Legendary Vancouver sushi spot Tojo’s launches new Cocktail Hour

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When you’re a legend in your field, even a small change can be a really big deal. So when renown sushi master Chef Hidekazu Tojo opts to launch a new “Cocktail Hour” at his famed restaurant, Tojo’s, it’s definitely noteworthy.

Launching June 27, and running from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, the Cocktail Hour at Tojo’s features a new menu of small bites and fresh new cocktails (including zero-proof options) perfect for pairing.

Cocktail Hour dishes at Tojo’s. Photo courtesy Tojo’s.

Just for this new walk-in only “happy hour”-style offering Tojo has put together a line-up of about a dozen dishes, all geared towards late afternoon snacking and showcasing masterful technique, iconic Japanese flavours, and beautiful regional ingredients. The dishes make for great share items if you’re toasting to the Cocktail Hour with others, or ideal personal plates if you are sneaking out for a solo snack.

Among the dishes are creative creations like lotus root with miso mustard, an elegant and petite fresh seafood salad, Tojo’s signature tuna (Albacore marinated with soy, sesame, and wasabi), and a homey traditional dashimaki tamago (folded omelette) with the upscale twist of two kinds of roe. And of course you can enjoy Tojo’s signature eponymous roll, which features west coast Dungeness crab, avocado, spinach and egg rolled inside-out with sesame seeds on top.

Seasonal farmers’ market veggies, like watermelon radish and yellow squash, are pickled and pair nicely with the zero proof Nitobe Garden drink. Photo by Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

The ultimate bar bite, chicken wings, get the Tojo treatment with a simple marinade of citrus and salt before their dunk in the fry oil. Tojo has cleverly cut down on potential messiness by dividing the flatter wingette piece in two and by stripping down the meat on the drumette – both kitchen moves make eating the wings much easier.

On the drinks side, award-winning barkeep Jeff Savage was called on to create a menu that harmonizes with Tojo’s nuanced flavours. Savage says he has long enjoyed exploring Asian flavours, and he wanted to put together a new line-up of craft cocktails that hit key Japanese flavour notes, make use of excellent local products and ingredients, and work well with Tojo’s food – not compete with it.

The new drink list includes a nod to the super-popular Japanese Highball, with Suntory Toki whisky, a splash of soda, and Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech Bitters. This completes a trio of highballs on the menu, joining its Canadian and Scottish brethren, and offers guests a refreshing option that reflects the cuisine’s cultural heritage.

Japanese Salaryman at Tojo’s. Photo by Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

Other drinks like Tojo’s Milk Punch and the Kitsune Gimlet also reflect an east-meets-west sensibility, with subtle twists that echo the delicate shading Tojo creates with his food. Look for Vancouver Island distillery Sheringham’s newer Kazuki gin in their version of the gimlet, and popular flavours like black sesame and matcha in the Japanese whisky-forward Salaryman.

Those who wish to sip something elegant but not imbibe can enjoy a drink like the curiously complex Nitobe Garden Fizz, which features hints of matcha and herbal notes).

Tojo’s is located at 1133 West Broadway in Vancouver. Cocktail Hour is available for walk-in only Thursday through Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. Dinner service is available from 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday by reservation; walk-ins welcome. 

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Lindsay is the Managing Editor of Vancouver Is Awesome, and the co-host and co-producer of the Vancouver Is Awesome Podcast. A fifth generation Vancouverite and life-long foodie, Lindsay also serves as a judge for the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. Previously the Food Editor of Daily Hive, Senior Editor of Vancity Buzz, and Editor-in-Chief of LAist.com, in her past life in L.A. she earned an MA in English, attended culinary school, and was an English professor. Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancouverisawesome.com // Twitter/Instagram: @squashblossom