Check your spam messages on Instagram. That’s one thing Michelin Star Chef Ryusuke Nakagawa learned over the last five years. It’s one move that changed his life as he knew it, and how the Japanese chef ended up at Aburi Hana in Toronto.

Yorkville’s Aburi Hana is known for its modern Kyō-Kaiseki culinary experience. But behind the scenes, or perhaps right in front of you if you’re enjoying the dining experience, is chef Nakagawa and his journey which began at the age of 18 back in Japan. At the time, after growing up on Shikoku Island where he watched food documentaries at home with his father, Nakagawa moved to Shiga, east of Kyōto, to work in the kitchen at a hotel.

Over the years, he ended up working his way up to Head Chef, and began to photograph and share his creations on social media. At the time, the 28-year-old chef saw a message about an opportunity in Canada, but did not reply. Then when a second message came in from the same person, Nakagawa told Curiocity, “I had a feeling it was a scam.” He laughs, saying he replied after the third message.

It was Aburi Restaurants Canada, who at the time were working on opening Aburi Hana. Very quickly, Nakagawa took the opportunity, and moved to Toronto with his wife and young infant at the time.

What stood out about Nakagawa’s cuisine on his Instagram is his modern take on classic and traditional dishes, and it is also what Aburi Hana is known for today. While the seasonal menu changes every two months, there are staple dishes that are favourites and don’t change.

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One of chef Nakagawa’s signature dishes is the Maguro Flower, which is presented as a rose made from pieces of akami and chutoro. According to chef Nakagawa, the fish uses maguro which is usually dry aged for two to three weeks.

“It is a very traditional combination but the presentation is very modern,” said the chef, who presents it beautifully with dry ice.

Another signature must-try dish that doesn’t change at Aburi Hana is the Otoro, Caviar Sushi Monaka. While traditionally monaka is used for sweet desserts, chef Nakagawa uses this mochi rice shell as a savoury component in this dish. It is described as a Shinogi course with luxurious Ō-toro & Caviar Sushi Monaka.


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The monaka shell provides a crispy texture which gives a nice contrast to the soft and tender ō-toro and the caviar. Of course, as is every dish here, the placement and peesentation is very colourful, and representative of the season.

As for Nakagawa’s own personal favourites, he said that the Owan course makes that cut, also adding that it is the most important to him. The Owan course is the soup dish, and a traditional Kaiseki one in which he uses local ingredients. This season, for example, he uses a Butternut Squash Shinjo, and the broth is Yakinasu Dashi. The delicate soup also includes eggplant that is pureed, a thinly sliced Hokkaido Scallop, and colourful yuzu rinds.


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The presentation and local, seasonal ingredients definitely caught the eyes of the Michelin Guide when it first came to Toronto. Aburi Hana was awarded One Star in 2022 for its “high quality cooking,” states the Guide.

“I was very happy and emotional,” Nakagawa said, adding that when he moved to Canada, getting a Michelin Star was most important to him. “Every night, I would imagine getting the Michelin Star on the stage.”

And Star he got. And again in 2023.

“His cooking is personal and intricate, weaving multiple techniques and colors into every dish,” states the Michelin Guide on Nakagawa’s style.

Last year, Aburi Hana was also recognized as one of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2022.

It is no wonder the restaurant opens up seasonal bookings weeks in advance. And when you do book, get ready for a modern piece of colourful artwork with each dish served. After all, it is what chef Nakagawa is known for. It’s what landed him those messages on Instagram over five years ago, which, as luck would have it, weren’t spam.

Aburi Hana

Where:  102 Yorkville Avenue, Unit 4 (Lower Level)