The restaurant is big. 6500 square feet I read somewhere. You only get a feeling for the size when you’re inside because from the street, even though there are windows, you just can’t really see what’s going on at Tojo’s. But you wonder. You always wonder because you remember when you essayed his first location four blocks east of here. What’s the new place like? Wondering that for about 15 years. And it was time for change.
Even then, meaning 15 years ago, the place had a rep as a place movie stars might be found. That wasn’t why we went there, we went because of the excellent reputation for food, but sure enough, that other evening States and I rode up in the elevator to the second floor location with Jürgen Prochnow and Clint Howard. Just the four of us. What timing.
They were making a picture somewhere locally. They didn’t talk to us and we didn’t talk to them. It was like a remake of “The Elevator People”. Dead silence except for the ticking elevator. We’ve all been through this. Plus you’re in Canada so absolute reticence is natural.
Always remembered the Pacific oysters in an exquisite sort of creamy sauce that we started out with that night. Jürgen and Clint were sitting close by at another table for two. We didn’t talk to them or make eye-contact and I was relieved because if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s movie stars bugging me when I’m trying to enjoy a restaurant meal.
In truth, Jürgen was and is the movie star. Clint is more of a supporting or character actor. The astounding thing is I never knew until yesterday he’s the younger brother of Ron Howard. Get out. The “Gentle Ben” kid is Opie’s brother? Everybody knows that. The movie he and Jürgen made back then, well, let’s just say you never heard of it. It definitely wasn’t Das Boot II.
That restaurant was about a tenth the size of this one. It was intimate and fairly noisy. You can hear things in this place, but they sound kind of far off. Susurrations of distant Japanese staff. There’s a second floor mezzanine dining area accessed by a rather long staircase and there’s no chance of seeing what’s going on up there. Mr. Hidekazu Tojo spent a mint on this place. I say hall because the main dining area is two stories tall. Look way up.
The furnishings are good but there is sort of this Brobdingnabian feel at odds with all of my prior experience of Japanese restaurants. And the lighting seems a bit off. And although Pacific oysters in that cool sauce was still on the menu the dish wasn’t available tonight. We both teared up and sipped our Asahi. How’s this thing going to go? Can the past be recaptured? Le temps retrouvé? Chuck, you got something for us here?
Truth is three of the dishes were first-rate and two, the tempura and fatty tuna, were so-so. “So-so” isn’t, by the way, a Japanese expression. I believe it originated in Ontario.
Which is not to say we didn’t have a good time. We did. And we were in no danger of any movie star harassing us. There were none. Amal and George Clooney and entourage may have been up there on the mezzanine but if they were, they behaved themselves.
$195 and change including a 15% gratuity. Why not? The nice, semi-elderly Japanese lady server in traditional semi-elderly Japanese lady server garb, or maybe not, found out it was somebody’s birthday tonight and, need we explain further, two gratted deserts arrived followed by a miniature sing-a-long. Not quite “The Keg”, but reminiscent.
Mr. Tojo is looking well. Tojo is expensive? Yes. Overly? Yes. But that “Golden Roll” with the super-thin crêpe wrap… “Tojo’s Tuna”, which we appetized on, was excellent and half the price of the fatty tuna entreé. That’s enough French for now.
Actor images courtesy the photographers