Were back in J-Town! I don't know why I only remember to take pictures of my food when eating in J-Town but Shiso Tree Cafe definitely has food worth blogging about. Now Shiso Tree is a small little cafe within J-Town specializing in Italian pasta with a hint of Japanese influence. The last place I expected to be eating Italian was in J-Town but I had heard good things and decided to give the place a try. Some of the pasta Shiso uses is actually made fresh in house (it is usually displayed on one of their chalk board menus and will say fresh pasta!) In addition to the plethora of pastas the menu also includes fry dishes where crispy potato fries are seasoned and slathered with various toppings and sauces. During my first visit we had Nori fries, spaghetti bolognese and another spaghetti dish with cream sauce and smoked salmon.
The Nori fries were potato fries topped with seaweed. The fries themselves were not particularly great, they were soft and could have bene crisper, indicating that not enough starch was removed before frying. The seaweed was also quite bland and overall this dish was not well seasoned. The other fry dishes on the menu are much better in comparison, especially the ones that incorporate sauces, as the sauces here are great. Nori Fries 4/10
Before we continue I should say that I am a huge fan of bolognese, more specifically the ragu style of bolognese where it is a meat based sauce that uses tomato for flavour as opposed to a tomato based sauce that uses meat for flavour. Although Shiso Tree's bolognese isn't Michelin star, it is fantastic for local fare. The sauce itself is bold and rich in flavour, with the meaty earthy tones flushed throughout. It also clings to the pasta perfectly which is another indication of an excellent sauce. The accompanying slice of garlic toast appears to use milk bread, which is a Japanese form of bread that is extremely soft and slightly sweet. The flavour combined well with the sauce and I thought it was a great touch. Although I loved the dish I did taste a hint of burnt flavour, I am not sure if the dish was meant that way or if it was just an outlier but that did hurt the score a little, but considering the dish still gets 6.5/10 from my book lets you know that this is good stuff.
Now during a separate visit (yea thats right I went a bunch of times before I finally blogged about it, =P) I remember having spaghetti with rose sauce and clams, with a cream of potato soup, okonomiyaki fries and a red bean and green tea sundae for dessert. Now I don't have any pictures of the okonomiyaki fries and I don't review desserts (my sweet tooth rarely finds anything wrong with any form of dessert -_-). But okonomiyaki fries were much better than their nori counterparts. For one thing they were laid out on a large plate, which meant they weren't as soft and/or soggy from being stacked on top of each other and steaming. The fries were topped with okonomiyaki sauce (a sweet Worcestershire based sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, green onion slices, bonito and if I remember correctly seaweed (don't quote me on that). Although the fries themselves were again nothing spectacular the toppings were great and the flavours of okonomiyaki lent itself very well to a bed of potato frites. 5.5/10
The pasta came with soup and salad and you rarely see me review complementary dishes like these but this cream of potato was a pleasant surprise that made my visit. The soup itself was not overly thick and if its something that Shiso does well it is making possibly heavy overbearing flavours light and delicious, it makes you feel less guilty for eating the grub. Now the cream flavour mingled with the pieces of ham, potato and corn in a way that surprises you. The actual combination of flavours isn' t the surprise, tons of restaurants around the world put those ingredients in cream of potato, but at Shiso it was different. The potatoes are tender but not chalky or overcooked, the corn and ham gave the dish just the right level of savoriness and sweet. Overall it was a fantastic soup, although the croutons could have been replaced with a thinly sliced toast crisp on the side for better depth of texture. 7.5/10
Shiso Tree Cafe is a great restaurant and anyone who has a taste for
good Italian pasta should pay a visit, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Shiso Tree Cafe is located in J-town in Markham, Ontario. 3-3160 Steeles Ave. East L3R4G9
For more information check them out on urbanspoon at the link below
All photos courtesy of Christian Lin and Vivian Lam