Based in Toronto, Ontario, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Archival posts from my former blog, Walking and Talking

The Sushi Wizard of Vancouver: Hidekazu Tojo

Every time my family and I visit Vancouver a stop at Tojo's restaurant is a must. I first met chef Hidekazu Tojo probably 20 years ago when I was on assignment in Vancouver for a People magazine story. I sat at the bar and he plied me with one of his signature dishes, jewel-like cubes of raw tuna bathed in a perfectly balanced soy vinagrette. Tojo-san's fish is always the freshest, and his sushi and western-style plates are among the most inventive I've ever come across, in the U.S., Canada or Japan. By the end of the evening I was fast friends with the trio of Japanese visitors sitting next to me, as can only happen at the bar of a sushi restaurant where the chef acts as convivial host, quietly slipping fresh delights across the bar, keeping the drinks flowing and the conversation purring.

Tojo-san provided the sushi for my wedding rehearsal dinner a few years later, and on different trips back it was good to see his restaurant thriving. One year there was a complete redecoration and we sat on the fabulous outdoor rooftop dining area, where we enjoyed a "baseball" of different kinds of small-diced raw tuna and the best una-kyu (eel and cucumber) hand rolls I've ever tasted. On this last trip, Tojo-san had moved down the street to a much larger, airier space with soaring ceilings and a ocean-blue color scheme. When his landlord at the former site hit him with a huge rent increase (some things are the same whether you're in Manhattan or Vancouver), a loyal patron came through and found him his new site, Tojo-san told us.

Here is Tojo-san's Great Pacific Roll, an inside out roll made with wild Pacific salmon, avocado and even more salmon on top:



And here's a western-style salmon preparation, part of the chef's tasting menu, with winter vegetables, several kinds of mushrooms, garnished with slivered yuzu and ribbons of daikon.

 
Like many things in Vancouver, I wish Tojo's were around the corner from my Manhattan apartment!

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