Noka 647.351.1188 open daily – late night http://www.nokatoronto.com/
Noka took risks opening on a strip of Bloor already saturated with inexpensive Japanese joints. Chef Cheng Lin puts his heart and soul into the menu and it shows through to his original creations. The menu is moderately priced, and is very different from what one would find in the Annex – sauces made from scratch, an excellent selection of sake, and servers who care about what they are serving.
This evening, moderately bitter Augusta Ale is sampled from the Kensington Brewing Company.
Chef Lin starts the night off by revealing the secret to his incredible house-made salad dressing. It’s just ten ingredients: soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, fresh orange juice, honeydew, apple, pineapple, carrot, ginger. I tried recreating this dressing at home to no avail. This fruity delight is really one of the best garden salad dressings I’ve tasted.
I can’t help but order sake. Today it’s Eight Mountain Peaks, Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai very smooth and pairs well with anything on the menu.
Sashimi is buttery salmon paired with a sweet, slightly fruity, slightly acidic house-made sauce. Wasabi is freshly grated by Noka and delivered daily.
Green Ocean, and interestingly named dish, serves up a sweet delightfully fried shrimp over an odd combination of fava bean and yogurt.
Three handmade rolls arrive next (no soy sauce needed for specialty rolls). Stuffed tuna is light spiced, creamy with crispy leeks adding a nice touch. Vegetarian delight is by far my favorite roll. I can taste avocado, beets, mango, papaya and asparagus individually – also working together well . The playful ex-girlfriend roll is light and fruity.
Ai-tofu smells smoky and fresh – love it! The sautéed buttery mushrooms and cold tofu together have great chemistry and the dill adds something different; another element not normally seen in Japanese cooking.
The basil lamb chop was the only misstep being a tad tough. However, the sauce and eggplant was spot on.
Next bacon is done in two ways: Buta pork belly with carrot is cooked nicely, melting in my mouth. The creamy bacon roll is fantastic, the only thing it lacked is more bacon!!
Noka Chilean Sea Bass is flaky sweet and tender, another dish of which more is needed.
And finally dessert, Mochi strawberry sorbet is outstanding with red bean, rice cake, and chocolate mint. The mint leaf is the showstopper; it looks like a regular mint leaf but tastes like chocolate!? This is a first for me.