Hometown: Kagoshima, Japan
Occupation: Owner and Chef, Tojo’s
Years worked as a chef: 46
Years in Vancouver: 43
Accolades: Best Upscale Japanese, Vancouver Magazine (2012, 2013, 2015)
Where to Dine Award, where.ca (2011-2014)
Distinction in Dining, Distinguished Restaurants of North America (2012)
What do you love best about Vancouver’s food scene?
An uncountable number of cuisines are in Vancouver and you can get fresh, organic vegetable, meat, and West Coast seafood.
Describe your “perfect dining out day” in Vancouver.
Breakfast at Pacific Rim, where I’d enjoy fresh orange juice and organic tea with a nice view. I will enjoy a dim sum lunch at Grand Honour and dinner at Cioppino’s. I always choose the chef’s tasting menu with nice wine.
What foods do you think every visitor to Vancouver should try?
West Coast seafood. Pacific wild salmon, geoduck, sablefish, albacore tuna, spot prawn, etc.
What are your personal favorite dishes at Tojo’s and why?
My favorite dishes are tuna tataki, crab salad, and smoked sablefish. Tuna tataki gives you nice freshness, and crab salad and smoked sablefish are my restaurant’s signature dishes. We have so many seasonal dishes which are not on the regular menu. I like zucchini tempura in the summer and king crab in the winter.
Tojo’s has many fans. But for travelers who may be on a budget, or for those who aren’t able to secure a reservation at Tojo’s, what sushi restaurants in Vancouver have impressed you?
Toshi Sushi or Miko Sushi.
What is your favorite Japanese dish, and where do you go in Vancouver to get it?
Yakitori at Zakkushi.
What other cuisines do you enjoy eating most? What restaurants and dishes in that cuisine would you recommend?
I enjoy all kinds of cuisines and I mostly eat vegetable or seafood. I tried a lot of food in my younger age, but now, I go to restaurants that I can trust and that serve healthy food.
What restaurants do you find yourself returning to over and over again?
I often go to Cioppino’s, Dynasty, and Grand Honour because of the quality of the food.
What’s one dish in Vancouver that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
About 30 years ago, I had chicken liver mousse by Chef Barbara Gordon. Blew me away.
What dish is your guilty pleasure, and where do you get it in Vancouver?
Shark fin soup at Grand Honour.
Finally, what would you say every visitor must see or do before leaving Vancouver?
Hiking, biking, and enjoying nature.
Chef Tojo’s Shortlist:
Tojo’s, 1133 West Broadway (Fairview); sushi, dinner only Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Fairmont Pacific Rim, 1038 Canada Place (Coal Harbour); Pacific Northwest, breakfast and dinner daily, lunch Monday-Friday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Grand Honour, 5701 Granville Street (Shaughnessy); Chinese, brunch, lunch and dinner daily.
Cioppino’s, 1133 Hamilton Street (Yaletown); Italian, dinner only Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Toshi Sushi, 181 East 16th Avenue (Mount Pleasant); Japanese, dinner only Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Miko Sushi, 1335 Robson Street (West End); Japanese, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Zakkushi, 823 Denman Street (West End); Japanese, dinner daily.
Second location: 4075 Main Street (Riley Park); lunch Wednesday-Sunday, dinner daily.
Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, 777 West Broadway (Fairview); Chinese, lunch and dinner daily.
About the Chef: Maybe you’ve heard that he’s the creator of the California roll and the B.C. roll. But perhaps more important than these notable accomplishments is the contribution Chef Hidekazu Tojo has made to Vancouver’s sushi scene. When he moved to the city from Japan in the early 1970s, there were only a handful of Japanese restaurants, and eating raw fish certainly wasn’t trendy the way it is now. Chef Tojo worked at two sushi restaurants in Vancouver before going out on his own in 1988 with Tojo’s. Nowadays, Tojo’s is particularly known for its omakase, a multi-course meal where the diner lets the chef dictate the dishes.
Sushi restaurants are now extremely easy to find all over Vancouver, but many chefs there still can’t get enough of Chef Tojo’s creations and consider them some of the best Japanese food the city has to offer.