TRADITIONALLY, AN IZAKAYA is a kind of Japanese pub that serves small plates of food in a casual environment. While there doesn’t seem to be much drinking going on here and the mood is more tranquil than lively, Fin’s kitchen showcases first-rate sushi skills, dexterous deep- frying and a know-how for saucing.
The open sushi bar opposite the entranceway acts as the visual focal point of the large, wide room — although there are many other eye-pleasing decorative touches to enjoy. Traditional instrumental Japanese music flows from the speakers.
Although many of the offerings qualify as “small plates,” many of the menu’s choices under the categories of bento boxes, sushi, rice bowls and noodles could easily serve as lunch or a light dinner.
Fin’s “value menu” and “deluxe menu” options, which expand offerings with additional side courses, mean that even the hungry can get away with ordering just one special.
Warm-enough miso soup, with bits of nori and tofu, is flavourful enough, but a simple salad really knocks our socks off. Freshly torn iceberg lettuce, tomato wedge, cucumber slices and curlicues of beet delight in their simple but perfectly balanced dressing of rice vinegar and sesame oil.
From a list of five rice bowl dishes comes chicken tempura don ($6.95): slices of a juicy grilled chicken breast basted in honey-sweet but not-at-all-goopy teriyaki sauce over exemplary sticky rice in a small, deep black bowl.
Attention to detail is evident in the arranged shavings of purple onion, shredded Japanese cabbage, parsley sprig and ripe tomato wedge overtop.
55 Eglinton Ave. E.
Dinner for two excluding tax, tip and alcohol:
(Japanese chefs can spend decades in the kitchen perfecting their rice cooking technique; clearly, the person behind the scenes at Fin is one such person.)
Appetizer sampler (add $1) showcases three nibbles: a fistful of furry edamame is well cooked albeit a bit tough-skinned; Japanese mayo, wasabi, pepper and scallion shavings add gusto and texture to a scoop of mashed potato; and a single minced pork dumpling boasts plenty of meat flavour.
Strangely, the entire appetizer assembly arrives to table at room temperature.
Shrimp and vegetable tempura ($9.95) arrive at the table piping hot, still sizzling on their black strainer-style plastic platter. Expert deep-frying renders them light, airy and greaseless. Two juicy, generous shrimp play partner to wedges of eggplant, squash, sweet potato and a green hot pepper.
A long, narrow platter acts as pedestal to an assortment of sashimi prettily plated with shredded daikon and a pinch of wasabi. Tilapia transcends the trio of tastes, but fresh, buttery tuna and sweet salmon are also winners.
The waitresses alternate between serving tables inside and standing in front of the restaurant at a table laid with prepackaged meals to serve those on the go or to entice hungry passersby.