No topic touching the restaurant industry has occupied my mind as much as inflation over the last twelve months. From fast-casual spots all the way up to the most prestigious tables in town, it seems there is no escaping the various coping methods – price increases, shrinklation, skimpflation, excuseflation, etc. – restaurants use as they grapple with soaring costs themselves.
Treating my family of four for dinner has become prohibitively expensive considering our healthy appetites and penchant for finer foods. Restaurants relying primarily on premium ingredients such as steakhouses and seafood joints have been especially prone to bill hikes, with main dishes exceeding $70 becoming commonplace; du jamais vu in Montreal! Add to that the recent surge in alcohol excise duties by the federal government, and you have a recipe for bankruptcy.
An annual tradition of ours is to go out for sushi in celebration of my son's birthday per his asking. To lessen the load on my wallet, a friend suggested Torii Sushi in Laval, a moderately-priced B.Y.O.W. establishment around since 2001. Open on Sundays and situated on a strip-mall with adequate parking space, this candidate seemed to check all the requisite boxes.
Although in business for more than two decades, Torii's elegant interior does not give its age. Wood-clad counters and walls are given a dramatic touch thanks to red accents and dark, criss-crossed beams overhead. The tiled flooring does seem dated but is contrasted against attractive oriental lanterns hanging from the ceiling. A mixed-age crowd filled two thirds of the restaurant in the early evening, after which the premises were deserted by 8PM.
Torii's menu spans most classics one would except at a sushi restaurant, from soups, tempura and gyozas to standard sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls ordered using a pen and grid. A table d'hôte is also available as well as a list of house specialties or creations. Asides from the latter, all menu items evoke pre-inflation prices, with maki rolls in the $10-12 range, a far cry from the $15-18 span I have become accustomed to.
Desserts are the work of famed pâtissier Olivier Potier and fall into his French corner, a welcome sign as I am sincerely not a fan of Japanese dessert. Signature dishes are beautifully laid out on their own plate while sushi orders are combined onto large wooden boards, perfect for sharing. I thought our starters were passable – diluted miso soup, brittle tempura.
A rice paper maki stuffed with lobster tartare sitting in a lemon teriyaki sauce was sublime. Another roll housing shrimp, asparagus tempura, avocado and tobiko was garnished with scallop and strawberry. If it sounds like too much, it was! The remaining maki orders – California, chicken katsu, spicy tuna, kamikaze, among others – were tasty but did not hold together well; several either fell apart or were stuck to their neighbor.
tagged: GOOD FOR SHARING
While the food tonight did have its ups and downs, the two families which comprised my party did enjoy dinner at Torii. Although I could not fairly assess the freshness and quality of the fish used, since in a maki roll it tends to be hidden behind many ingredients, the house specials showed creativity and boldness. From waitstaff to sushi chefs working behind the counter, Torii clearly runs like a well-oiled machine; service is capable and efficient.
Ultimately we got what we came and paid for; a budget-friendly sushi dinner – with its flaws – at a mid-to-upscale restaurant. And since it's a B.Y.O.W., we managed to beat the inflation tonight!
tagged: PLAN B.
Price per person: $39.17
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.