Behind Jugemu’s unassuming facade hides a first-class sushi experience.
Cyonburi: Sushi lovers should try the 12-piece chef’s selection for $70. See if you can grab a seat at the counter where the chef will serve you personally and answer your questions. (featured picture)
Hungry for more? Let’s dig in!
Jugemu is the new sushi restaurant tucked under Zakkushi Izakaya at the corner of Carlton and Ontario. After Zakkushi’s previous venture in the space, also a sushi restaurant, closed several years ago, the lower level lay vacant. However, the dream of opening a serious, chef-centric sushi restaurant clearly never died, because the next move was to contact chef Koji Tashiro, formerly of Ja Bistroand Sushi Ya, and offer him the role of headchef, giving him free rein to choose the identity and menu of the new restaurant.
Chef Tashiro decided he wanted to make a sushi restaurant that was authentically Japanese yet still accessible for people in the neighbourhood.
Jugemu gets its name from an old story, one of the classics of a style of traditional Japanese storytelling called rakugo. It is a funny story about a child with a ridiculously long but very auspicious name. Chef Tashiro, who is a fan of rakugo, explains that the ridiculous name actually signifies long life and eternal happiness. The silly origin of Jugemu’s name seems like a bit of an enigma when you first descend the stairs and enter the minimal space. Beyond the simple white curtain that marks the entrance, a sense of seriousness and calm pervades. The clean lines, soft lighting and natural wood of the dining room signal that the food is the focus here above all else.
Alone behind the counter, Chef Tashiro may feel some affinity with rakugo performers, who sit alone on a sparsely decorated stage and work to hold the rapt attention of an entire audience. However, the chef most closely resembles a technician as he executes quick, precise movements, his black-rimmed glasses pushed up high on his head and a look of stern focus on his face. Once he is ready to serve you, his look softens as he presents you with a fresh piece of nigiri. You take a bite and the amazing flavour and texture of the sushi at Jugemu unfolds.
Then, before you have a chance to thank him, he is back to intently preparing the next piece: tuna from Japan or Mexico depending on the season, white shrimp from Japan whose sweetness blends beautifully with oral yuzu rind, marinated grouper (also from Japan), sea bass served with only salt and lemon. The seasonal striped jack is a vibrant, summery treat. Its firm flesh has a fresh, almost grassy flavour. The fish is served on a sparing amount of delicately seasoned rice that elevates the meat without covering up its flavour or texture.
That’s when the connection between the restaurant and its name becomes apparent: while one is silly and the other serious, both conceal a promise of eternal happiness.
The goal of Jugemu was to create a restaurant that welcomed the local community, but its excellent sushi is definitely worth a trip.
Jugemu has a great selection of small tasting plates. They’re all packed with flavour, but for something extra satisfying, top off your meal with this signature super-savoury fish broth and red miso soup.
These beautiful, house-made pickles are bright and crunchy—seasoned with a house blend of vinegar. They’re a light snack that’s a great way to wake up your tummy before eating lots of sushi!