Thursday, June 14, 2012

Omakase at Noka

Opened around a month and a half ago, Noka (Twitter: @nokatoronto, Facebook: Noka Japanese cuisine & sushi bar) is yet another Japanese restaurant in the Annex. *NODS* yes, you read right, another one! I'm now really curious as to how many Japanese restaurants are on Bloor between Spadina and Bathurst...anyone know? Maybe if I'm really bored one day I'll go count. Anyone care to join me? LOL!

Located beside Menchie's Yogurt, Noka serves not only lunch and dinner but also happy hour everyday (see Noka's hours here).  From 3pm to 5pm, and 10pm to close (12am or 2am depending on day), Noka's happy hour menu includes a variety of appetizers, tempura, rolls and sake bombs(!). I think it is a pretty smart move on Noka's part to open late because the Annex is always bustling even at 2am in the morning! Noka also gets another thumbs up from me in terms creating pre-opening buzz; they started tweeting weeks before their opening night. Even now, Noka is doing a fairly decent job in tweeting regularly and engaging with other tweeters.

I went to Noka last week with a friend of mine to celebrate my birthday :)

Chef Cheng Lin behind the sushi bar.

Nigori Sake. 

My 11-course omakase tasting went something like this: 

Taro Sake

Taro Tartare

Smoky Hamachi

Chili Tuna

Walu Walu

Stuffed Tuna

Birthday Mojitos! Thanks Noka :)

Ai-Tofu & Duck Ringo

Hot Sake Stone

Baby Lamb Chop

Chilean Seabass

Homemade Red Bean Mochi, Raspberry Sorbet & Dehydrated Beet

Overall, I was pretty happy with my omakase experience at Noka. Chef Lin's creations are beautifully presented, unique and fun with each course exhibiting a variety of distinctive flavours and textures. I also commend Chef Lin for creating all of their sauces in-house (i.e. soya sauce, teriyaki sauce, even the strawberry sauce used in their mojitos). The two "fun" courses that made an impression on us were definitely the Smoky Hamachi and the Hot Sake Stone. Very cool. Very interactive. I also noticed that all the courses in Noka's omakase were placed in the middle of the table and shared, as opposed to served individually. Something new to me.

I want to point out that both my friend and I enjoyed Noka's hot courses a lot more than their cold ones (for this particular omakase menu anyway). I wasn't particularly fond of the Taro Sake. I found it way too big for a first course (I also thought the salmon and apple needed to be chopped a lot smaller). Just way too chunky in general. Although lovely to look at initially, the Taro Tartare, once mixed, was a very visually unappealing brown mess. Taste wise, I thought it was too salty and it desperately needed some "crunch" to offset the "mushiness" of the tartare. I also found the Chili Tuna too spicy to the point where I couldn't taste the tuna. Luckily, all the courses that followed  the Chili Tuna were really impressive. The duck, cooked to slightly pink on the inside, was incredibly tender and tasty. The same could be said for the beef in the Hot Sake Stone and the lamb that followed. Really good. Noka's signature dish, the Chilean Seabass, was soft, flaky and amazing! Yes, I admit that although the tasting menu did not start on a high note for me, it definitely ended on one!

Thinking back, it would have been nice if Noka's omakase offered a simple sashimi course, you know, just several slices of fresh sashimi to serve as a break from all the strong and bold flavours in Chef Lin's other courses. Just a thought :) 

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