SUSHI MARCHE; (1105 Queen East, at Winnifred, 416-463-0114) Complete meals for $18, including all taxes, tip and a tea. Average main $6. Open Monday to Saturday 11 am to 9 pm. Unlicensed. Access: four steps inside, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Opening a successful (takeout) restaurant is easy. Just follow John Lee's example.
Start by getting about 23 years of experience under your belt learning from some of the best in your field like Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto (at Morimoto in Philadelphia). Make connections to obtain the best ingredients. Set up shop in a busy but still affordable neighbourhood. Keep it simple and do what you know. Work your ass off. Six months later the word of mouth has them pounding down the door.
Mind you, it's tough to spread word of mouth when your gob's full of such high-quality, affordable sushi and sashimi. While the Marché's prices are competitive with other sushi takeouts, the composition and freshness stand out.
Lee manages this miracle through low overhead and high volume. In his efficiently designed Leslieville shop, Lee keeps his 18-inch Japanese blade constantly in motion, dispatching one combo after another with martial aplomb.
Sweet and moist two-piece grilled eel nigiri sushi ($4) glistens with a mahogany finish. The snapper ($5, but that can change depending on the market price) is a compact sculpture of freshness. Nigiri like salmon ($4 for two), yellowtail tuna ($5 for two), fluke ($4 for two) and especially the almost indecently fleshy red tuna ($5 for two) all excel.
Lively vinegar- and sugar-enhanced vegetarian items like the squash maki ($3) and the marinated fried tofu ($3) hold their own against piscineplate mates.
Hoso and ura maki rolls, the workhorses of any sushi takeout, are real treasures when given Lee's samurai treatment. The flavours within each roll are complementary but still distinct. Shrimp tempura and asparagus ($7 for eight); crab, shrimp and fish eggs ($6 for two); and tuna, tempura flakes, cucumber and fish eggs ($6 for five) all defy the bland sameness that often sits beneath a clear plastic lid.
Regarding that bit about working your ass off Sushi Marché also does catering, holds a sushi class once a month and is about to start delivering. So call ahead if you're in a hurry.