TOKO (637 Yonge, at Isabella, 647-436-9943) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a mug of green tea. Average main $9 (à la carte). Open Monday to Wednesday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, Thursday to Sunday 11:30 am to 11 pm. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, washrooms on same floor. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Grabbing a quick bite along the parade route and in the Village come Pride weekend can be a masochistic chore. It seems like every resto in the nabe, from modest falafel hut to swanky supper club, is a mob scene. It can get ugly.
But just-launched Toko, a Korean-owned Japanese joint on Yonge in the former Toronto Hemp Company (downstairs from the old Komrades disco, for you older girls) offers an alternative for those who want to eat and run. One of those new conveyor-belt sushi spots that seem to be proliferating like spawning tuna along Yonge, Toko brings dinner to you.
Much as you would at closing time at Woody's, you just reach out and grab whatever you fancy as it passes by. Stuff your face, stack up the colour-coded plates, pay the bill and you're in and out in 30 minutes for under 20 bucks. Try that at the Spa on Maitland!
Coral-pink flying fish roe tops a cylinder of short-grain rice wrapped in lengths of English cuke ($3). Deep-fried tofu inari nigiri come stuffed with meshi soaked in sweet mirin ($1.75), while marbled slices of salmon sashimi ($4) arrive draped over deep-fried rice noodle.
Purists balk when presented with abominations like Toko's Crunch maki (tempura shrimp, buttery avocado and faux crab lashed with yellow mustard mayo, $4), but why quibble when they're this delish?
However, Toko's Viking Roll ($4.50) is another kettle of fish, an unlikely marriage of smoked salmon, barbecued freshwater eel, avocado, bacon and peanut butter. Why?
There's no question that the house's grilled-to-order yakitori (all $4.50) are the grand marshals of Toko's passing parade of plates. After I grab what turns out to be the demonstration model, a watchful chef places it back on the belt and, moments later, returns with two lightly charred skewers of tail-on shrimp and sweet bell pepper brushed with sugary soy.
The bacon yakitori is even tastier, red cherry tomatoes wrapped in thick rashers of bacon that literally burst with flavour. And since they're in season, we order an à la carte appetizer, tempura-battered deep-fried soft-shell crab with ponzu ($4.95) to finish. The available dessert option, Toko's blueberry cheesecake ($4), looks like its been around the block one too many times.