Address: 100 King St
The fast casual trend hit in full force this year. Fresh, healthy, and adventurous food delivered at sleek order-at-the-counter spots has flipped the script on fast food and proven as versatile as convenient, with countless variations of quick eats spanning global cuisines and dietary styles.
Of the many new concepts that have appeared, Chosabi is the cream of the crop. This small but mighty eatery, the brainchild of Wasabi’s Cho Vengavongsa, has re-engineered sushi into grab n’ go eats, and introduced flavours from Korea, the Philippines, and Hawaii within the span of a handful of menu items.
What’s more, the new venture has already opened a second location mere months after the launch of the original Exchange District spot. Inviting rooms, sprinkled with jabs of colour (red in the Exchange, yellow on Pembina) are effortlessly sleek, with clean lines and a modern mix of steel and wood textures. Stretching powerfully across a wall, a stylized mural of a fish, painted by local artist Pat Lazo, gives these clean spaces an edge.
The sushi burrito (aka Chorito), a hefty hand roll that turns delicate maki snacking into a two-handed affair, is the signature here. The Wasabi pedigree shows through in perfectly seasoned rice, fresh fish, and creative ingredient combinations. An amped up California roll and a blend of tempura-fried shrimp, fresh cubes of mango, and spicy aioli are go-to varieties. Others push boundaries with fusion-influenced flavour, like a chicken roll incorporating crisp wonton strips and Thai sweet chilli sauce. An option for those who avoid meat is loaded with greens and veggies.
The short menu also lists bowls that pull from a variety of cuisines, from a coconut-imbued Thai green curry to a take on Korean bulgogi drizzled with fiery miso aioli and topped with a glistening fried egg.
Glossy pink cubes of salmon and tuna fill the poke bowl, nestled next to spiralized carrots, edmame, avocado, cucumber, and lettuce. The traditional Hawaiian dish is lent a briny note by threads of seaweed and a mix of soy sauce and lightly pungent wasabi-punched aioli. A tribute to Filipino cuisine (and a Filipino sports hero) the Pac Man Special tops rice with a bevy of veggies and rosy twists of sweet and smoky tocino sausage, a rare find outside of home kitchens.
Flair is added to even the smallest details. Burritos are wrapped, cut, and served in bamboo steamer baskets, and signature take out boxes are styled up with a colourful fish illustration.
The steady parade of lunchtime diners moving through the doors find equal satisfaction in superbly fresh prepackaged salads, traditional nigiri, and fruit and spinach packed smoothie cups ready to be blended at the counter. Goma ae blends delicate strands of seaweed and blanched kale with an addictive miso-peanut dressing. For those with more time to sit and sup, specialty coffee drinks, by-the-glass wine, and Asian beer on tap round out the selection.
Concept-driven eateries have proven popular for entrepreneurs, and Chosabi shows the strongest players deliver with outstanding taste and uncompromised flavour.