Misai Japanese Restaurant – Calgary, AB


Misai Japanese Restaurant
7-1915 32 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB T2E 7C8
(403) 250-1688

Choices – so many choices. In today’s society, we are accustomed to what some might consider an excessive amount of choice. While having more choices is usually better, in the restaurant industry, too much choices can be a very bad thing. A menu with too many choices usually means too much stock, not enough turnover, leading to lower quality. Too many choices generally mean that less care and attention are paid to each individual dish, also resulting in lower overall quality, and more inconsistency. Does it automatically mean the food will be bad? No. But i find it tough to believe a restaurant can perform to their full potential with a wide and extensive menu, unless the menu has been very very carefully planned.

Misai Japanese Restaurant is one of the few choices available in the NE for Japanese food. Located in a small strip mall of a busy commuter avenue, they’ve been around for quite some time – definitely one of the earlier “new entrants” to the Japanese restaurant community. Not a venerable institution like Sushi Hiro, but it has been around for almost a decade. It was, for the longest time, the favorite restaurant of my former room-mate and myself – we’d make the trek once to twice a week, and order the same thing every time. This was back when we had less choice.

The hallmark of the Misai menu is choice. Not only do they serve sushi, sashimi, and the general cooked standby’s – tempura, udon, soba, teriyaki, but they were the first in Calgary to carry a heavy Izakaya-influenced menu – Hamachi cheeks, grilled saba head, Grilled Ika, and a variety of other small plates and dishes. The result is the biggest menu at a Japanese restaurant i’ve ever seen. 8-10 very large pages filled with an infinite variety of dishes.

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This, unfortunately, is also their biggest drawback. From raw fish, to complex raw lobster meals, to a dizzying array of cooked dishes, the quality of the food generally suffers. There are several gems on the menu though.

My favorite dish at Misai is the Salmon Sashimi. Large (usually too large) pieces of firm, tasty salmon. This used to be the most amazing value on the menu, but even with recent price hikes (not exact on the price, but it is now roughly $1.80 a piece), it is still excellent value. The quality of the salmon can vary from day to day, but in general, is very good.

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Their bento boxes are also pretty reasonable. A selection of Nigiri, sashimi, tempura, rice, miso, salad, and tsukemono make for a large amount of variety at a reasonable price. The rice for the nigiri is pretty mediocre, but the tempura is often reasonable – not overbattered like many other establishments in town. Salad is lightly dressed, fish is reasonably fresh, the overall verdict on the bento is pretty good.

Out of their other dishes, I would definitely skip the lobster feast. Their grilled squid, and other grilled fish parts are usually frozen, which results in a noticeable decrease in quality, particularly in texture. Freezing fish cheeks and other delicate pieces that lack the fat and structure to stand up to freezing has it’s impact. They aren’t bad, but you can definitely get better.

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With the influx of Japanese restaurants into Calgary over the past 5 or 6 years, we now have an unprecedented amount of choice. Misai Japanese Restaurant, which used to be one of the best Japanese restaurants in town, is now just one of many acceptable places that are reasonable to eat at, but nothing very exciting. I would not measure them on par with Wa’s, Blowfish, or Zipang, but for NE Calgary, which has few choices to begin with, they are definitely the best of the lot. I really wish they would concentrate on just trying to do fewer things more consistently and better, but if you go, choose your dishes wisely – it’ll likely be the difference between an average meal, and a good one.

Misai Japanese on Urbanspoon

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10 thoughts on “Misai Japanese Restaurant – Calgary, AB

  1. > foodosopher

    I’ve been able to confirm your take on salmon sashimi in western Canada being among the best there is – the stuff I’ve experienced in SE Asia has been horrific. This plate at Misai looks amazing in comparison in terms of color and thickness of cuts.

  2. Shokutsu,

    I had the same experiences in Japan. The salmon was just not that good. Hopefully you spend your precious meals on the good stuff instead of trying salmon sashimi in SE Asia! :)

  3. As I have been hanging out in Central America (honduras today) lately, I have not been able to check in. And while I have enjoyed the endless supply of beans and tortillas….that sashimi looks damn good!!

  4. Raidar

    Wow, color me envious! Enjoy Central America – you’ll be back to dreary Canadian winter with good salmon sashimi soon enough :)

  5. Next time you are in Calgary and visit Misai let me know what you experience. The last few visits we’ve made have gone from bad to worse and I’d be curious to know if you feel as we do that they are going downhill.

    • RR – don’t have plans to be back in Calgary for quite some time (though plans always change). I’ll check in with some local friends and see if any have been there more recently and let you know.

  6. I have recently moved to Calgary and love my Japanese food I can safely say that the food and the service were both very good. I have spent the last two years in Hong Kong and two years before that in Tokyo. Although there are some places that will serve you small fancy looking dishes the Misai has my vote in Calgary.

  7. Pingback: Sushi: Sushi Hiro | Happy Sushi Belly

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