I remember it well.
I was sitting at the sushi bar at Tojo’s in Vancouver.
It was at the original location – a nondescript place – the second floor of a Vancouver office building.
But what it lacked in decor and ambience it made up with the extraordinary and stellar sushi and sashImi it was serving.
Vancouver was on the cusp of a culinary breakthrough and Japanese cuisine was part of it.
And chef Tojo was a stellar force in the breakthrough.
As a rule, he usually was behind the sushi bar slicing the freshest and finest seafood, creating sushi and sashimi masterpieces.
The sushi bar was my favourite place to sit. I would watch and marvel as he created artfully arranged, culinary morsels.
I was there so often, it gotten to the point that Chef Tojo was in charge.
He was in charge – making a variety of dishes for me, always prefacing, describing his selection, and then saying, “would you like to try?”
Tonight I was at the sushi bar by myself – my business dinner guest phoning saying he had to deal with an emergecy and could not make it.
As I was tucking into my first order – yellow fin tuna sashimi – a young chap sits beside me.
I say the usual “Hi” and he responds by also saying, ”Hi.”
As i am enjoying my yellowfin tuna sashimi, the young chap says – “what’s that?”
I tell him and now we have a conversation going.
He admits to knowing nothing about Japanese food.
I ask how adventuresome he is about food and he responds saying, pretty adventuresome.
My suggestion – let Tojo decide what to have.
Tojo makes California and B.C. rolls for each of us.
He loves them.
As the evening progresses Tojo keeps making more and more food for us.
We eventually get around to the inevitable question what do you do?
I tell him I work in television and he, in the entertainment business.
As a journalist I learned a long time ago that his short answer meant he did not want me to delve further.
But he told me he was from New Jersey, loved Vancouver.
And really enjoyed the food.
We ordered more food, accompanied by lots of sake.
We laughed a lot.
He was really interested in my job, wanted to know what my backgound was, where I had lived, what I liked about working in television.
After about two hours later dinner was over and he said – it was great talking to you, gave me a business card with his name on it, saying if you’re ever in the area, call me and I’ll meet you in New York.
The card said – John Francis Bongiovi Jr..
I took and said for sure I will.
Years later I discovered that he was Bon Jovi, the famous rock star.
He and the band had spent a fair time in Vancouver recording three albums from 1986 to 1992 at Little Mountain Studio, a recording haven for some of the best rock bands.
And of course Tojo’s had become the in-place to eat for many celebrities – Robin Williams, the Rolling Stones, Martha Stewart, David Beckham and Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp.