At Just Sushi the ‘living wall’ of plants does double duty as both focal point and air purifier, while reclaimed lumber provides decorative wooden accents, and all food and beverage containers are biodegradable. They make their own broths and sauces, grow edible micro-greens, and use non-GMO, gluten-free and local, organic ingredients wherever possible.
Rather impressive for a newish, small-scale and predominantly take-out spot nestled in and amongst a cluster of condos near Lake Shore and Park Lawn. But perhaps most notably, Just Sushi boasts the distinction of being the world’s first 100% Ocean Wise certified sustainable sushi restaurant, as proudly displayed in plaque form on the restaurant’s wall.
With offices in both Vancouver and Toronto, Ocean Wise is a conservation program created by Vancouver Aquarium in order to better educate consumers about seafood and issues surrounding its sustainability. [See GFR Ocean Wise coverage here. – Ed.] They also work directly with suppliers, markets, and restaurants to help with ocean-friendly purchasing options and decisions. When dining out, look for the small round fish symbol displayed next to sustainable seafood options on restaurant menus. If it’s not there, ask the Chef or owner why.
Early on in the restaurant planning process, Evan Clifford, founder of Just Sushi, recognized the importance of creating a restaurant that takes responsibility for its environmental impact. He, along with co-founding couple Ian (Evan’s newphew) and Gabrielle Clifford, was determined to create a business that is respectful of its waterfront setting and surrounding neighbours.
With the guidance and support of Ocean Wise, and in partnership with seafood supplier, Seacore Seafood, Just Sushi purchases and uses only Ocean Wise-recommended fish and seafood, and from fisheries using sustainable practices. And while Just Sushi may be the first, for the sake of fish and human folk alike, Evan hopes other restaurants will soon follow suit and sustainable sushi will become a regular thing.
“It goes beyond caring for the oceans,” says Evan, “It’s not just the species in the oceans, but also us — the species on land – and our reliance on the oceans for survival.”
“The plaque gives validation and reassurance to consumers. Ocean Wise was an important element due to its reputation as well as its guidance.”
But while a philosophy of only sustainable sushi will first draw curious customers, the flavours, skilled use of ingredients and a capable, high calibre team is what ensures their return. With this in mind, at Just Sushi, I foresee an endless stream of hungry patrons, both new and repeat – the food is just that divine.
With a small but stellar culinary team firmly at the helm, Gabrielle oversees menu development, healthy menu options and ingredient sourcing, while the talented and amiable Chef Eko Prasetyo deftly creates and prepares dishes with such fresh and well-balanced flavours that I am, quite simply, blown away.
Bowls of organic miso soup are dotted with small cubes of silken tofu and the most delicately woodsy and sweet little shimeji mushrooms going. An optional add-in of west coast Dungeness crab is a superb and worthwhile treat.
Listed as an appetizer, but large enough for a main, Tuna and Scallop Tartare is a symphony in pure, bright flavours, and comes with crisply fried taro chips for complementary crunch and scooping.
As gorgeous to behold as it is to eat, Seaweed Salad is a delicate tangle of Acadian hana-tsunomata, along with both Japanese wakame and hijiki seaweed, plus finely shredded multi-coloured carrot and radish. Baby mizuna leaves, slivers of dried mango and a toss of tamari-balsamic dressing add a touch of peppery sweetness.
Other highlights include an exceptionally buttery albacore tuna belly in the form of toro nigiri, with Chef Eko expertly preparing two of the pieces using mildly nutty and nutritious organic purple rice instead of white. To the platter he adds two salmon sashimi offerings to taste side-by-side – red spring (chinook) and wild sockeye (sake). Each possesses its own delectable and distinctive flavours and textures – I refuse to pick a favourite.
Sashimi, nigiri and maki options are divided between both ‘Ocean’ and ‘Garden’ varieties, with much of the Garden ingredients being grown or produced locally, like the Ontario-made Buffalo mozzarella and in-house grown basil used in the unique Italian fusion Caprese maki roll.
By the end of both of two visits, I am stuffed to the gills, so to speak. Yet, for two of us, the total of our bill rings in at less than the cost of a couple of entrées at most restaurants. For while one might expect to have to pay a premium for having procured such superior quality, sustainable and organic fare, portions are ample at Just Sushi…and pricing is of solid value. Heck, in comparison (not really comparable) a pre-made sushi roll of questionable origin found at a nearby convenience store costs more than most maki rolls on offer at Just Sushi, making any semblance of a required decision an absolute no-brainer.
With a current focus on take-out and delivery, the clean, zen-like lines of its sparsely decorated space means in-house seating is currently limited to a half dozen bar stools set along the wall of windows upon which to perch. Come May, plans are in place for patio dining, with tables and chairs set out in front of the restaurant. This will be a very good thing.
Recognizing and supporting folks with an admirable cause, and who are serving up both eco-conscious and downright exceptional sushi options, is something I, and an ever-growing number of discriminating diners can really get behind. And as a west end gal, I am pleased as punch to learn I’m located within the borders of Just Sushi’s delivery zone. Bonus.
Just the Facts on Just Sushi:
- Delivery, AKA ‘room service’ is offered free of charge with a minimum $20 order between 5 and 10pm. Check for delivery boundaries, as they are slowly expanding outward from their location. Delivery includes runs done on their zero emission e-bike fitted with a large cooler on the back.
- Whether for pick-up or delivery, ordering on-line is a cinch at their dedicated site, replete with photos and descriptions of each menu item.
- The restaurant space is also available to rent out for intimate soirées – contact the restaurant for details and information.
- As well, Evan, Ian and Gabrielle plan to open future locations of Just Sushi around town – stay tuned for updates as they become available.
- Visit their site at justshushi.com, or click here to see their location at 12A Brookers Lane, near Lake Shore and Park Lawn in South Etobicoke on a Google map.
Alison Kent is a food, beverage & travel writer, culinary consultant, recipe developer, best-selling cookbook author and certified chef based in Toronto’s west end. Follow her culinary adventures on Twitter @Alicatchef.