Shokunin is a 50-seat Japanese Izakaya-style (informal place for drinking and snacks) restaurant serving charred yakitori and other small shared plates. On the 100 Best Restaurants of Canada, they ranked at #82. They have a seasonal menu for the room as well as a full bar and lots of bottles of sake. There are 4 seats at the bar in front of the cooking area that are reserved for the Shokunin Yakitori Omakase tasting. It also has optional drink pairings and an additional course of 45-day aged beeswax-wrapped wagyu. It is not A-5 from Japan but rather a Wagyu from Australia. One item on the menu, the chicken ass (tail), is only available to those having the omakase. The place was packed and service was well-paced and friendly. I was surprised by how little interaction there was between the 4 guests and those in the kitchen, but that was affected by plexiglass between us and the grilled area. It felt a bit impersonal with slight explanations of courses and a rushed feel. Some of the food was outstanding and others were just so-so. The tasting was a good way to get to know the place if you’re a one-time visitor.
The omakase starts promptly. First was a Cold Shuck Scallop with yuzu kosho nouc cham and cilantro stem salsa. It was a raw scallop cut and placed in the sauce and you were to smash it and stir it around, which I did but forgot to get the pre-stir photo. It looked much prettier then but trust me on this, it did have amazing flavor however it looked. The texture was divine too.
Shokunin Handcone was filled with sushi grade sashimi (yellow tail / amberjack), cucumber, fresh wasabi furikake and nitsume. Alongside was some wasabi and ginger. You were to pick up the cone and eat it by hand. The wrapper was extremely tender and bite-able. Some rice held all the ingredients together and the flavor was more mild than the first course. It was very good.
Next were several courses of the grilled items or yakitori. They brought a tray with mix-ins for the skewers. This included a dipping sauce of soy, ponzu and egg, rice, a tomato salad tossed with pickled onion, Napa cabbage and pickle kimchi style and greens with garlic chips.
First was shitake mushrooms brushed with miso and butter. They were amazing and maybe the best of the skewers. Tender and full of flavor that exploded in your mouth.
Chicken oysters were crisped skin on and seasoned with salt. They were wonderful bites with great contrasting textures.
The chicken wings were cut from the flap portion and seasoned with miso butter and pepper. They were good too but the oysters were better.
The chicken thighs were dipped in 7-year-old teriyaki sauce. They were beautiful and tasty.
The chicken ass or tail is only available with the tasting and I’m afraid I took them off the skewer and consumed a couple before I got my photo. They were a fun surprise and something to re-consider now since they’ve usually been discarded in my house. It was solid fat but oh so succulent – silky and savory.
Wagyu pastrami burnt ends was made with Brant Lake short rib wagyu and topped with chimichurri. The meat is brined and cooked in a sous vide before it is binchotan grilled(Japanese charcoal made from white ubame oak). It was excellent. Tender and nicely flavored.
We opted to add the wagyu that was aged for 45 days in a bees wax wrap. The wrap prevented you from seeing the meat when it was presented and that should have been a clue. It was from Australia, which can produce some fine wagyu but this was not some of that. It was not beef-butter and in fact I’ve had better beef flavor from simple prime beef from my grocery store. It came with dishes of fresh wasabi and a dipping sauce. It was a total disappointment, especially knowing that it cost the same as the whole menu. Lesson learned – if you can’t see what they’re selling there’s a reason.
Some yellow chicken bone broth was seasoned with black truffle, chicken oil and chive and presented in a cute bowl. It was made from the bones that were boiled for hours and then clarified and mixed with rendered chicken fat and Australian truffle. It was really flavorful but not much to picture so I used Frankie and the bowl instead.
Dessert was a Sake Kasu Tiramisu that included hoji-cha cream and sake caramel. A swirl of dark chocolate rose around the sides. The caramel was lovely and the ball was creamy but overall it was mildly flavored except for the chocolate. It did have a little cake on the bottom that sat on the caramel and was topped with the cream ball but it was a very loose resemblance to Italian tiramisu.