One interesting thing about this trend, as described by the Toronto Star's Karon Liu, is that I'm not aware of this being accompanied by extra immigration. Any Japanese diaspora to downtown Toronto is substantially one of culture, not people.
“This is the guy on the bag,” I say, pointing at 68-year-old Tetsushi Mizokami to the people queuing outside Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake shop, next to the Toronto Coach Terminal on Bay Street, on a rainy Friday evening. Some smile out of politeness, others ignore us and just want to get inside. For a guy whose desserts — and the white paper bag it comes in — reached trophy status since the Uncle Tetsu shop opened a year ago, I would have thought cheesecake groupies would flock to him.
The soft-spoken Mizokami was in town in April to oversee the opening of his third Toronto spot, a sit-down restaurant called Uncle Tetsu’s Angel Cafe just east of University Ave. on Dundas St. W. It’s akin to a Japanese maid café where servers are dressed in cosplay maid uniforms — some of whom perform choreographed dance numbers to Japanese pop hits on a mini-stage in the dining room. The restaurateur already has plans to open a fourth restaurant, this time focusing on ramen with tomato and seafood-based broths, and he wants to keep it within walking distance of his three other shops.
“The number one location is maybe Dundas and Yonge, but it is very difficult to get that location. Second choice is Bay St. and Dundas because it is easy for beginner (businesses),” he says.
Over the last year or two, one-by-one Japanese eateries opened up along Dundas St. W. between Bay and St. Patrick Sts., creating a new culinary destination that Toronto food enthusiasts are dubbing Little Japan.
The strip, smack between Ryerson University and OCAD, reminds Mizokami of his hometown of Fukuoka in the southwest part of Japan where, in the ’70s, he managed more than a dozen restaurants catering to the youths from the nearby university.