When I moved from Vancouver to Calgary, my body almost went into shock from sushi withdrawal. After years of searching, I sucked up the extra costs and found 3 restaurants that would serve my sushi fix – Sushi Club (as per my post here), Misato, & Wa’s. I’ve now officially kicked off Sushi Explorations in Edmonton to find good sushi in my new home.
As with most foods, a lot of personal preferences go into what makes sushi good or great. To quantify this exploration, I’ve chosen the following measures, which best suit what I’m looking for. Each rating category is worth up to 5 points.
1. Variety - I like places that offer interesting variety of rolls (not just offshoots of California Rolls or Spicy Tuna Rolls) and when restaurants can mix up their roll offerings regularly – to keep things interesting for their repeat customers. If the restaurant has a house roll, 90% of the time I will order it, just to see what the chef has deemed worthy of calling their restaurant special. By the same token, I love it when restaurants have a good variety of sashimi. It’s great when the sashimi listing differentiates the types of fish, for example “sockeye salmon”, “coho salmon” instead of just “salmon sashimi”.
2. Quality & Freshness - This is a biggie for me as I’m sure most people eating raw fish. I judge the freshness of the fish by a clean & sweet (not fishy) flavour and the texture of the fish. My most favourite type of sashimi is Toro (tuna belly), and it is my go-to item to rate a sushi restaurants freshness and technique. Toro should be buttery (melt-in-your-mouth) but not mushy, sweet but not fishy. I also hate it when my sashimi comes frozen (blasphemous!). The other item I may use to judge a restaurant’s sashimi freshness is uni (sea urchin), I’ve had not-so-fresh uni in the past and it’s foul. In fact, my first ever uni wasn’t fresh and turned me off uni for years until I had the real deal. Uni should be creamy with a subtle briny-ness and again a nice sweetness. For rolls, I’m looking for well matched flavours, nice ingredients, good ratio of ingredients/rice/nori/wasabi.
3. Rice – Rice is an important foundation for sushi. We generally take it for granted until its made poorly. With sushi, badly made rice can take away from the whole dish. Many of us have heard tales of Japanese sushi apprentice who spend years only making rice to ensure a discipline in making the perfect rice for sushi. I’m looking for rice that is well seasoned with very subtle flavours of vinegar, sugar, salt, and maybe even dashi if I’m lucky. The rice shouldn’t be overseasoned or taste vinegary and should be cooked through but not overcooked (i.e. too sticky/mushy). The amount of rice is also important and shouldn’t be packed too tightly, the grains need to be loosely packed but should keep together when picked up with chopsticks.
4. Price – I learned living in Calgary to not expect Vancouver prices. Most sushi places I go to in Alberta are about double the sushi prices in Vancouver. I’m looking for value – I don’t mind paying more when the quality, freshness, details are worth it.
5. Service & Experience - I’ll also be considering the experience created by the service level, hospitality, and knowledge of the staff. As well as the ambiance of the restaurant that all goes into creating the overall dining experience.
I’m stoked to undertake this sushi tour in Edmonton. I’d love to hear your sushi experiences and recommendations for sushi in Edmonton.
itadakimasu (translation: bon appetit)
Photos by Dong Kim