[Update: October 2009, CLOSED and replaced with Samurai Sushi Bar]
Wonder Sushi Land
4572 West 10th Avenue
Hours: Mon to Sat, 11:30am-9:30pm
Payment: Visa, Mastercard, Interact, Cash
Truly fitting for the Vancouver sushi scene, with a word such as “wonder” in the business title, as more often than not, I “wonder” if what I will get will be any good at all. I like to think that it’s the adventurer in me and my open heart that allows me to give any spot at least one chance and a reason why I continue to tryout the city’s many non-descript, off-the -beaten-path restaurants offering sushi. Rest assured, I am generally a logical bloke and I know that I am playing Russian roulette here – but with more than one bullet in the chambers. The odds are stacked against me, but yet I still pull the trigger, time and time again. Call me crazy, call me stupid, either way, I know it won’t stop – this despite the fact that I’ve eaten in some of the finest sushi bars in Ginza…
Wonder Sushi Land has to be one of the most westerly-located sushi restaurants in Vancouver. There’s a few on campus at UBC, but this has to be the last outpost for sushi before getting onto those university endowment lands. It a hole-in-the-wall, sits right next to a Starbucks, and across the street from a decaying Safeway in this Point Grey neighborhood. Given the area, its not surprising to see that the customers on this night when I decided to get some takeout, was a pair of fourty-something Caucasian ladies, apparently enjoying the demographic’s favorite, chicken teriyaki, and a not too surprising order of California maki.
Thinking I’d make it easy for everyone, least of all myself, I scanned the takeout menu and eyeballed the list of nigiri sushi set. Quite hungry and knowing the portions could be small, I opted for item #86 (Combo “D” Nigiri Sushi) that said it was “good for 2”, comprised of 2 pieces each of tuna, salmon, tobiko, ebi, hamachi, chopped scallop, tako, and tekka maki. Told it’d take 15-20 minutes, I stood around for a while checking out the decor and seating arrangements before my ears started to hurt. Why?
This place is Chinese-owned/operated and the chef was blurting out loudly in Mandarin to the lone server, despite the fact she was a mere foot or two away and the kitchen space is not separated from the dining area by any barrier – so the sound traveled. I could see that sitting and eating there could be a bit annoying if that kept up. I am not sure how that couple could continue their conversation. Decided to save myself from the noise pollution, I said I’d step out and come back later, retreating to the relative quiet of the inside of my car parked outside. I noticed the outdoor seating at the Starbucks was full, but Wonder Sushi Land wasn’t. Perhaps its the “audio enhancements” that was a deterant, at least that’s what I told myself as I began to think about my meal being prepared inside. Again, I wondered…
Dashing back in and out while the loud talking continued from the kitchen, I quickly paid for my meal and snatched the plastic bag and headed out of there in a hurry. Once back in the safety of my home, I unwrapped the package to find my order. An immediate look relieved my first worry, all the pieces were there. Appearances, not bad, though the hamachi looked a bit doggy, and upon tasting I was right. The chopped scallop dolled up with all that mayonnaise disguised how fresh or unfresh it was. The tobiko, plentiful. The tako, a bit thin but otherwise acceptable. Ebi, good. Salmon, nice. Tuna, a bit too soft, same with the tekka. Moreso with the tekka it was the rice that was too mushy. The “chef” had tried to compensate for the overdone-ness of the rice by putting an extra squeeze on the rice for that and also the nigiri. It was much too tightly balled up, as I like my rice to almost fall apart once in the mouth.
Was it completely bad? No, not at all. Was it great? Far from it. For the price, $19.95, the quantity was good, as it was a good sized meal with fourteen pieces, plus a half maki. If they’d fix the rice, I’ll be back, as its one of the more convenient places for me to do a order-and-dash takeout. Another joint down the road is just horrible, and another nearby is borderline acceptable, so Wonder has it by default that I might be back. But I know I will never eat inside, if that kind of sound from the kitchen is commonplace. I’ll let you wonder for yourself if Wonder Sushi Land is for you though…