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Introducing: JaBistro, a foray into sushi from the owner of Guu

Introducing: JaBistro

(Image: Gizelle Lau)

Fresh off the launch of Kinton Ramen in May, James HyunSoo Kim, who also brought Vancouver’s popular Guu chain to Toronto, has opened yet another new Japanese restaurant: JaBistro, which took over the Markaz Grill and Shisha Lounge space on Richmond Street just west of Simcoe. The place bills its cuisine as “modern Japanese” and offers traditional sushi and sashimi as well as aburi (blow-torched sushi) and oshizushi (“pressed” sushi), which are much harder to come by in the city. Driving the concept is chef Koji Tashiro, whose 12 years of sushi experience includes stints at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and Vancouver’s Miku restaurant (he also briefly worked at Guu Sakabar in order to gain experience with Toronto diners).

JaBistro’s interior is reminiscent of the rooms at both Guu and Kinton Ramen, with plenty of light wood, exposed brick and custom-made wooden chairs and stools (all three restaurants were designed by Bennett Lo of Dialogue 38). The sushi bar menu includes sashimi ($30, $50 or $100) as well as classic nigiri sushi ($25 for seven pieces), aburi ($27 for seven pieces) and kyukyoku sushi ($55), which offers the “ultimate fresh pieces” of the day. For the high rollers, there’s a $98 omakase menu (chef’s selections), along with an optional $45 wine/sake pairing. On the bistro side of the menu, there’s a duck breast salad ($14), a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) sandwich ($18) and a salmon pie ($26) with mushroom, oyster sauce and prawn bisque. There’s also a list of sake- and shochu-based cocktails overseen by J.R. Graham.

JaBistro is currently in soft-launch mode, and the grand opening will take place in early December, at which time they’ll open for lunch as well. The restaurant also has one feature that should appeal to anyone who’s spent hours in cold waiting for a table at Guu, Sakabar or Kinton: unlike Kim’s previous establishments, JaBistro will actually take reservations.

JaBistro, 222 Richmond St. W., 647-748-0222,, @JaBistro222

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  • wmccullo

    JaBistro – Reservation Disaster!

    We were excited to try the new restaurant at 222 Richmond St W, Toronto, recently opened by James HyunSoo Kim, the owner of the Guu chain of restaurants (Vancouver and Toronto). We went to the website and made a reservation for 6:30 pm online, receiving an email indicating that our reservation for 6:30 pm was confirmed.

    When we arrived at 6:30 pm, we were greeted by staff who were surprised by our appearance and had to open up a laptop near the the entrance to look for our online reservation. Shortly afterwards, the hostess said she would be right back, upon which she came back with a manager who told us that there were many reservations between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm, and, despite the emailed confirmation we received, we should have called before coming to confirm our reservation. He told us that they were full between 6:30 pm and 7;30 pm, and he reluctantly suggested that we might sit at the bar, but he clearly wasn’t encouraging us to stay. In effect, he was blaming us for not calling ahead to confirm our reservation (which had already been confirmed by them to us in writing via email).

    We left the restaurant, clearly not feeling welcome. We looked again at the emailed confirmation, which made no mention of us having to call and confirm the reservation — the email itself said, “your reservation for 6:30 pm is confirmed…”

    These folks need to fix their online reservation process. As well, they need to consider having a manager on staff who has some table manners to make people feel welcome, rather than encouraging people to leave….. We know that the Guu chain has been successful, but surely it has been successful because it welcomes people to come and try their food rather than send them away.