Sushi Vancouver – Vancouver, BC

The name alone should tell you something about this place. Much like all the pizzerias (or “pizza parlors” as our friends south of the border are apt to call them) that try to outdo their rivals by putting a series of letter A’s onto the beginning of their business name in an attempt to get to the front of the line when it comes to the Yellow Pages, the generically named Sushi Vancouver is just trying to get noticed. After a pair of visits, I can confirm now that unfortunately, I think it will be for all the wrong reasons.

My latest visit was on a Sunday, typically a day when most Japanese restaurants, and a lot of others, close their doors for a day of rest. Having a craving for some sushi though, this did not deter me, and hence, my stop at Sushi Vancouver after seeing their open sign up. My first take out meal there a few months back when they first opened did not leave me with a memorable impression. I figured, it was worth giving another try to see if anything had changed, with the expectation that this is just a grab-and-dash sushi establishment.  Quite frankly, my determination to grab some sushi could have led me to just about any open door that was serving this up on this day. I know, I must learn to be more selective and know when to put a stop to my tunnel vision, as I’ve been hurt more times than I care to count.

For a multi-person sharing order, my choices were made from nigiri (hand-formed sushi) choices, two here, four there, etc. These ranged from the low end of 99 cents each for the shake (salmon), maguro (tuna) and tamago (egg) to the $1.60 for the ikura (salmon roe). By the way, the most expensive nigiri on the menu is the mirugai (geoduck clam) at $3.  In total, I think I had just over thirty individual pieces.

The restaurant itself was empty, as it was the first time I had walked inside.  Placing the order was relatively pain free as it was just giving some numbers to each piece.  Since the man behind the counter was obviously the same person who would be making it, was looking for some work to do, I figured he’s be snappy about it and get right on it.  Guess again.

From talking to his wait staff, to playing with his kid behind the bar, opening up this container and that, and searching for things in the refrigerator, I am not sure if he was truly interested in making my meal or was just treating the thing as a bothersome task.  With some loud Chinese ballad playing over the speakers, he then proceeded to start singing as if he were alone in the shower, which broke the last straw of my patience.  With his back to me the entire time, I began to really get worried about what exactly he was doing.  His arm movements suggested that he was not really smooth with creating the nigiri, each action a painfully, slow step.  The rhythmic motion of creating the shari (rice ball) and placing the cut piece of neta (topping) on top and forming the nigiri, I just couldn’t see him doing naturally.  Part of me thinks the way he has set up his counter, not allowing customers to openly see his working style, suggests that he is lacking confidence in his abilities.

After what was about a forty-five minute agonizing wait, during which time no other customers came inside, I was finally given my order to go.  The bad taste that was left in my mouth after this brutal service experience, made me wonder if I would have the appetite to eat my portion of this meal.

First glance, things did not “look” horribly bad.  Until I got to the toro (fatty tuna) pieces.  Some strange red strings were hanging from the fish slices from some of the nigiri.  It looked like thin blood veins to me.  Shocking to see this, as one piece was just covered/embedded with them.  How the so-called chef could serve these kinds of pieces to a paying customer is beyond me.  To add to my dismay, the rice was so compactly formed with each piece, that it took an extra effort to chew through.  I really dislike it when sushi’s rice is so hard that it might as well been pressed down in a work worker’s vice.  The rest of the toppings were unremarkable, just average to slightly bad.

The only saving grace was the relatively generous amounts of tobiko (flying fish roe) and ikura.

My fellow diners to whom I brought these boxes of “sushi” gave me enough dirty looks to ensure that I won’t be going back ever again.

Sushi Vancouver
3416 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (778) 371 1337
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am to 10pm; Sun, 12pm to 9:30pm

Sushi Vancouver on Urbanspoon


16 thoughts on “Sushi Vancouver – Vancouver, BC

  1. Shokutsu, despite I am not sure to what extent it is applicable in Vancouver, it might still be worth for you to read a book from Anthony Bourdain called Kitchen Confidential. In it, he describes some of the inner-working of kitchens, including why you should never order a well-done steaks (aside form the obvious ones), seafood specials and seafood on Mondays (fishmongers’ last delivery might have been on Friday or, “best” case scenario, Saturday morning). Sure, in your case, it was Sunday night but I think it still applies to a certain extent.

    In the entry, you brought an interesting point: the fact it was playing “Chinese ballad” would make me think the place is run by non-Japanese poeple. How important is for a suhi restaurant to be run by Japanese people? Would this have happened had it been, say, Sushi Garden? (OK, it was not the best example but you get the idea). From my perspective, your bad experience might happen in any place, either because they were careless, had a bad day or they thought they could get away with it.

  2. >KimHo

    Funny you should mention Kitchen Confidential. Well over a year ago, the Foodosopher lent it to me to give it a read. Indeed the timing of supplier deliveries is worth noting. In the case of say tuna for sushi purposes though, my experience in western Canada is that it comes whole frozen. And depending on the chef’s understanding of how his stock depletes throughout the week, he’ll have accounted for any down time (e.g say if the business is closed on Sundays), and not have anything sitting as de-thawed product on that day to prevent any additional spoilage.

    The problem I experienced here was too fold. The quality of the toro – which I believe is one of the more better, and thus priced higher pieces of sushi on most menus – bothered me once I saw it in my takeout box as it was so poor. This should have never have been used, and I believe the chef, if he had any sense of quality control, would have made that decision not to try and use those bad pieces. Instead, I would have hoped he would say to me (as I was standing right there) that the toro he had left (if indeed it was the last of his supply at that moment, I do not know if it was the case), and ask me if I would be willing to adjust my order. Any reasonable customer would appreciate that I think and be flexible if explaining the situation.

    Second, the language of the song that was playing was less of a concern to me, than the fact that he did begin singing and his hands stopped moving. It was like he was at home and had forgotten that he was in his place of business, was still not done making my order despite it taking much longer than it should have, and his customer (me) was standing right there waiting. It was the ‘act’ of the singing that made my blood boil, as it was taking the attention and effort away what I thought he should be concentrating on – making my order. I’ve had great ethnic meals prepared by people not necessarily from that culture, so I do feel that it is not always important that food be made by those who might know it “best”, based on their DNA. It probably helps, but I think solid culinary training, an understanding of the cuisine, etc. are just as important.

  3. Sorry to hear about your experience at this particular establishment. There are a few too many dodgy sushi joints in metro Vancouver, which gives us pause when deciding if we should try a new (to us) sushi place. We really love our toro, and the ones in your photos don’t look very top-drawer at all. You are absolutely right in saying the chef should have ‘fessed up and suggested that your reverse your order. Knowing how good toro can be, this was really a bit of a shame. As an aside, the best toro I’ve ever had was in, strangely enough, Scotts Valley (10 mins north of Santa Cruz). I had two really sublime, melt in your mouth, pieces of oh-toro that were flown in from tsukiji.

    But in Vancouver, I guess we’ll continue going back to our “regular” places for sushi. The list has grown smaller since a number of places have moved on – but two of our favourites, Octopus Garden and Toshi’s, still remain.

  4. >ET

    Your strategy of only going to the tried-and-true is a wise one. One that I should follow more often. But in the quest to expand the coverage of reviews, we at Foodosophy will make the sacrifice and report back on the ones that end up not measuring up. Octopus Garden is a nice spot, I do recall the sushi being good there, albeit on the more pricey side. I was down on Main Street yesterday, but passed right by Toshi’s. Its a place I’ve heard of before but have never seen with my own eyes yet. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Ok, that toro looks straight up nasty. I wouldn’t even want to try it. Sometimes, the ethnicity does matter. I’m Chinese but even I wouldn’t go to most Vietnamese restaurants run by Chinese people because they don’t know how to make it right. And sushi places run by Chinese people are generally just ok, nothing really stand out but usually at least passable.

  6. >j

    In your experience, are there a lot of Vietnamese places that are run by Chinese in Vancouver? I think the couple I have checked out, have been Vietnamese operated – judging strictly from the native conversations I could hear from the kitchen/staff.

  7. J, I know some Vietnamese people who can speak Cantonese as well as any Guangdong native. Also, I have been told there are some distinctions between north and south Vietnamese cuisine. Could it be you prefer one to the other?

  8. There used to be one Chinese run Vietnamese restaurant on Robson St. It’s since been replaced by an Asian fusion type restaurant, not sure what the name is. That one used to be called Saigon or something like that. That was a total mistake especially cuz you don’t eat Vietnamese food in downtown. I think that’s the only one I’ve been to that was strictly run by Chinese people. If you go to other Vietnamese restaurants and hear some of them speaking Chinese, chances are they’ll be Chinese Vietnamese but it’s not really too common for Chinese people to run a Vietnamese restaurant.

  9. > KimHo

    Yes, its my understanding that the southern regions of Vietnam does have the Chinese influence in their culture, food, etc. So here, I guess I am referring to mainly Northern style, which is perhaps more simpler in ingredient use and perhaps more visible in North America (eg. pho). Being a carnivore too, I think I like the Northern dishes since they seem to contain a lot more beef in many of their creations. It seems I see more of this style than the South. If there are any good Southern Vietnamese restaurants, please do share, as I am very curious to try them out.

  10. I asked my Vietnamese friend about the differences in cooking styles between northern and southern. She said southern cooking style is more French influenced, features more fresh herbs, and northern cooking style includes more meat and that pho was invented in the north.

  11. > j

    Yes, that is my understanding of the differences as well, as noted in the earlier reply back to KimHo’s comment. I think we at Foodosophy need to explore a southern Vietnamese restaurant (hence my shout out for any recommendations), as my experience has been more with the northern style of this cuisine.

  12. Sorry your experience was so poor at this place…twice! I have to say though that I get take-out here at “Sushi Vancouver” at least 3 times a month and it really is good! You are missing out on a few awesome favorites of mine: Caterpillar Roll, Salmon Mango Roll and their Spicy Tuna Rolls are awesome! I’ve never had a problem with their Tuna Sashimi but their Salmon Sashimi has been a little “fishy” at times.

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