Ahhhh, the first review of 2010! And guess what? My camera sucks balls so I don't really have any photos to share with you. But rest assured: the food at Ame looked just as amazing as it tasted.
So where to start? Well, the Rubino brothers (Guy and Michael) have long been Toronto culinary darlings. The big first hit that propelled them ahead was the opening of Zoom in '97. This followed by Rain which opened in '01 (the food of which I enjoyed, though found the whole experience almost too pristine) and had several years of success before relaunching in September of 2009 as Ame. And, since Ame had been on my list for a number of months, finally this Friday night, me and 7 of my friends went.
First, the visual transformation of the space is impressive. The design is fluent and organic with its use of wood and see-through dividers. The high ceilings and beautiful Oriental tapestry add to the dramatic beauty of the room. I immediately spot both Guy and Michael, seemingly lording over both employees and guests. They don't look terribly happy, but then I guess they are perfectionists in execution and it isn't playtime.
The menu boasts an excellent range from sushi, sashimi and nigiri to hot pot, ramen and tempura plus a divine range of salads and mains. There is a LOT to choose from, but the point of the menu is to share. And while I'm getting somewhat tired of 'share plates', share we do. Oh ... one important point to make: Ame is not as much of a financial commitment as you may think. For 8 people, each with a couple cocktails and plenty of dishes, tax and tip included came to $61 each. Totally reasonable.
So, here comes the good part. The food. Oh, the tasty food. We order some spicy tuna and spicy crab sushi. We order shrimp and mushroom and kabocha squash tempura (and an order of brussel sprouts we did not order arrives, but since they can't figure out who it was intended for, they give it to us). Each comes on a torturous-looking wooden plank with nails sticking out, but it's the perfect vessel to ensure each piece stays crisp and light. They are paired with their own delightful sauces like black bean (for the mushroom), and a tasty wasabi sauce for the shrimp. With the exception of the mushroom being on the slightly oily side, they're all delicious.
Aside from a couple mishaps on the food, my only gripe is the service was somewhat lacking in attentiveness. After a steady influx of dishes, we suddenly go dark for 10-15 minutes, missing 3 of our dishes. But where is our server? And, when we were ready to leave (and had indicated so in asking for plates to be cleared), where was our bill? The restaurant wasn't packed and there were several wait staff milling about. It's a small miss, but one I remember. Any why did Michael walk the room a number of times without ever once addressing us to ask how our meals were? Maybe stardom has taken some of the charm out of guest interaction.
So the skinny is this: go to Ame. It's incredible value. The space is impressive. The food, even more.