It’s no secret that Vancouver is a sushi paradise. With plenty of fresh fish just off the coast and a health-conscious population that just can’t get enough sashimi, the city supports hundreds (if not thousands) of sushi restaurants.
Real sushi connoisseurs have no shortage of high-end options to get their fix. Tojo’s on Broadway is widely regarded as one of the best Japanese restaurants in Canada. (In fact, the Emperor and Empress of Japan have eaten there.) Meanwhile, Yaletown’s Blue Water Cafe puts a trendy, modern spin on things with its swanky sushi bar.
But, as bargain lovers know, the real challenge is finding a great cheap sushi joint. So I’d like to hear from you:
Do you have a favourite cheap sushi restaurant in Vancouver? Share your bargain secrets by leaving a comment below.
Finding fantastic cheap sushi, of course, requires walking a fine line. There are plenty of places in Vancouver offering 18-piece specials for $5.95. But I wouldn’t suggest eating at just any of these. I like to use the smell test: If a cheap sushi restaurant smells fishy when I walk through the door, I turn around and leave.
There are a few other important criteria to keep in mind. When you walk in, take note of whether the place looks clean. The old adage is true: If a restaurant washroom is dirty, you don’t want to know what the kitchen looks like. Then, look around: Are there plenty of customers coming in and out? High turnover at least guarantees that your sushi hasn’t been sitting around for hours.
And it’s always important to pay close attention to the sushi bar itself and the sushi chef. Presentation is critical in Japanese dining. A sloppy sushi bar spells trouble. Is the bar kept immaculately clean at all times? Does the chef look clean and well groomed? (Don’t laugh: This guy is going to be handling raw meat that goes directly into your mouth). Take a close look at how the chef handles his knives. These are the sacred instruments of sushi. If they’re not wielded skillfully, it’s a good sign to go elsewhere.
Finally, it’s time for the taste test. Now, it’s very easy to hide inferior fish inside fancy rolls or maki covered with lots of sauces. From my experience, I’ve found that the real barometer is a simple negitoro maki (the basic tuna and scallion roll). If this tastes clean, crisp and refreshing, you’re in luck. But if it has a fishy smell or aftertaste, it’s a good bet that the rest of the dishes feature subpar fish, as well.
Now, meeting all of these criteria in a fancy or even mid-range sushi restaurant should be a breeze. It’s finding the cheap sushi joint with fresh fish, clean digs and a skilled chef that’s the challenge. Any suggestions?
Do you have a favourite cheap sushi joint in Vancouver? Share your picks below.
For more updates on sushi and more in Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.