When the icy-cold winter months roll around, it’s best to seek shelter and treat yourself to warm, cosy indulgences. In Japan, they know this as well as we do here in Canada—the country experiences a rather cold winter, too, with similarly snowy scenes in the northern areas. So, for a little extra comfort this winter, why not supplement your usual soup and hot chocolate with some Japanese warming know-how?
Our recommendation for those who are new to Japanese cuisine: it’s time to get to know body-warming nabe, or Japanese hot pot. Nabe is a popular dish that involves a plethora of ingredients, all simmered together in a communal pot and generally enjoyed as a group. It’s commonly served at year’s end and particularly at New Year’s parties. But this hot, hearty meal is an ideal choice throughout the winter months.
Not an expert in Japanese cooking? Never fear: there’s nabe waiting to be had all over our city, care of some excellent chefs. In this article, we will look at five popular Japanese restaurants that serve their own unique styles of nabe—filled with all sorts of delicious ingredients, from bountiful seafood, to pickled kimchi, to soft, chewy udon noodles. Get ready to warm yourself to the core this winter with some exquisite hot-pot cooking!
Seafood Milk Nabe from Fin Izakaya
—with concentrated flavours of fresh seafood $14
Toronto is far from the ocean, which can make the yearning for fresh seafood seem even more powerful than usual. At Fin Izakaya, where they specialize in seafood, diners can meet these yearnings head-on. The “Seafood Milk Nabe” won first place last year in Fin’s annual competition, where various nabe made by the restaurant’s chefs face off in a sa- voury showdown. This hot pot includes ingredients like thick-sliced salmon and concentrated broth made of fresh seafood and vegetables. The rich, milk-based soup is complex, but also has a clean aftertaste. For $49, four people can enjoy it as a group meal.
Good to the last bite
After enjoying the hot pot, you can add “Niku miso + noodles” (for an extra $4) and finish it off. The thick soup goes along well with the noodles, making it even more delicious.
Pork Kimchi Soy Milk Nabe from Teppan Kenta
—a healthy nabe that’s rich in iron and vitamins $16
Teppan Kenta is popular for its teppan dishes, like okonomiyaki and steak, as well as for its creative menus. During the winter season (October to March), the restaurant offers a special dish on the menu: “Pork Kimchi Soy Milk Nabe.” The dish will first grab your eyes’ attention with its voluminous pile of leek and cabbage, and then please your tastebuds with its rich soup, made with a mix of kelp stock and soy milk. The homemade kimchi adds a delicate accent to the sweet flavour of the soy milk, making a perfect balance. After enjoying the hot pot, you can finish it off by adding rice, egg and cheese and making it into a risotto ($4 extra), or by adding a secret ingredient—not listed on the menu—called ikemen (ramen noodles: $4 extra).
24 Wellesley St. W. | 647-345-0905 | teppankenta.com
Open: Tues–Sun 5:30 pm–12 am (Last order 11:30 pm)
from Katsura Japanese Restaurant— at the Westin Prince, Toronto
—with abundant, luxurious ingredients on udon $28
For more than 40 years, Katsura Japanese Restaurant at the Westin Prince Hotel has been serving authentic Japanese flavours in Canada. In the restaurant’s luxurious interior, you can enjoy delicate meals like Kaiseki and sushi, as well as their hearty hot pot option: “Udon Suki.” The Kansai-style, lightly flavoured soup is made of bonito, kelp and seafood. It all combines for a rich yet mild flavour that will delight your tastebuds throughout the meal.
Katsura Japanese Restaurant
900 York Mills Rd. | 416-444-2511 | 647-259-3230 katsurarestaurant.com
Open: (Lunch) Tues–Fri 12 pm–2:30 pm (Dinner) Sun–Mon 5:30 pm–9 pm • Tues–Sat 5:30 pm–10pm
Sukiyaki Udon Nabe from Nakamori
—sweet and spicy soup with butter and kimchi $19
Nakamori has become quite popular among local diners due to its original and creative Japanese dishes. The “Sukiyaki Udon Nabe” lunch menu, created to fulfill the wishes of Nakamori’s regular customers, has a rich broth made with four different types of mushrooms (portobella, porcini, lobster and shiitake) and accentuated by kimchi. Butter is added as the finishing touch to the mixed mushroom broth. This unexpected arrangement will surely captivate your senses.
2803 Eglinton Ave. E. | 416-265-7111 | nakamori.ca
Open: (Lunch) Tues–Fri 11:30 am–2 pm (Dinner) Tues–Sat 5:30 pm–9:30 pm
Pork Kimchi Nabe from Don Don Izakaya
—with a mild, soy-sauce-based taste $30
Don Don Izakaya is known for its creative izakaya fare and friendly way of greeting customers with energetic drumbeats. Among the numerous eye-pleasing, creative dishes on the menu, “Pork Kimchi Nabe” for two is especially suited for the cold season. The light, soy-sauce-based soup complements the natural flavours of each ingredient. The homemade kimchi is made less spicy for those who prefer mild tastes in their warm comfort food.
Don Don Izakaya
130 Dundas St. W. | 416-492-5292 www.dondonizakaya.com
Open: (Lunch) Mon–Fri 11:30 am–4 pm (Dinner) Sun–Thurs 5 pm–12 am • Fri–Sat 5 pm–1am