For years, Katsura, in North Toronto’s Westin Prince hotel, has quietly gone about its business, turning out refined Japanese fare for locals and hotel guests alike.
The room exudes elegant calm. Throughout, lighting is soft; colours are understated, favouring beige, punctuated by dark brown/black lacquered wood accents. There’s a section devoted to teppanyaki tables (those flat-top grills where chefs prepare dinner, with much fanfare, while diners watch) and a separate white-tablecloth main dining room.
Executive chef Noriyuki Tanahashi sends out excellent sushi and sashimi, some of it brought in from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market. There’s toro (tuna belly), red snapper, flounder, salmon, raw shrimp and kampachi (from the same amberjack family as hamachi).
Low-sodium soy enhances the sashimi (unlike regular soy, whose saltiness can overwhelm delicate fish) and should be the gold standard for sushi restaurants around town.
Seafood stars in a number of strong mains. Moist, oven-baked yellowtail (from Tsukiji) and Alaskan black cod highlight the grilled fish platter. Built on udon noodles and a flavourful broth, generous hot pot is loaded with Alaskan King crab, sea scallops, black tiger shrimp and seasonal vegetables. There’s even a Japanese take on surf ’n’ turf, as chef Tanahashi grills sake-glazed lobster and triple-A filet mignon lavished with teriyaki sauce.
For dessert, there are crepes and sliced bananas in a Grand Marnier-inflected sauce; refreshing Japanese pear and champagne sorbet accessorized with liqueur-marinated berries; and intense black sesame ice cream.
Katsura can accommodate groups and private functions of up to 76 people in either the teppanyaki or main dining areas, or a combination of the two, hosting 152 people. Small group dining is also available in traditional private tatami rooms hosting 28.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 30 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,400 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.