Taste this savoury Japanese pancake stuffed with local seafood in The Junction
Honest Weight is located at 2766 Dundas St. W.
My favourite dish on the menu at Honest Weight in The Junction is the okonomiyaki, a Japanese savoury pancake stacked with local seafood and layered with toppings like cabbage and wispy bonito flakes.
"I know people are surprised when they see an iconic Japanese dish like okonomiyaki at our humble seafood restaurant in The Junction," said Victoria Bazan, owner of Honest Weight.
Bazan opened Honest Weight on Dundas Street West in 2015 with her business partner, the late, great oysterman John Bil.
"John had this dish on the menu since the beginning. It reminded him of his travels through Japan. He loved Japan."
Bil is widely regarded in the hospitality industry as an ambassador for Canadian seafood.
Toronto's seafood culture was largely fixated on the best imports one could get their hands on.
Bil strived to change that perception by putting a focus on what was offered locally.
Throughout his career, he put the spotlight on a variety of seasonal fish we have access to here and educated people on acceptable fishing practices.
"Before opening Honest Weight, John had a reputation for this being this purveyor extraordinaire. He would educate chefs on where and when to get certain types of fish. We brought that philosophy to this place." Bazan said.
The 20-seat establishment is inspired by the Maritime provinces and is part restaurant and retail counter.
It is laid back and charming and you can stop to look at a large display case filled with shellfish, scallops and seasonal fish.
If you're in the mood for seasonal fish, order the catch of the day. During my last visit, I was served a filet of Ontario rainbow trout, served on a layer of mashed potatoes with a generous amount of horse radish. It was a beautifully cooked fish that was accented by the spice from the horseradish.
Recently, chef Jordan Gooch added a salt cod dish to the menu.
"We get our cod from one fisherman in Bonavista. Line caught. We had some surplus so we made a brandade," Gooch said.
Brandade is creamy cod, mixed with potato and olive oil, and it's served with wood-fire bread from nearby Mattachioni's restaurant.
Gooch preps the batter for the okonomiyaki with flour, soy sauce, dashi (soup stock).
"There's a lot of flavour in this batter, and it helps give it a slightly chewy texture," Gooch said.
The batter is the canvas, cooked over a flat top before it's quickly layered with thick-cut bacon, egg, and seafood.
The seafood changes daily based on trimmings Gooch has available.
Some days it has whole shrimp which Gooch smokes in house.
I've had okonomiyaki with cured trout, scallops, mussels.
"We even use tail pieces and cheeks. Guests like to buy nice cuts of fish, we use the rest in our cooking," Gooch said.
The pancake is then layered again with egg and a mountain of cabbage.
After a few minutes in the oven, it's finished with a slathering of Japanese mayo and bonito flakes.
When the plate arrives at the table, you're immediately drawn to the mound of shimmering bonito flakes that appear to be alive.
Enjoy it best by cutting a thick slice, and getting a little bit of the gossamer bonito, smokey bacon and chunks of fish and chewy pancake.