When I say the phrase “Omakase” at a Japanese restaurant, it’s the beginning of a relationship between chef and guest. While I “leave the decision making to the chef,” it’s not a Tasting Menu for which the chef is hidden from view. The Omakase Chef engages with me throughout the meal. A tasting menu tells me upfront what I can expect. The Omakase menu, thoughtfully planned and delivered with exquisite taste, is flexible. I am served directly by the chef who improvises à la minute, and there are often surprises. During the course of conversation the chef may be inspired to treat me to something particularly special. At a recent omakase, the chef encouraged me to taste sardine sushi, which I told him I had never tried. It’s about learning and tasting something new. “No soy sauce,” he recommends, “try this sashimi with sea salt.” I also did not believe the chef had authentic Kobe beef, and so, much to my amazement, he served me some. So it’s not only about deferring to the chef—there is mutual deference in which I entrust the chef, and the chef intuitively gauges what to serve me. That kind of experience is unique and makes me feel taken care of, as though the chef is preparing something just for me. An authentic Omakase is intimate and artful; a conversation in shared appreciation and taste, with anticipation and excitement of what is to come.
Chef Jackie Lin of Shoushin creates beautiful Edo-mae style sushi in a rarified other world atmosphere. Wild caught fish sourced directly from Tokyo is seasonal. His philosophy, kodawari, is to strive for perfection. He selects the rice, vinegar and fish, and prefers we don’t use chopsticks. Sushi is finger food to be enjoyed with our hands. He does not offer soy sauce, so we can enjoy each distinct piece on its own without masking true flavours. His artistry lies in accentuating unique flavour profiles: blue fin tuna smoked in wheat straw, crowned with a pinch of grated onion; spot prawn enlivened with a dab of sea salt; shrimp paste enveloped in shrimp. Rotating the selection of sake, wines and spirits, Shoushin is also the only restaurant in Canada serving the 100-year-old cognac, Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6. Its richness and depth pairs with seared toro topped with uni and sturgeon caviar. The sushi bar of unvarnished hinoki wood emits a natural aroma, while a gallery, including two original Picasso ceramics accents table and tatami seating. Authenticity is respected and appreciated by a loyal clientele. Shoushin offers the finest example of Omakase dining in Canada.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.