Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa of MICHELIN Star–recognized Aburi Hana shares his favourite spots in the city.

You’ll have to join the waitlist months ahead of time if you’d like to dine at MICHELIN Star–awarded restaurant Aburi Hana

Under the direction of Executive Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa, Aburi Hana’s multi-course tasting menu blends refined Japanese cooking techniques with seasonal flavours to offer a multi-sensorial culinary experience like no other in Toronto.  

Awarded One MICHELIN Star in 2022, Aburi Hana was recognized for its exceptional dishes served on handmade Arita pottery. The menu changes every two months but consistently relays a modern approach to Kyō-Kaiseki, with ingredients and flavours hailing from both Japan and Canada. 

A spectacular culinary experience, dining at Aburi Hana may be a special occasion splurge. But Chef Nakagawa has numerous ideas for dining, shopping and exploring in Toronto—no month-long waitlist required.

Stay and shop in Yorkville

“Whenever I have friends visit, I always recommend they stay close to my restaurant and enjoy the shopping and sightseeing in the Yorkville neighbourhood,” says Nakagawa. 

His favourite local hotel is the five-star luxury boutique Hazelton Hotel because “the rooms are quite big, many of them come with a balcony, and [the onsite] Spa at Hazelton by Valmont is excellent too.” 

Also see: Toronto Hotels with Next-Level Spas

For shopping, Nakagawa recommends popping into Harry Rosen and Capsule where you’ll find high-end designer and limited-edition apparel. Begin your shopping excursion on treelined Bloor Street West east of Avenue Road, home to the Canadian flagships of prestige brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. 

You can also find designer labels and other gems inside the Canadian-owned Holt Renfrew department store, another Nakagawa pick.

Eat and drink downtown

When suggesting places to dine in Toronto, Nakagawa’s list spans the city, but his favourite spots bring culinary nostalgia and experimentation to the forefront downtown. 

“There are many ramen spots in the city, but I think Ikkousha Ramen has the most authentic Tonkotsu-based Japanese ramen,” explains the Japanese-born chef, who recommends ordering their Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) alongside a flavourful noodle bowl. 

Offering a slightly different experience than Aburi Hana’s subdued chef’s tasting counter, Nakagawa recommends the Quetzal chef’s counter for an exciting and fun culinary experience. 

“The first time I tried it, it was so delicious that it changed the way I looked at Mexican food,” reminisces Nakagawa. “A highlight was the scallop and shrimp tortilla, which was perfect in terms of balance of flavours, and I could taste the care of ingredients in every bite.”

If you’re searching for an under-the-radar cocktail bar to visit during your next trip to Toronto, Nakagawa recommends the speakeasy bar XXX. “It’s small, but it’s fun because you learn so much from the bartenders, and you’re surrounded by other people who appreciate good cocktails, too,” says Nakagawa. 

“I appreciate the level of artistry and deep knowledge of mixology that goes into every cocktail at this unusual spot,” located below Little Sister in the nightlife-heavy King Street West neighbourhood.

Enjoy some outdoor time

Close to Yorkville, the MICHELIN-recognized chef suggests strolling the scenic Philosopher’s Walk footpath, which winds its way behind the Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Conservatory of Music and University of Toronto

Start the short, wheelchair-accessible trail on Bloor Street West just west of the ROM’s main entrance; it ends on Harbord Street, surrounded by U of T’s historic architecture just a short walk from numerous restaurants and cafés. 

Looking to spend more time outdoors in nature? On weekends, you’ll find Nakagawa wandering through the many trails at High Park with his daughter or catching a glimpse of the wildlife at Grenadier Pond. 

While the park is stunning all year long, his favourite time to visit is during spring’s cherry blossom season, which he says reminds him of his native Japan, when the sakura, akebono and fugenzo would be in full bloom. 

Visit Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa MICHELIN Bib Gourmand–recognized restaurant Aburi Hana in Yorkville.