Note: My review of my experience at Shoushin is long one, but it’s worth the read. I’ve prepared a TLDR version at the bottom if you would like to skip ahead.
Shoushin… Oh, Shoushin. Where should I start? The food was great and the service from the staff members were excellent, but, with that being said, my overall experience SUCKED. I left this $300+ meal with disappointment and the worse feeling I’ve had after a restaurant meal. Keep in mind that this is an Omakase restaurant (chef’s choice) which really means my meal is up to the discretion of the chef.
An excerpt on the omakase tasting menu experience at Shoushin from their website:
“In Japan, saying omakase to the chef means “I’ll leave it to you.”
There’s a lot of trust in that one word. Diners trust the chef’s talents enough that they are giving him the freedom to design the meal. And the chef returns the compliment by creating innovative meals that may not necessarily be on the menu.”
Here is how my experience at Shoushin went:
Reservations were made for Sunday 7:30 pm on Wednesday of the same week. I was placed on hold for 5 mins, but not a problem at all!
Upon arrival, we were welcomed and greeted with great smiles and a really friendly staff member that guided us to our table. It’s always a good sign of a capacity crowd (about 20 people). I can’t stress enough that the service staff at this place are phenomenal; they truly make you feel right at home.
We were seated at the bar seating (reserved seats for a true, personal omakase experience, watching and interacting with the chef) but we found that we were situated in an awkward corner. No matter, less disrupting other diners and more opportunity for pictures, let’s just make sure we make use of that zoom lens. We settled into our seats quickly and went over the three omakase options: (A) $80, (B) $120, and (C) $240, we were set with the option B and were good to go.
After taking our order, our first course arrived in 20 minutes and the next course, 20 minutes after that. The lone Chef of the restaurant was serving other patrons and has yet to acknowledge our existence…
First course: Appetizers three-ways with marinated seaweed that’s sour and very appetizing, a green beans dish with miso and a grilled black cod next to that. The seaweed was really good and nothing like any other seaweed salads you can get! The cod was on the drier side but it was good too.
[Status] Chef hasn’t looked our way but is chatting with a group of lawyers who are eating away… I guess he’s just busy.
Existence Level: Customers
Second course: It is sashimi time! A dish of a great assortment of fresh sashimi from snow crab to scallop to tuna. The sous chef passed the two dishes over the bar and told us hastily what each item was, but he was clearly in a rush, so I couldn’t process it to remember it all. Everything on the plate was beautiful and tasted great, it is definitely one of the better sashimi plates I’ve had in Toronto (Alert! Check out Sushi Bar on Carlton, they have got theirs down pat!).
[Status] Chef is now busy flirting with someone else’s girlfriend… Still hasn’t looked at us.
Existence Level: Someone around
Third course: A very clean, Japanese style vegetable dish with zero compromise. Every little aspect of this dish is pronounced because it’s so light. There was no room for error, it was executed to perfection – Good job!
[Status] Chef is serving futomaki to the lawyers who have also ordered the same option as us, we are now looking forward to experiencing that beauty for ourselves! The Chef is now back to flirting…
Existence level: Pedestrian B
Forth course: Duck meatball served in broth, this one is also very light, but didn’t have the finesse that the previous course had. The charred leak was a fantastic touch and gave a nice depth to the broth. But the actual meatball, I can take it or leave it.
[Status] Chef has finally looked our way and gave us a nod! Came over to tell us how sushi here works, then promptly walks away and starts flirting with another girl who brought her mother and grandmother (family time!).
Existence level: Seat warmers
Fifth course(s): Sushi, and these were some of the best I’ve had in Toronto. We received nine pieces in total including chūtoro and uni. The crab was the one that shocked me the most with absolutely fantastic flavor and boldness that you don’t usually find in sushi (again… check out Sushi Bar on Carlton. They are the best in my opinion).
[Status] Chef presents each piece of Sushi individually and tells us the names of each piece (this is the most interaction all meal), then returns to chat with two “VIPs” and one friend that has come in. Chef comes over to us for a second to ask if we want extra pieces a la carte at extra charge. We decline his offer and he quickly goes back to chatting.
Existence level: Fly on the wall
Now, here’s where I start getting frustrated. Other than the lack of interaction while he flirts away with other customers, we’ve been given zero fucks… despite the bar seating, we aren’t acknowledged at all. But at least I get my futomaki, right? NO! He skipped this and went straight to the finishing hand roll.
Sixth course: Hand roll!? I expected a futomaki here but that was skipped! The hand roll was very good and you can tell that the nori has been toasted prior as it really falls apart in your mouth. But… WHERE’S MY FUTOMAKI?
[Status] Chef is busy talking with “VIPs” and his friend. He hasn’t looked at us since.
Existence level: Speck of dust
Seventh Course: Sweet tamago! I’ve always been very fond of Japanese sweet tamago as they are fluffy, sweet and fills your mouth with joy! If made correctly, these things taste better than the best cakes in the world (bad tamago would taste like a brick). But, at this point, we were really getting shafted. Upon presenting our pieces of tamago, the Chef informs us “We are running kinda low on the tamago so we cut your piece extra small… Here you go” and he swiftly turned away… WTF!?!?
[Chef Status] Back to talking with his friend he goes…
Existence level: Zero Fucks
Dessert Course: One dessert to share.
I didn’t bother taking a picture of this green matcha dessert thing that I don’t remember since it tasted completely below par. The server told us that they only have one serving left and offered us other desserts that they purchase from a vendor with an additional charge of $6 on top. I’m not spending anymore on a meal where I get shafted 3 times, so no thanks – I guess we will share.
I’ve previously been to omakase restaurants both in Toronto and around the world, so I do understand that I don’t have any control over the meal which I’m fine with, infact, it’s that aspect of omakase dining that I enjoy, but I’ve never before been frustrated with a restaurant to this point. For a $120 meal per person, the quality of the food was to be expected. It’s good, but you can easily find something just as good, if not better, for half the price (*cough* Sushi Bar on Carlton *cough*). The serving staff were both kind and thoughtful so the bad side of our experience was definitely not on them. Where I’m going with this, is: If you don’t have the goods, then don’t take the reservation! Needless to say, the chef needs to grow up a bit too.
Paid full price and tip (because the serving staff deserved it) for a half assed meal. I know what hangry is but how can I define not-full-and-angry?
TLDR: Food was fantastic! Service Staff was excellent! Omakase Chef gave zero fucks about us! Didn’t get a futomaki that some other people with our same dinner option received and were told we are getting the short end of the stick since they are running low on their dessert tamago and only have one serving of their actual dessert dish so we’ll have to share. But it’s an OMAKASE so your experience may vary.
In tribute to my experience at Shoushin, I’ve created a song:
Poor little flies on the wall,
No chef to serve us at all,
No futomaki roll,
One thin slice of tamago,
Poor little flies on the wall.
Story by Arthur So.