Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

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On a recent visit to Montreal to see our friends at California Closets, we had the pleasure of experiencing one of our best culinary journeys of 2011. We had heard a lot about a Japanese Fusion restaurant called Toroli. It was very highly rated on a number of food blogs and “best of Montreal” lists. We also purused their website (which could use a little work – hint, hint). If you know anything about us, we absolutely love good sushi and Japanese food. So we were pretty excited to check this place out. As you can appreciated from the attached image, we were more than a little concerned when we approached the restaurant. Its located on a dark and dreary side street in a decidedly residential area.  And the condition and facade of the building looks more like a grunge bar than a high-end gourmet restaurant. From a brand experience standpoint, we were off to a shaky start.


When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted with some surprised looks as we had our 5 year old daughter with us.  Little did they know that Maya is one of the most adventurous eaters on the planet. Sushi, Indian curries, Thai food, even brussel sprouts – the girl will try anything and usually likes it. You should have seen the looks when she gobbled down a raw oyster in San Fran! Toroli is a very small restaurant with maybe 6-8 tables. It has a rustic yet funky vibe. It features a small open kitchen behind a counter right next to the dining area. You get to chat up chef Takashi Sakurai to discuss any preferences for ingredients or how you like your dishes prepared. He is very accommodating.  Maya loves tempura shrimp rolls with avocado (which was not on the menu) – and he was more than happy to create this dish for us. Love getting this type of service – makes for a great customer experience.


Both the chef and the three servers on that night were fantastic. You almost feel like you are eating at a friend’s house. Lots of casual banter, yet everyone is very professional and knowledgeable. Now to the important part – the food! For starters, Sandra and I went with the Tuna Tartar and the Black Cod with Miso. Both dishes were outstanding. In particular, as a huge fan of Black Cod, the presentation and melt-in-your-mouth texture and buttery flavour is something I will never forget. Great start to the meal! For our mains, we went with the “Paradise of the sea” featuring tasty seafood including tempura Lobster (need I say more) and the “Foie Gras Toroli”. As an animal lover, I always second guess myself when ordering foie gras (I feel the same way about veal – which I pretty much never order). I just absolutely love the taste of foie gras. I figure if I order it on the very rare occasion, I am not single-handily sustaining the industry. So I made the call, and boy am I ever glad that I did. What an incredible dish! Foie gras marinated in miso and fried, served on roasted brown rice with soy beans and buckwheat tabbouleh drizzled in truffle oil. Yes please! What an indulgence. Chef Takashi Sakurai is a culinary genius. We finished off our meal with a vintage Saki drunk out of a little oak box.  The perfect end to a perfect meal.

Needless to say, we can highly recommend Toroli for your next visit to Montreal.  Just don’t get nervous as you walk down the dark side street to this shady looking establishment. This restaurant from a brand look and feel is flying under the radar. But judging by their legion of fans, I think they are cool with that. For now, back to the cage.