NAMI Japanese Restaurant
By Sohini Bhattacharya

A Japanese Sushi Institution in Toronto

When Jay Yoo walked into Nami restaurant as a young boy in 1984, he had no idea that he would grow up to inherit his own sushi institution in Toronto. Established by his father Kenneth Yoo, a Korean immigrant, Nami (meaning "wave" in Japanese) has ridden the waves of time, all the while maintaining its authenticity in an ever-evolving and often volatile restaurant climate. “My father moved here when he was 21 with $50 in his pocket that he had hidden in a cigarette packet," recalls Jay. "He hustled initially selling calculators and insurance until he opened up his own business.”

Business runs in Jay's blood: in addition to helping run Nami, he is also the owner of Sherway Nissan, a successful car dealership in Toronto. Jay enjoys helping people and considers customer service to be a priority; the economics grad and father of two under two sometimes treats his guests to a meal at his favourite Robata bar restaurant. At Nami, it is this dedication to customers, among other things, that has led to the restaurant's longtime success.

We haven’t really changed much over the past 30 years. We have incorporated a few additions to our menu, but we’ve always wanted to keep it simple and authentic, making sure that quality comes first. - Jay Yoo, owner
Nami is known for preparing sushi dishes that are works of art.
Nami is known for preparing sushi dishes that are works of art. Photo courtesy of Adam Waxman

An A-List Clientele

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto near Adelaide and Yonge, Nami has been around for over 30 years. It was one of the first places to serve sushi during a time when sushi was an exotic dish from far, far away. Nami is also the proud originator of the sushi pizza, which is a fact known only to its regulars. Unlike other sushi restaurants serving up a variety of sushi pizzas, Nami serves a single very memorable one – perfectly marinated salmon sashimi garnished with flying fish roe and scallion, served with spicy sauce on a bed of deep fried sushi rice.

With Ritz Carlton and Trump Towers no more than five minutes away, Nami has enjoyed the love of the crème-de-la-crème for years. It’s not uncommon to find yourself in the company of Meryl Streep or Jean-Claude Van Damme, Masayoshi Son (owner of Softbank and Forbes’ 45th most powerful man in the world in 2013), Matsui a.k.a Godzilla of the New York Yankees or Pau Gasol (NBA All-Star). These and several other "who’s who" have made Nami their go-to sushi spot over the years. “When Megan Lee (teen star from Nickelodeon) was in town to shoot for her hit U.S. show  Make It Pop, she decided to celebrate her birthday here," says Jay. "We are a huge birthday and Valentine’s day spot. I’ve seen lots of first dates at Nami.”

Nami's temarizushi are perfectly prepared balls of sushi that melt in your mouth.
Nami's temarizushi are perfectly prepared balls of sushi that melt in your mouth. Photo courtesy of Adam Waxman

Simple and Authentic

Nami enjoys not only a long and loyal list of A-listers, but also a devoted fan following in the local community. “We haven’t really changed much over the past 30 years. We have incorporated a few additions to our menu, but we’ve always wanted to keep it simple and authentic, making sure that quality comes first,” says Jay.

Nami’s executive chef Tadashi Takinami is like a sushi-making robot who has been honing his skills at Nami since its creation. Chef Sasumo is the artistic one who crafts unforgettable pieces of sushi that have been wowing customers for decades. Both have their own cult following, which only adds to Nami’s positive reputation.

In a culinary world where something new is trending every day, it’s heartening to know that some things stay the same at Nami restaurant, like its homage to age-old Japanese culture, the team of talented chefs, a familiar clientele and unwavering quality service.

Nami's sushi spring roll is a customer favourite.
Nami's sushi spring roll is a customer favourite. Photo courtesy of Adam Waxman
Close menu
Subscribe to YP Newsletter