After our amazing meal at West we were really looking forward to our sushi extravaganza at Tojo's the following night. Having previously confirmed our reservation for the sushi bar (and confirming that we wanted the $125 per head omakase), we arrived on time for our 8:30 seating. The place was hopping, and the small sushi bar was packed, the centerpiece in a hustling, bustling restaurant.
We were greeted by a shaved head young man, gave him our name and reservation time, and he scribbled a "#1" on a sticky note and stuck it on my wife's hand with a smile. He then proceeded to escort us past the sushi bar to a small, barely padded bench along a wall just off a service vestibule.
He quickly disappeared without even asking us if we wanted a drink. Next thing we know a party of five (drinks in hand) was escorted to the same area, forcing me to slide down, my broad, American butt now with even less space on the small and increasingly uncomfortable bench.
After about 15 minutes our greeter came by and we reminded him that we had a reservation at 8:30 for the full omakase, the lovely Denise asking specifically how much longer we would have to wait. Shaved boy muttered something unintelligible and went off yakking up the sushi bar guests, all of whom were obviously well-ensconced in the middle of their meals.
Another 10 minutes sitting, still with no drink orders taken and no perceivable progress at the sushi bar, and my jaw was starting to clench up. What kind of restaurant so thoroughly ignores a party that is planning on dropping upwards of $300 for dinner?
Not the kind of restaurant we choose to patronize. We up and left after stewing for a few more minutes, passing several staff members on the way out, none of whom even bothered to say anything.
I had noticed Earl's from our cab and remembered some 'hounds making positive comments, so we walked a few blocks back up Broadway where we were promptly and warmly greeted and seated by the lovely young Scottish lass manning the outside reservation desk.
We proceeded to enjoy the next several hours with good drink, good food and good service, for less than the cost that one of us would have dropped up at Tojo's.
As we had sushi on the mind we ordered their bento box appetizer, along with the fried baby calamari.
The bento was very nice...dynamite shrimp rolls were delicious, as were the togarashi shrimp with their strong grill flavor. There was a lovely chunk of sweet-glazed salmon as well as a handful of edamame to enjoy.
The calamari appy was just as good...nicely fried up in a light, tempura-like batter, sided with a tangy tzatziki sauce. We asked for a second ramekin of sauce and happily popped squid bits in our mouths with the bento box chopsticks.
As the appetizers were pretty sizable, we opted to split a bacon cheddar burger for dinner. We were disappointed to find that the kitchen would not cook the burger anyway except medium well, but our server assured us the burgers were big, moist and flavorful. He was right...the half-pound patty had a nice beefy flavor and was perhaps only a bit on the dry side. Fortunately they dress their burgers with a "rustic onion mayo" that was to die for...ended up asking for more so we could have it with our fries, prepared extra crisp as requested.
After polishing off the burger we went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding dessert. The vanilla ice cream, housed in a hardened toffee shell, was deelish. The accompanying chocolate cake with fudge sauce was a bit on the pedestrian side, and was left unfinished. Along with a couple of yummy coffee drinks, we wound up very pleased with our decision to leave Tojo's, and headed back into downtown to catch the midnight comedy show at YukYuk's.
Tojo's is obviously surviving on their reputation, with many patrons choosing to put up with the totally lame service in order to avail themselves of what is supposed to be the best sushi in town. We could not care less...it is just bait after all is said and done. Any restaurant with a $125 prix fixe offering should understand that service is just as important as the room and the food for customers willing to drop that kind of coin. Tojo's obviously doesn't get it, and as such will never get any of our Vancouver vacation dollars.
Given Vancouver's reputation for sushi, we'd appreciate hearing from you Canuckhounds as to some other estimable sushi bars for our next visit.