513 Bloor Street W
Probably due to it's proximity to University of Toronto, the Annex is saturated with countless budget friendly food establishments. I regret to say that I don't usually eat in this area, but just walking through that strip of Bloor, I couldn't help but notice how many Japanese restaurants there were. And just when you thought there were already way too many, another pops up. Situated between Menchies and Sushi on Bloor, is the newly opened Noka Japanese Cuisine & Sushi (@NokaToronto). They have lunch specials for as low as $5.95, how can you NOT come here?
But I have to admit that without guiding forces, it probably would've been a while before I stumbled here on my own. Lucky for me, I was recently invited by Mr. Ken Samuel (@inyourmouthTO) to a #TasteNoka event along with many others. A chance to taste new food and see familiar faces? I could never turn that down! And to meet some new peeps is definitely a bonus! (Was a pleasure meeting you Raymi @raymitheminx , Tiffany @Shes_So_Savvy, Rachael @MissBakeaholic! =] )
There's nothing like a a demonstration to start off a tasting event. That night we were given a live demonstration of how their salad dressing is made. I watched as a whole collection of fruits, vegetables, and other goodies were thrown into a blender to make a creamy concoction that we would taste with cucumber sticks. Who would've thought delicious could be so easy?
Chef Cheng Lin hard at work to prepare an 8 course tasting menu for all of us. Thanks for all the hard work and having us! :)
Noka Tasting Menu
After all the demonstrations and introductions, the plates for this 8-course tasting menu started rolling out one after another.
Sashimi-w/ soy sauce tasting
Not only does Noka make their salad dressing in house, their soya sauce is too! In order for us to taste just how different it is, we were given an order of salmon sashimi to dabble in three soya sauces: the regular kikoman soya sauce, a low sodium soya sauce, and the Noka made soya sauce. The difference is very subtle, but I did like the house made one more. There's more flavour and isn't just a mouthful of salt!
Green Ocean-fava bean, yogurt, sweet shrimp
Threesome: (1) Stuffed Tuna-tuna, spicy scallop, leek (2) Vegetarian Delight- avacado, beets, mango, papaya, asparagus (3) Ex-Girlfriend- mango, tuna, asparagus, avacado
Ai-Tofu-tofu, mushrooms, teriyaki sauce
Basil Lamb Chop- baby lamb, eggplant, basil chili sauce
Creamy Bacon Roll- bacon, avocado, whipcream, chocholate
Bacon Buta- pork belly, carrot, pickled cucumber
Noka Chilean Sea Bass -Chilean sea bass, mango, miso, elderberry
Mochi, Sorbet -red bean, rice cake, strawberry, chocolate mint
All of the items above are on their regular menu, and at a quick glance are all very reasonable priced. I love that Chef Lin put so much effort to ensure each plate is beautifully presented, down to the itty bitty details. You may notice that the dish selection for this menu has heavy fusion influences, with ingredients and techniques not typical of Japanese cuisine. The rolls were something of inspiration, but whipped cream, bacon, and asparagus on sushi? This is definitely a couple firsts for me!
In general, the cooked dishes were more agreeable with me. The chilean sea bass was;my favourite, and I think I heard a lot of praise for the lamb chop as well. A lot of the garnishes and sauces were pretty intense in flavour, and to my sensitive tongue it was almost overpowering in many cases. There were some complaints about dishes being a bit luke warm, but considering all 30+ of the same course had to be prepared and pushed out at once, I was relatively more apathetic about it.
To accompany our specially designed tasting menu is the Augusta Ale from Kensington Brewery Company (@drinkgoodbeer). The beer was crisp and refreshing and I for one thought it went great with the food. If you've never had it, then you'll be lucky to know that it is now officially on the shelves of the LCBO, so look out for this one!
Storemade sauces for us to take home. Thanks Noka! :)
Thank you Noka for your generous hospitality, Kensington Breweries for your refreshing beer, and to Ken and Emily (@emlarr) for all your orchestrating efforts. I think everyone in some way or another enjoyed their night, so thumbs up to you all!