Foodosophy of Sushi – A Dialogue


Irasshaimase!!!

Please have a seat at the counter…

Legend: o-toro / foodosopher ([food-o]) / shokutsu

[o-toro] Sushi is a topic which tends to stir a lot of debate due to its recent mainstream acceptance around the globe. We have (at times) been called sushi snobs, for having extremely high standards when it comes to this Japanese delicacy. So I figured it was about time that we (as a team) put in writing our honest thoughts on this topic – to start some dialog about the food itself.

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One More Sushi – Vancouver, BC


One More Sushi
222-2155 Allison Road
Vancouver, BC
(604) 228 9773

One More Sushi on Urbanspoon

Located on the second floor of  mixed commercial/residential complex just behind University Village at UBC, One More Sushi is impossible to see from the road.  With three other places (Suga Sushi, Osaka Sushi, Omio Japanese Restaurant) in the same general area that also serve up their take on sushi, it makes for a very condensed location for Japanese food.  As such, unless you knew about it from actually walking in the area, I highly doubt you ever knew it exists and most people probably satisfy their sushi fix at one of the other better known and more visible places.

As it occupies a more spacious area, the seating floorspace is clearly the largest of the sushi serving restaurants in this geographical area.  A long narrow entranceway leads into this space, with the sushi bar along one side that leads back to the kitchen area, as well as a bar station that is located nearby as well.  As the lighting was incredibly dark, and we were seated at the opposite end, I could not be sure but it appeared like there were private rooms at the other side of the room.  The decor was your typical, North American interpretation of what a Japanese restaurant “should look like”, with cheap pictures and paintings hanging on the walls.  One more thing I would mention is that the heating, or lack there of, made the place very cold – something that people who have gone there on multiple occassions have told me never changes.   So dress warmly!

In the mood just to share a few appetizers and get a sample of their sushi, our table chose a basic spinach Gomae, which had a weak flavored but really thick consistency to their sesame paste/dressing.  Not the good first food impression we were hoping for.  This was followed by a serving of the Agedashi Tofu.  It had a very thin layer of coating and the tofu itself was fresh and very soft.  Perhaps they could have fried it a bit longer and provided a more flavorful broth to accompany it.  Two appetizers in, and I was disappointed at how lighthanded they were with the depth of flavor in both.

Not my selection, but this is the Yam Tempura Maki.  I don’t tend to like sweet things in sushi nor maki in general, so I am not the best person to be commenting on this plate.  The piece I had confirmed my preferences, not that I can’t eat it

Lastly, as I was somewhat hesitant to try any nigiri, I elected to go with the Chirashidon.  That way I could at least try to get a semblance of the quality of their product, freshness and skill in cutting.  It came in a rather smallish bowl which was fine as too many places put this in a large one and compensate by filling it with too much sushi rice.  It turned out the ingredients themselves were simply average – not horrifically bad that I couldn’t eat it, but not overly enthusiastic at the same time either.

Apologies for the poor quality of pictures, as they were taken with my mobile, but I hope you were able to form some image in your mind of what each dish looked and tasted like.  With its seemingly strong level of popularity with the student crowd at UBC, I imagine One More Sushi will continue to be a relatively busy place despite its shortcomings and pumping out just average/sub-standard fare.  I just know it won’t have me coming back, One More Time…

One More Sushi on Urbanspoon

Kitsilano Sushi – Vancouver, BC


Kitsilano Sushi
3105 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 737 0181

In my ongoing quest to explore, document and capture visually the Canadian west coast food scene, I rely on a myriad of methods.  For instance, simple random stops alone when I spot a new location while walking or driving around town, listening to recommendations/suggestions from others that I personally know, reading informative online sources introducing places I’ve never heard of from people I’ve never met, and probably the most enjoyable, an invitation from friends/acquaintances to join in on a group meal.  With such a diverse system, you can imagine it is quite the shotgun approach; and just like Forrest said about his box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get”.

On a recent rainy evening (no surprise for Vancouver in the fall), I had the pleasure of dining out with my friends who have a young family, including two little boys aged four and one.  It seems the children are fans of rice and in particular sushi rolls, so we headed out in search of a kid-friendly, Japanese food serving establishment in Kitsilano.  This part of Vancouver is probably known as a neighborhood with a good concentration of restaurants across a spectrum of cuisines from around the world.  There are still many I have yet to try and given the boom-and-bust cycle of the restaurant business, I am sure there will be some that I will never get to eat at before they disappear into the restaurant cornfield of dreams.

We settled on Kitsilano Sushi – I know, not a very inventive name but it served as a bright beacon for us as we scanned the streets for something that met our needs in terms of location and the food being served.  Unknown to me, it was a very popular place for dinner, judging from the mostly full dining area as well as a line up at least five people deep who were either placing takeout orders or waiting to pick them up.  There were at least four people behind the sushi counter, which you see immediately upon entering the front entrance, as well as some staff whose main role appeared to be shuffling between the kitchen and tables, but with a lower emphasis on paying attention to the immediate needs of eating customers.  Either they are in need of more bodies to man the fort, or feel that service should just be about bringing things to tables and clearing empty dishes away.  Friendly, personal attention is not to be expected here – think more cafeteria service.

Personally, I am not a fan of maki (roll) sushi.  But for many Canadians and young children, I know its quite popular.  Maybe with parents, as it seems to be easier for their little ones to eat and rolls enable them to get some vegetable-based nutrients into them as well, it makes for a common selection.  The dreaded Dynamite Roll that we ordered, played right into my argument that maki do not often make for good eats.  For just minutes after we had placed our first round of sharing orders, two rolls of this were delivered to our table.  This shocked us, as it was going to be obvious that these had been made in advance, thus the prawn tempura inside would be cold and the outer crispy layer would be a oily, and soggy disappointment.  This was indeed the case.

The Alaska Roll (salmon, artificial crab, cucumber and avocado) was slightly better in terms of taste.  Though they did skimp out heavily on the outer dredging with Masago.  The rice, as with the earlier Dynamite Roll, was again overly soft for my personal liking.  Combined with the pressing needed to make the maki, it just made the rice seem more mushy than it should be.

The Assorted Nigiri set was just average, not much to comment on here.  Nothing had a hint of fish-gone-bad though, so passed on that front.  I think the high turnover they have here, would help in that regard, no matter what the quality of their ingredient may be.

The boys loved the Assorted Tempura.  Not to let this review have to depend on the preferences/pallates of those under four feet tall, I must include that it was not up to my favored standard.  The exterior batter was too thick, and deep fried in too hot of an oil – reminded me of the kind of deep fried veggies you get in a run-of-the-mill Chinese buffet.  I continue to find it difficult to find a really well done, light but still crispy tempura in Vancouver on a consistent basis.  The only exception being the yam tempura that I had at Octopus Garden.  They know how to do it right there in my opinion.

For quick, basic, and convenient (for take out) maki sushi, Kitsilano Sushi is a safe call and the price is definitely right and very affordable, which makes it the McDonald’s of Sushi on this road.  Though I will not purposely go back as price is not a real huge factor for me when I am craving quality sushi.   The previously reviewed Sai-z that sits across the street, is on the opposite end of the cost spectrum.  That said, they make an interesting combination in such close proximity, with each carving out a niche and clientele base that seemingly supports both of their businesses.

Kitsilano Sushi on Urbanspoon

Sai-z Japanese Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


[Update: July 2009.  After a brief concept change to a lower priced izakaya-style menu, has now closed its doors, changed ownership and renamed]

Dare to be different. Amid the hundreds of restaurants offering sushi in the greater Vancouver area, in all forms from the horrifically bad but cheap all-you-can-eat, to very good but preferably-on-expense-account options, it is clear that some have taken a step to differentiate. When it comes to their creations, some have been quite bold and have included ingredients that would make die hard traditionalists cringe and scream bloody murder. Sai-z is clearly one of them, incorporating a creative blend of traditional and non-traditional ingredients in many of their dishes. Case in point, their use of fruits such as mango and papaya in some of their sushi rolls!

Located on popular West Broadway, which is lined with numerous restaurants thus competition is fierce, Sai-z is located across the street from a boutique cinema theater. When the weather is warm, the sliding doors are opened, and there is a narrow patio that has a few tables right on the sidewalk. Stepping inside, the waiting area leads to the main floor area with table seating that has a mini grand piano off to the right. On this night, there wasn’t a live performer, but I am told that it does take place on certain nights. The crowd was quite young, mainly twenty-something groups of friends or couples on dates. I think the relaxed mood of the place probably is conducive to intimate outings and conversations, compared to say the boisterous izakaya scene downtown.

Scanning the special summer set price offering and not finding it to our interest, my dining companion and I chose from the regular menu. After placing our order for drinks, a one-spoon otoushi of a marinated mixture of tuna and green onions. Unfortunately, this was bad, quite literally – it had a terrible fishy smell to it. Not the best of starts.

Seeing the uni chawanmushi peaked my curiosity, so I had to give this a try. A large piece of uni was floating on top of this steamed Japanese egg custard, and deep below were some other seafood ingredients such as scallops, fishcake, prawns, as well as some mushrooms and thin slivers of yuzu peel. The base stock that was used was quite rich, perhaps too much for my personal liking. The addition of the uni certainly didn’t aid in lightening things up. It tasted okay, but I guess I like my chawanmushi simpler.

Another hot appetizer we had was this noodle wrapped and deep-fried shrimp served with a spicy mayo dip. The contrast between the crispy exterior and the plump, juicy shrimp inside was superb! The overall flakiness of it made it a bit messy to eat at times, as bits would fly off while biting through the crust. The dip was a mixture of shichimi and Japanese mayonnaise, adding both a creamy and spicy element to the total dish (and a mix that I’m finding appear more and more around Vancouver’s izakaya scene). This was a great pick up from the hot appetizer section.

Next up was the sushi selection. By-passing some of the unique choices, we settled on a single roll, called the Double Smoke Roll. This was comprised of a combo of unagi (smoked eel) and smoked salmon. Pieces of fake crabmeat, tempura bits and sprouts also added some more texture and flavor, with the outside of the roll dressed with a sweet teriyaki-like sauce. I thought the dual smoked flavored would be overpowering, but was pleasantly surprised that it was not. Each piece was densely packed, making it feel more filling than it already ways. A solid offering.

A platter of assorted nigiri rounded out our meal, sixteen pieces of maguro, shake, ebi, hamachi, hotate, tobiko, uni, unagi, a California roll and a dynamite roll. The size of the rice ball was “very Japanese”, by that I mean it was smallish and loosely compacted. Personally, this is what I am used to and prefer. So I was glad that it wasn’t that usually tightly bound, poorly flavored, monster-sized ball of sushi rice that you find at too many places in this town. The fish was good, each fresh and succulent, and not too big that it would take more then one mouthful.

Sai-z definitely feels and looks unlike your regular run of the mill restaurant specializing in Japanese food in Vancouver. I think it may be remnants of a previous tenant (Italian, Greek?) but the inner chamber looked very inviting with it high ceiling. There seemed to be a second deck above as I could hear some people upstairs dining as well. The open sushi bar that lines the back wall was quite long, and I could picture people wanting to sit up there and take in the show. Service was a bit lacking at times, with servers spending more time standing by the sushi bar than paying attention to diners. Our server in particular was quite anxious in clearing away our plates each time, which bothered me as it seems she was more interested in doing that than any other service task. Finally, pricing was perhaps above average, and thus might turn off some folks who are used to more quick dine-and-dash sushi joints.

I’ll certainly go back, though probably not often just given the price point. There are still a slew of menu items that I’d like to try out, so that gives me another reason to return.

Sai-z Japanese Restaurant
3116 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-732-7249
Hours: [Lunch] Fri-Sun, 12pm to 2:30pm; [Dinner] Sun to Thu, 5:30pm to 10:30pm; Fri & Sat, 5:30pm to 11:30pm

Sai Z on Urbanspoon