When Japan meets Italy – Shiso Tree is a Japanese-inspired pasta restaurant that transforms the classic Italian dish into creations that resemble the flavours Japanese cuisine admirers are familiar with. Although I wouldn’t consider the majority of ingredients used in their pasta to reflect Japanese ingredients, the way they are used and how the dishes are brought together do remind us of Japan.
Located right in J-Town beside Niwatei (Ramen restaurant), Shiso Tree is a comfortable and relaxing café that offers a variety of pasta dishes, entrée salads, café items, and cakes. Their pasta comes in three different categories: Wafu (pasta made with Japanese ingredients), Cream, and Tomato sauce. Salads range from the Classic Ceasar Salad, to Shoyu (soy) Sesame Chicken Wafu Salad, to Garlic Shrimp Caesar. As for café items, what I mean are toast topped with a choice of Honey, Mango cream, Azuki cream (red bean), Banana Foster, and so on. For their cake slices, they are brought over from the bakery right inside the Supermarket; Bakery Nakamura. In addition to ordering everything separately, set menus along with daily specials are also available.
A few days after dining at Niwatei with Ruby and Eric, the $15 for $30 worth of food at Shiso Tree deal was out on Dealsnoop. Eric mentioned that he wanted to try it, so I forwarded the deal to him (which he then purchased). I’ll also say that eating at Shiso Tree wasn’t as easy as one would expect. First off, they rarely pick up their phone calls. I tried calling several times to make a reservation but was unsuccessful. I’m not a novice in using deals, so I know reservations are necessary. But anyway, Eric and I decided to try our luck and dropped by Shiso Tree on a week day. The man who was working that day was incredibly rude and kicked us out because we didn’t have a reservation. The next time I called Shiso Tree they were closed. On my third attempt on trying to call this !@#$%^ place, someone finally picked up. This time he was a very friendly young man (thank goodness) and I was able to finally make my !@#$%^ reservation. But before I could leave my name and number, he kindly said goodbye and hung up. I had to call him again to provide him with the information (sigh).
Okay, after blabbering on and on in the introduction of this review, I guess it’s time to actually talk about their food ;) The three of us selected the set meals. Basically for an additional $7, you may upgrade your pasta to a set with Soup of the Day, Shiso Tree Salad, Garlic Toast, and a slice of cake. The soup available that day was a Chilled Butternut Squash. It came in a plastic mug and it was very pleasant and refreshing. The taste was very pure and clean, and the soup itself was very smooth and creamy. Crispy, buttery croutons were floating on to for some added texture.
Shiso Tree Salad was a combination of mixed greens, julienned cucumbers, carrots, and drizzed with a miso-based vinaigrette. I really don’t have much to say except for the ingredients being fresh and the dressing had a nice tang to it.
Eric loves french fries, so we shared an order of Nori Fries ($5) tossed in a Wafu dressing and nori seaweed. The taste itself was amazing; nori is such an incredible ingredient. It is often used as a garnish for dishes (except maki/hand rolls) but the flavour it is capable of providing is sometimes beyond measure. Or maybe I’m just a nori lover in general :) Despite having a great taste, the fries were too soggy and soaked in too much oil. It could be because the fryer temperature wasn’t set high enough, but it is such a pity since the taste is there.
My pasta entrée was a Lobster & Scallop Mac n’ Cheese ($18) – Gemelli pasta in cream sauce using 6 year old white cheddar. It was a good-sized portion with enough scallops and an attractive lobster claw on top. Although I did enjoy this hearty, creamy and cheesy dish, I wasn’t able to finish it because it was just too heavy for me to handle. I admit I’m weak when it comes to heavy and deep-fried foods; I can only tolerate so much. The seafood did help to lighten it slightly and the pasta was cooked to al dente. I liked the added croutons as I always prefer dimensional dishes as opposed to flat dishes.
Ruby’s Hokkaido Scallop Rosé ($15) that came in a creamy tomato sauce rosé with clams made me think of two words – refined and elegant. It had a pleasing subtle taste with a tad of sophistication. The Hokkaido scallops were seared perfectly and the tiny bacon bits brought more flavour to the dish. I preferred hers over mine :D
Eric had the Carbonara Prawn ($12) – Parmigiano cheese, egg yolk, and cream based sauce with green peas, bacon, and sautéed garlic shrimp. I tried a bit of it and I honestly wasn’t a fan of it. I’ve had Carbonara pasta in the past and really loved it. This version at Shiso Tree also received many positive reviews online, so I was puzzled when I tasted it. There seemed to be a strong seafood or fishy taste that I just couldn’t get past. Even though the Carbonara had an appetizing presentation, the taste was disappointing.
Last but not least, were the dessert cakes – Tiramisu, Strawberry Peach, and Green Tea. They were so cute looking; just look at the photos! Not only were they adorable, they were delish! None of the cakes were too sweet and they were the right size after an entire set menu. I loved them all, but surprisingly my favourite was the Strawberry Peach Cream cake. I usually don’t like cream, but this was so yummy, haha. I know this entire review seemed rather serious, but when it comes to dessert, I can’t help but to turn all giggly and happy ;D
The three of us had a great dinner thanks to the decent food and the friendly service. Honestly, I was so glad the young gentleman was working that day instead of the rude, older man. I would definitely come back for their Japanese-inspired pasta and look forward to their new creations!
For more on Shiso Tree’s menu and to read the dining experience of another food blogger, head over to Flymantang’s Blog!
3160 Steeles Ave. East Unit 1
Toronto, ON L3R 4G9