Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 1095 Ellesmere Road
Type of Meal: Dinner
If you read reviews about Ni-Ji Japanese Restaurant, you may be confused why some customers exclaim it’s the best sushi in Toronto and others grumble in disappointment about travelling to eat at the place. Hopefully, I can shed some light on this disconnect. Firstly, Ni-Ji is not the best/most authentic sushi you will find in Toronto. If you’re looking for delicious authentic sushi establishments such as Hiro Sushi and Nami may be better options. Even within Scarborough, Zen Japanese Restaurant would be a superior choice. With that said, what brings people to Ni-Ji is its relatively decent tasting dishes that are offered at extremely reasonable prices. The restaurant is busy; expect waits on weekends, which keep ingredients fresh (of utmost importance for something like raw fish).
The spicy salmon maki ($4.95) is the first I’ve seen that actually contains more spicy salmon on top of the roll itself! For under $5 you’re being served quite a substantial portion of fish. Besides, I enjoy the roughly diced pieces of fish so they are still distinct pieces rather than becoming a pulverized paste mixed with tempura bits that some restaurants serve. The sauce has a nice hint of spiciness to it but not so overpowering that it makes you think that you’re dipping the sushi into sriracha.
Ni-Ji’s spicy seafood udon ($9.95) is a generous portion with sufficient amounts of seafood (shrimp, squid, mussels and scallop) as well as vegetables. I wouldn’t call this a highlight dish for the restaurant – the noodles are like the frozen ones found in grocery stores and the broth needs to be spicier. But, if you’re looking for something hot and hearty during the winter months, a bowl of noodle soup is one of my favourite things
Generally, when I visit, I order their bento boxes which provide you with a bit of everything. The one pictured below is Bento #1 ($11.95) containing salmon teriyaki with bean sprouts on the bottom, piece of fried tofu, a California maki, rice and slivers of pickled daikon. Although the salmon is a generous portion, I find it overcooked and thus a bit dry for my tastes. Rather, I prefer Bento #2 ($11.95) which has beef bulgogi, fried tofu, a California & salmon roll and rice. The bulgogi pays homage to the Korean options being offered at the restaurant (which of course shows the restaurant is not the most “authentic”) and is thinly sliced and well marinated.
In the past have also tried a few of their sushi dinners including the Kyoto ($11.95) that has 8 pieces of sushi, 3 pieces of California and 3 pieces of salmon, Sapporo ($12.95) containing 7 pieces of sushi, 6 pieces of maki and 1 salmon hand roll and the maki combo ($11.95) comprised of California, salmon and cucumber maki rolls. All were fresh, palatable and a good portion. For the Kyoto and Sapporo, I found they generally included additional pieces of salmon sushi above what’s stated on the menu which is always a pleasant surprise.
All meals are usually served with a bowl of simple salad, Korean congee (has an interesting earthy smoky taste that I like) and green tea ice cream. If you order any bento boxes, you’ll also be offered a bowl of mediocre miso soup as well.
Right after ordering, two simple banchan dishes of seaweed drizzled with a sweet beany Korean chilli sauce and marinated vermicelli noodles is brought to the table. Neither was amazing but always welcomed to munch on before the meals arrive. Sometimes, Ni-Ji also serves two pieces (yes pieces) of edamame per person with the banchan as well.
Although Ni-Ji’s dining room is small, it actually sits quite a few people as there are some tables hidden behind curtains and tucked away in corners. Service is lightening quick with the staff running like a well-oiled machine at serving, clearing dishes (unfortunately, sometimes too efficient as they take things away when other guests are still eating) and presenting the bill (often without being asked). So, the turnover is usually pretty fast meaning queues are not long. If you can’t stand to wait, you could always do take-out which seems to be a popular choice amongst locals.
Overall mark - 8 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!