In a nondescript plaza in the wilds of Newmarket, we find ourselves in search of the elusive Jyo Gao, owner of Solo Sushi Ya, considered to be a Sushi Master by none other than Joanne Kates. High praise indeed, so on a journey up to Newmarket this week, we decided to experience Mr Gao's culinary offerings first hand. The restaurant is tiny but with an extensive menu which starts with a selection of appetizers including Gyoza, Yakitori and Sushi Pizza to Softshell Crab and Edamame. We started with an order of Gyoza Japanese-style chicken dumplings, which was our favourite appetizer at Izakaya before it closed three years ago from it's location on Front St. East. Gao's dumplings were altogether different — lighter than air with a delicate balance of chicken and ginger. The dumplings, as well as the soy sauce, are both made in-house, and what a difference it makes. They both seem to melt in your mouth — by far the best Gyoza we've ever enjoyed, and in Newmarket no less!
Solo Sushi Ya's Gyoza chicken dumplings with home-made soy sauce
We followed with a selection of salmon, yellowtail and tuna Sashimi and a Shrimp Tempura Roll. The sashimi were sliced quite thinly and wonderfully fresh, but the Shrimp Tempura Roll was outstanding. I've had Dynamite Rolls before and the tempura has always been quite overwhelming, but Gao's creation is beautifully light and subtle, and made with the best sushi rice I've ever had. It was delicate and impeccably fresh — perhaps just made moments before. We were even tempted to place another order they were so good, but restrained ourselves so we wouldn't roll out of the Bistro like a Yokohama Maki.
Trio of sashimi - salmon, hamachi and tuna
Shrimp Tempura Roll
We also ordered a Bento Box which came with Grilled Teriyaki Chicken in a gentle and flavourful sauce, three California Rolls and a selection of exquisitely prepared tempura including an enormous prawn, large mushroom and yam, plus a little more of Gao's sumptuous rice. Again the tempura was wonderfully light and airy, letting the intrinsic flavours of the vegetables and the sea shine though.
Chicken Teriyaki Bento Box
We have to concede, Joanne Kates was right. Jyo is a sushi wizard. Quiet and intent as he single handedly prepares all of the sushi, sashimi and maki rolls, it appears that there is only one other chef in the kitchen helping out. No wonder it's called 'Solo' Sushi. As we finished our meal, and the other diners have departed, Jyo came over to chat and ask how we enjoyed our meal.
Jyo Gao, Sushi Wizard of Solo Sushi Ya in Newmarket
We told him it was some of the best we've ever had and drove up from Toronto just to find him. Pleased with the compliment, he's obviously proud of his work and used to the praise, having run his Japanese Bistro for over 11 years with an ongoing and dedicated clientele, in addition to running a thriving catering business, both in the Newmarket area, as well as through some of Toronto's top chefs, restaurants and hotels in Toronto. I guess he's not our little secret, but a big koi in a small pond who is famously sought after outside his own waters. And it couldn't happen to a more delightful and talented gentleman. Arigatou gozaimasu, Jyo.
Solo Sushi Ya
291 Davis Drive, Newmarket