Toyo Sushi – Vancouver, BC
With less than a year to go until the 2010 Winter Olympics, the impact of the preparation for the event continues to receive heavy coverage in the media. For Vancouverites, among the most contentious issues out there is the ongoing construction of the Canada Line; which is a rapid transit line which will eventually connect three major areas including the downtown core, the Vancouver International Airport and the nearby city of Richmond.
This intersection (pictured below and taken from the window of my car) at West Broadway and Cambie Street has seen its fair share of trouble and bothersome construction work. And sadly, many businesses along this stretch have suffered tremendously due to the building of the line and virtual cutting off of most pedestrian traffic so crucial to their daily cash flow.
Knowing this, I was surprised to see a restaurant that I’ve dined in since before the construction really got going on this street almost two years ago, was still flashing its “Open” sign. A business next door I noticed had moved out, probably due to a decline in sales or just general frustration at the interference to their operations.
So it was with a sense of part pity and curiosity that got me to check out the Toyo Sushi again. I wanted to help support them as a paying customer and applaud them for sticking through the tough times, as well as to see if this blatant disruption to the area directly in front of their restaurant was having a detrimental effect on attracting customers.
Stepping inside, I could see not much had visibly changed since my last visit. Widely spaced at the main entrance way, brightly lit near the front where the cashier station was set up, along with the sushi bar counter. There were a few groups of customers already seated and eating, lined up towards the far end of the floor near the windows looking out towards False Creek.
Every time I’ve eaten here, it seemed there were some regulars at the sushi bar conversing casually with the main man behind the counter, and it was the same on this night as well. That’s always a good sign for me to see at a sushi bar. Often I’ll be one of them and try to learn more about their restaurant and what’s fresh, but on this evening dining alone, I was seated in one of the partitioned booths. A small serving of edamae (baby soybeans) was brought to me right after receiving the menu, along with some hot barley tea.
The menu at Toyo Sushi is all-encompassing and fits the mold of what many people in North America would expect from a restaurant serving Japanese cuisine. Being a Korean-run operation, there was also a single page at the back of the menu listing some staple Korean dishes.
As I was in the mood for sushi (and its the only thing I’ve ever had on my past visits too), I opted for one of their assorted nigiri sets (11 pcs plus 1 roll). Technically, the formations were good with a narrower shari (rice), with no strange raggedy cuts. Freshness was solid all around, and I particularly enjoyed the aka maguro (red tuna) and the amaebi (sweet shrimp) and uni (sea urchin).
If there were some system on which I would sort and thus rate all of the numerous sushi serving places in the GVA, I would probably slot Toyo Sushi in the mid-range. Clean, decent nigiri that is done with a touch that would suggest its more than a dine-and-dash-takeout-joint level and best to give it the respect of a dine-in, but obviously not quite up there with the best on offer in the region.
I do hope they can continue to pick up customers and survive during this brutal business-altering period they’re experiencing, as I will be back when I am in the area when I have a craving for good nigiri.