Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Taste of Kaiseki at Hashimoto

Every year, we look for the top Japanese restaurant on the Toronto Life list, and every year, the only 5 star is always this mysterious Hashimoto that was out in Mississauga. For Tony's birthday this year, I decided it could be the unique experience I was looking for, and worth a rare drive out to the burbs.

Hashimoto only seats 6 people a night, so I felt lucky to get a reservation at all. It's very discrete, located in a random strip mall near the airport - you'd never believe there was an acclaimed restaurant tucked into the corner. Beyond the store front's standard glass door is a sliding door - felt like a secret entrance, and you step inside to a different world. The windows are covered and the interior is quite dark, but serene and intimate. The decor is all very deliberate, to transport patrons to a traditional Japanese kaiseki house, where meals are had in private rooms. It is all about the experience of being one with the exquisite food you are about to have.

We were greeted by a young and articulate Japanese man, Kei. As there is no menu at Hashimoto, there was nothing to look over. He asked us if we were interested in sake and then brought out two small imported bottles and started telling us about the origins and how they were made contributing to the taste. We ultimately went with a small draft that the chef said would be a great one to start with. We knew we wouldn't drink a lot because we still had to drive home, but could not resist our love for great sake.

Our 8 course meal began soon after the sake was poured, and we were the only patrons in the room. Talk about exclusivity!

The appetizer course was a sign of things to come: two small plates, one with a matcha sesame tofu in a sweet pea sauce. The second was an assortment of goodies including firefly squid in a miso based paste (had a mild wasabi/horse radish taste that was amazing), a beautiful mountain potato infused with cherry blossom to give it a pink colour and shaped as a star (honestly, was so cute I didn't want to eat it!), and fresh squid fried in such a light and tasty batter, you could barely tell it was fried, not oily in the least and so delicate.

Course 2 was sashimi, a porgy fish (aka bream), which is the same family as snapper. It was served on an elevated white porcelain platter, the lid adorned by a crane. The sashimi slices were presented like flower pedals, accompanied by fresh wasabi (so amazing!). I dabbed a little wasabi in my pedals of sashimi...yum.

Course 3 was soup, it smelled amazing as soon as I removed the lid. It was served in a bowl like your avg miso soup, and so the surprise inside was all the more spectacular. Duck breast was served on a lotus root paste and edamame egg custard as the center piece in a deliciously thick sweet pea soup. Amazing.

The next course was grilled salt water eel, served with the spine deep fried on the side and a lime-like sudachi fruit. The boxed eel also came with a yellow and purple potato and sweet potato pallet cleanser - it looked like a playdough ball, was so cute. Loved this dish, was very tasty.

Course 4 was a stewed eggplant purée, lightly fried to keep it's shape and served with slivers of fried ginger on top. The purée was amazing.

The meat course was probably our favorite. Waygu beef served with matcha salt (I want to put this on everything!), a side of fresh corn very lightly fried (to hold the sweet kernels together). The corn was incredible!! We had two little bundles, and I wish we had more. This dish also came with Hashimoto's signature daicon crane. I really didn't want to eat it, but the wings and tail all detach to be dipped in a carrot sauce. Crazy detailed and intricate.

The main course was 3 dishes: steamed porgy on rice (Tony loved the rice!), and soba infused with cherry blossom to give it a slightly sweet taste, served with fried shrimp in Japanese bread crumbs in a delicious broth. The third dish had Japanese pickles, including daicon marinated in squid ink and topped with sesame. This dish is traditionally meant to fill guests, so much to Tony's delight, we were offered seconds! Despite the delicate nature of the food and seemingly small portions, I was actually quite full already!

The final course, dessert, was spectacular. It was a plum preserved for 7-8 days combined with jelly made from the juices to create a crystal looking dessert. It was served on shaved ice with red bean and condensed milk. The dessert was absolutely beautiful and an incredible work of art.

Hashimoto was amazing. It is an intimate and beautiful experience that really allows you to focus on food. Everything was prepared lightly and delicately, using the freshest ingredients by season and smartly combined to create a wonderfully simple yet complex set of flavours. Nothing short of genius. The total menu generally changes every season, but the dishes can change in nature day to day. It is an experience to be had, everything carefully planned and executed I loved that many of the courses were served with lids - it was like opening a present each time! Our experience was topped with a meeting with Hashimoto himself! He was such a sweet Japanese man. He told of his sadness leaving the Mississauga location they had been in for 20 years, the first ten as a catering company before he pursued his dream to open a kaiseki, which he was formally trained. We learned that our host, who told us in detail about each dish, was actually his son, one of two who are pursuing studies in kaiseki to take over the family business - one in Kyoto at a time. All the more meaningful that his sons will continue this exquisite art form.

Hashimoto, you were worth the drive! And we couldn't take photos, that would obviously ruin the experience, but visit the site for some beautiful pictures.


  1. we weren't allowed to take pictures! and didn't want to disturb the carefully planned atmosphere - they have some photos on the restaurant website, true to form.

  2. I think we had the same menu! Wasn't it absolutely divine?

    They've since moved and their price is now $300/pp so it's great we got to try at the previous price - though I have to say I would still love to go back one day

  3. yes, we managed to visit the "old" location just before it shut down (and the menu went up!), hopefully one day we will visit again for a splurge :)