I had dinner the other night at Torarenbo Japanese Restaurant, which is just a few doors down from Happy Date, on Park Road. The place lends itself well to solo dining – the interior is cozy and old-fashioned, there are plenty of small tables, and the service is friendly. There was a Japanese food show playing mutely on the wall, so as I waited for my food I watched two Japanese women walk through snow-covered orchards, and speak silently to me about winter apples.
Torarenbo’s menu is large, and took me awhile to get through. Eventually I settled on an appetizer, a piece of sushi, and two rolls.
To start, I had the miso black cod ($8.95). Unfortunately, it didn’t compare to the version at Kiriri. It was drier, flakier, and lacked that dish’s buttery richness.
In addition to all the standard rolls found on almost every sushi menu, Torarenbo had some specialty rolls I’d never seen before. I settled on the Tiger’s Eye ($8.95) and the Keki Roll (I forgot to write down the price, but it was around $10).
The slices of the Tiger’s Eye roll ($8.95) were large, skinny, and intricate. The centre ‘pupil’ was a pink piece of cooked salmon, surrounded by a ring of grilled squid. Colour was provided by alternating avocado and tobiko, and the ‘white of the eye’ was an outer layer of rice wrapped in nori. The tiger’s eye was creative, distinct, and quite lovely to eat.
The Keki roll was even more of a production, with imitation crab, papaya, tobiko, yellow soy paper, and a ton of fruit.
The roll was arranged in a circle, with a ring of thinly-sliced cucumber and pile of diced papaya, mango, strawberries, and tobiko in the middle. There were more sliced strawberries around the outside of the plate, making the whole thing look like dessert. The flavours were predominantly sweet, but contrasted nicely with the soy sauce and slices of pickled ginger. There wasn’t enough textural contrast for my liking, however; the rice, fruit, and crab were all soft, and the tobiko didn’t provide a strong enough crunch. I probably wouldn’t order this roll again, but it was certainly entertaining, and I enjoyed trying something different.
Speaking of different, I had black sesame ice cream for dessert. Torarenbo offers a complimentary scoop at the end of your meal, and I loved its smooth, barely sweet, earthy, and nutty flavour. Don’t pass this up, even if it is a little strange to eat grey ice cream!
Cash and cards accepted
Plenty of vegetarian options