Discovering J-Town (Part 2): Shiso Tree Cafe & Bakery Nakamura By Steph Chiu
This post is a continuation of a two-part series on J-Town, the GTA’s largest Japanese shopping centre near Steeles and Highway 404. In Part 2, I’m taking you to experience Japanese-Italian fusion at Shiso Tree Cafe, and Japanese-style cakes at Bakery Nakamura.
Shiso Tree Cafe is one of four restaurants in the J-Town complex. It is known for putting a Japanese spin on Italian pasta dishes (think teriyaki sauce and other Japanese condiments), although they also offer more traditional combinations (like seafood in tomato sauce).
Like the other restaurants in J-Town, it was a very small space with only about 15 tables. We arrived right at noon when they opened, and by 12:30pm there was already a line to be seated.
On weekdays, Shiso Tree Cafe offers a great $8 lunch menu which includes pasta (lunch-sized), soup, salad, garlic toast. On weekends, when we visited, only the dinner menu is available.
My companion and I both wanted to try the Japanese-style pastas. We ordered the Unagi-Don ($17) and Shrimp Okonomiyaki ($14) pastas, two of the most popular dishes on the menu. (For those not interested in the fusion pastas, rest assured there are options like Bolognese and Carbonara.)
Dinner pastas come with salad and garlic toast.
Unagi-Don: Japanese barbecued eel with shimeji mushrooms in a cream teriyaki sauce. Eel (unagi) is something that many people are afraid to try, but it is such a delicacy, especially the unagi sauce (tastes like teriyaki, but sweeter). If you’re feeling adventurous, try this dish!
Shrimp Okonomiyaki: shrimp, bacon, onions, and garlic with steak sauce, Japanese mayo, and bonito fish flakes. (Okonomiyaki is a traditional Japanese savoury pancake, but in this case the name refers to the sauce that is used.) The toppings were nothing out-of-the-ordinary, but what really makes this dish is the okonomiyaki sauce, similar to Worchestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter. If you’re looking for a less-adventurous fusion pasta to try, I would suggest this one.
We ended off with a Black Sesame Crème Brûlée ($8), a very unique take on the classic dish. There was lots of black sesame underneath the perfectly-caramelized sugar topping. A perfect end to a delicious meal.
Afterwards, we ventured over to Bakery Nakamura, in the indoor shopping area, to check out their cakes. Nakamura offers a variety of breads, pastries, sandwiches, and cakes.
We selected the Green Tea Red Bean Cake ($4.80) to take home as we were quite full already. This has got to be the best green tea cake I’ve ever had. The cake itself, the cream, and the white chocolate shavings on top were light and airy, and there were lots of red beans inside! I will definitely be back to try the many other cakes at Nakamura. Prices range from around $4-5, but it is totally worth the splurge.