Here he also developed the disciplines of selecting the finest and freshest fish and produce.
Recognizing that his own passion for inventiveness was leading him beyond the then-strict boundaries of cuisine in Japan, Tojo chose to come to North America in 1971, where he felt that a multicultural population without preconceptions would be more receptive to his ideas. Vancouver in the early 1970s had only four Japanese restaurants, and at one of them, Maneki, Tojo’s first original dishes were aimed at creating a meeting place for North American tastes and Japanese techniques.
As the head chef of the tiny Jinya restaurant Tojo-san presided over Japanese food’s phenomenal growth in popularity in the 1980s.
Broadway into much larger and finer surroundings that nevertheless retain Tojo’s air of creativity and informality.
Here he welcomes the stars of Hollywood North, visiting executives of Japanese corporations, pilgrims who have read reviews of his restaurant in publications from around the world, and, as always, an expanding loyal community of Vancouver regulars.
As a young man he traveled to Osaka where he apprenticed at the famed Ohnoya restaurant, one of Japan’s leading ryotei, a very high end, very traditional restaurant.
During years of 16-hour days at the Ohnoya Tojo mastered an encyclopaedic repertoire of some 2000 traditional Japanese recipes that he can draw on from memory even today.
The winners are our favorite customers: the ones eager to try whatever this day has inspired.
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Traditional tuna sashimi became ) using local albacore tuna (unfamiliar to Japan), and his still-secret marinade which solved the problem of westerners’ unfamiliarity with sashimi dipping sauces.
Served today in dishes made of green bamboo, it remains a favorite forty years later.
He treats each with respectful equanimity mixed with infectious laughter, assuming that each shares his appreciation of freshness and originality.