cooked and aswim in a sea of teriyaki sauce, partnered on the plate with iceberg lettuce and pink mayo.

All the while, a tireless server with an eagle eye covers the long room from one end to the other with his large Japanese teapot, refilling cups with green tea.

"It's very quiet here today," says our pert server as we prepare to leave, "it must be the bad weather." Funny thing, I thought this sushi joint was jumping.
Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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