Solo Sushi Ya is in Newmarket, an hour drive from where I live. After reading a good review on this board a couple of years ago, I have made the trip a few times, always ordering the $55 omakase. Everyone I've taken there has felt it was a great meal, and an exceptional value. But after dinner there last night, I'm not sure any more.
I had no idea before I arrived that the restaurant was the subject of a very positive Joanne Kates review in the Globe and Mail in December. But the restaurant is very small, and when you hear people at other tables say, when handed the menu, "She says to order the omakase", you start to wonder if you've stumbled into a cult meeting. Eventually, the restaurant filled up (30 seats), and every single diner ordered the omakase. At one table, a person wanted "no raw fish" in their omakase -- not a problem, says formerly opinionated Chef Gao.
On previous visits I always felt that the omakase was something special, a chance for the chef to show off a bit. Last night, I could see for myself that the omakase was an assembly line process. The sashimi course was on the small side, and the sushi course had only four pieces. All together they contained only tuna, salmon, a single shrimp, a single piece of snapper and a single piece of smoked eel. The cooked course was a piece of grilled mackerel with grilled burdock root and shaved onion. The rest of the meal consisted of three small appetizers, a good chawanmushi, and another custard with blueberry sauce for dessert.
The fish was good quality, but the whole experience was more like winterlicious than a special night out. I certainly got no "wow" for my money ($180 for 2 all in).