by Michelle Jobin with Photos by Jason Nip
Sushi is all about mould.
Not kidding. That’s the appetizing fact that co-owner Sang Kim shares with us as we get started at Koko Share Bar’s inaugural sushi-making class. Despite my pathological fear of mould (stemming from an allergy to penicillin and a monsoon-like summer spent living in a basement apartment in Parkdale) there is no way I am going to be convinced to not love sushi – or miss this class. Can’t pass up on the opportunity to learn from Koko’s Master Sushi Chef Shin Aoyama.
If you’re not familiar with Koko Share Bar. It’s one of Yorkville’s newest additions – with all the requisite style, and thankfully, none of the usual attitude. That’s because in addition to Chef Shin’s incredible modern Japanese and Korean menu, there is also a major emphasis placed on service at Koko. It was a huge part of Sang and co-owner Veronica Joo’s mandate in creating the restaurant – and it shows. On every occasion I’ve been there, not only has the food been delicious (I dare you to try and leave a morsel of the delicious Bossam, Butterfish Roll, or not want another glass house-infused soju!) but it has been an infinitely warm and welcoming experience. Sang Kim is a genuine, charismatic man with a passion for good food and good people – and he’s been very successful at bringing the two together with great results at Koko. This sushi-making class no exception. It’s populated by early-adorers of the new resto: chatting, having a few drinks, sharing a few jokes, and generally having a great Saturday afternoon.
When it comes to the history of sushi, Sang knows his stuff. He gives us a fascinating talk on the why’s, where’s, and how’s behind sushi rice and nori, and how important they are to what we consider sushi today. Quality sushi is really all about the quality of the rice. (Freshest fish possible is a given. If you can’t provide that for your customers, just shut your doors.) And let’s not forget about the mould – it’s what makes sushi delicious. Better to ask Sang himself about the intricacies of this than for me to go into detail – as I spent most of my time trying not to think about that part and focus on the maki making. I don’t exactly excel at work involving fine detail and sharp motor skills. Considering it takes about a decade to become a master sushi chef like Shin Aoyama, I’m resigned to the fact that I am going to produce some pretty ugly maki rolls.
Though nigiri sushi is the original form of sushi, today we will focus on makimonos – which has become the go-to sushi of North Americans. Sang talks us through the details of the three types of maki rolls we will make– hosomaki (usually a single ingredient roll with nori on the outside), tekkamaki (the “inside-out roll” with nori on the inside and rice on the outside), and temaki (the cone-shaped hand rolls). Our hosumaki features salmon, our tekkamaki with spicy maguro tuna, and our temaki includes unagi and cucumber. Shin shows us how to make each roll twice, and his movements are subtle and effortlessly precise – every time creating a flawless product. After each demo, it’s time to get sticky and roll our own. So to speak.
Maybe it’s because I’m having fun, maybe I’ve gained some mad sushi-rolling skills by just being in the same room with a master sushi chef, or maybe it was just Shin’s expert demonstration. Whatever it is – I make some surprisingly decent rolls. (see pictures!) The temaki proves to be the toughest for me – I’m all thumbs and have to re-roll – which is a big no-no. Regardless, I was pretty impressed with myself. After the class, the extra treat was that we all got to eat the fruits of our labour. Even though my sushi was lacking in form somewhat, Koko’s top-quality ingredients (and the convivial atmosphere of the class) meant they sure it was pretty damn delicious. For now, however, I’m content to let Chef Shin do most of the cooking on my visits to Koko Share Bar – but you can bet I’ll be an eager student the next time sushi class is in session.
Koko! Share Bar is located at 81 Yorkville Avenue and online at www.kokosharebar.com . For reservations or more information about upcoming sushi classes and events (such as “Sushi for Singles” or “Celebrity Sushi,”) contact them at 416.850.6135.
Michelle Jobin is the host and producer of Toronto Dining and a Weather Specialist for Global News. She is especially fond of duck confit, dark chocolate ganache, and thunderstorms.