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sushi

Ajisai Sushi Bar – Hidden but no gem

I had high expectations when visiting Ajisai Sushi in Kerrisdale due to the number of rave reviews and acclamations on the intarwebs over the freshness of their ingredients and authentic preparation methods.
I don’t usually order sushi by the piece, and couldn’t tell you the difference between a red snapper and a yellowtail because I don’t eat them enough to remember, so after some head scratching and random finger placement on a >200 item menu, our party of four had the following plate ordered:
Ajisai Sushi
It consists of their spicy sushi combo, ebi mayo (shrimp with a dabble of Japanese mayo on top. Not what I expected at $1.90/piece), futomaki, negi hama (yellowtail), and a roll with taro and bbq eel in it. Not pictured is their BBQ black cod. A slice that took over half hour to get to our table. It was the most decadent and buttered up piece of fish I’ve ever tasted.
The bill was quite reasonable because we had little of their flown in from across the pacific ocean exotica.

It may be unrealistic expectations, or that the items we ordered didn’t contain enough raw fish to make the freshness factor stand out, but I’ve had plenty of sushi from places that weren’t hyped for purveying exceptionally fresh ingredients, yet still manages to impress a casual sushi eater such as myself. Ajisai Sushi is not a bad restaurant, and very well may have great appeal for the aficionados and gurus looking for the freshest pieces of raw fish. It just wasn’t a gem for me.

Makoto Japanese Restaruant

I first noticed Makoto a few weeks back driving home from dinner at Sunflower cafe, and decided to give it a try last weekend. A nice balance of fresh ingredients, artistry, and authentic favorites makes this little family run restaurant a hit for me. They definitely pay a fair bit of attention to the artistry part just from looking at their volcano roll:
Makoto - Volcano Roll1
The idea of fried chopped scallop sushi may be strange, but when layered with Japanese mayo, sesame paste, and deep fried onions, one bite and it all starts to make sense.
Makoto - Volcano Roll

This was the only fun sushi concoction I ordered on this visit, but the food’s satisfying enough that Makoto will soon become one of my regular casual dinner spots.

map

Makoto on Urbanspoon

Sushi House + Seats = Nao Sushi

Nao Japanese Restaurant on Kingsway - Exterior Sushi House on Kingsway has been my ‘go to’ place for reliable take out sushi for a few years now. Recently, this once cramped restaurant reopened under the name Nao Sushi after major renovations to allow for a comfortable dine in experience.
Their menu have also been adjusted slightly to match the sit down format (for better or worse), but I was relieved to find my old favorites were still offered.

I ordered the ichi roll, pictured in the front row, lovingly named after Ichiro, with real crab and chopped scallop, futomaki roll, and cruncy roll. The angle of the picture doesn’t do a good job in conveying the monsterous size of their house roll in the back right.

Nao Japanese Restaurant on Kingsway - Sushi

Sushi lunch box. A good sampling of the fundamentals.

Nao Japanese Restaurant on Kingsway - Sushi Lunch

Nabeyaki Udon. More of a filler. No noodles manage to impress next to ramen.

Nao Japanese Restaurant on Kingsway - Nabeyaki Udon

One thing of note is that the tea served here is different than that of most other Japanese restaurants, being greener, stronger, and more fragrant. I’m not knowledgeable enough in teas to know what kind it is, but the only other restaurant I remember having it is  Sushi Hachi. If anyone knows more about the differences, please do let me know.

Likelihood of returning: You betcha.

map

Nao Sushi on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hachi 鮨八 – Mom & Pop does it right

On Friday I had the pleasure of getting off work early, which gave me some time to plan where to eat for dinner. After a bit of reading on the interweb reviews, and reaffirming with a bit of googlin and flickrin, I was set on Sushi Hachi 鮨八 in Richmond. (map)

Sushi Hachi - Exterior facing Cambie

The address is on Odlin, but Sushi Hachi is actually a part of Pacific Plaza and faces Cambie street. The interior is a cozy size, seating about two dozen, which is about a half dozen too many to manage comfortably for the Mom and Pop owners that staff this place. As a result, the mom darts from table to table at a Tokyo subway-esque pace while the pop is stationed at the sushi counter.

Sushi Hachi - Menu
Their menu has the regular sushi rolls and sashimi, along with a few delicacies, such as Shiokara (Squid guts), Ankimo (Fish Liver….think fois gras of the sea), and a variety of fish imported from Japan.
Sushi Hachi - Miso Soup with grilled fish
Miso soup is a separate order, and has got enough flavor to stand out. I think the secret is a piece of pre-grilled fish in the bowl.
Sushi Hachi - Oden
The Oden (on the menu as Japanese hot pot) had a bevy stewed goods soaking in a sweet broth, almost a meal in itself. I highly recommend this one as its a pretty good and not found at a lot of places.

I was expecting a few tentacles when I ordered the BBQ Squid, but instead got the whole squid! These were nicely done with enough of a chew make it interesting, but not tough. We couldn’t finish the whole thing, and half of it ended up being a late night snack, which went well with some beer.

Sushi Hachi - BBQ  Whole Squid

My fiancee isn’t a fan of sashimi, so we tried a few of their rolls. The spicy scallop and real crab roll (not shown) were good, and the house roll was just fully packed with good stuff. This was a huge order for two people, we were stuffed but still had a box to take home.

Sushi Hachi - House Roll

The food is of consistent high quality from the green tea to the pieces of ginger on the plate. Dinner for two came to less than $40.

Food: 8.7/10

Likelihood of returning: high

Sushi Hachi is a busy place, so reservations are recommended. (604 207-2882)

Sushi Hachi on Urbanspoon

Isami Sushi – casual Japanese food done well

isami sushi - exterior A bit of disclaimer: these pictures do no justice to the quality of food served at this fine establishment. On Kingsway in front of Metrotown in Burnaby, there are about four billion Japanese restaurants that appear to be competing fiercely with each other on having the most generic sushi menu served in gut popping proportions, while charging prices that make you think

isami sushi - rice wine steamed mussels“hm, not bad for a boatload of fish, and the taste totally meets my expectations. I sure am getting great value out of this meal…yet its not AYCE… how is that possible?”
Meanwhile as you look over at the open kitchen and see an assembly line of young buckling sushi chefs rolling away like they were making doves out of clay, a lineup at the door extending to the sidewalk, and slowly it all begins to make sense.

isami sushi - beef tatakiisami sushiisami sushi - spider roll

Venture a bit further down, and you’ll find Isami Sushi, a quaint little place with a distinct Japanese feel, and the staff is actually Japanese.
In case you couldn’t tell, or just weren’t paying attention, the ratio of restaurants serving Japanese food to restaurants serving Japanese food owned by Japanese people in Vancouver has grown to 1024 to 1 this year. True fact.

Highly rated and low on the lineups, we gave Isami’s menu a spin with great pleasure.

We sampled a few of their sushi items, which were skillfully prepared, along with an appetizer of beef tataki and steamed mussels in some rice wine broth. Their dynamite roll was Dy-Na-Mite, and their spider roll had a huge crab leg sticking out and gave that roll more “spider” than it knows what to do with.

These guys don’t serve up big portions, but i figure its the opportunity cost in man hours used in rolling the goods that warrants the price of admission rather than the size of the generic frozen atlantic salmon being rolled.
The place is adequately staffed with a 4 person wait staff to take your order with attentiveness, and 2 senior looking sushi chefs at the helm. After 6 menu items, the bill came to less than $40, and we left full but not stuffed, and completely satisfied with the dining experience.
Food: 8.5/10
Ambience: 6/10
Crab Leg-to-Spider Roll Sushi Size Ratio: 1.5-1
Like sushi? Learn about this sacred food through the power of the intarnets:
All true. I swear it.

Isami Sushi on Urbanspoon

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