Tokyo and Kyoto – Part 2 – Day 1 Sushi Dai

 

So our first destination was of course Tsukiji Market. We always plan and recommend this to be the first thing on the agenda because in order to minimize wait times, you will need the be there at 4 to 4:30am to line up for sushi. Since most of our friends are from North America, you may be jet lagged, and what better advantage do we have against others than already being awake? Yes, it’s worth it if you love sushi because it’s both affordable and incredibly fresh. You will not be able to get this freshness and simplicity in sashimi unless you go straight to the source.

Sushi Dai is fresh (AF), simple, and to the point. They do not dwell on anything fancy or excessive, not striving for creativity or inventions, they take the best quality ingredients and present it to you in what they feel to be the most optimal way. They are efficient, and the service lasts for about 20-30 minutes.

There are two options, 7 pieces or 11 pieces. Pretty much everyone is willing to pay for 11 pieces, so just get the 11. Between some of the nigiri courses (raw fish served on small ball of rice), there are also other foods, including their famous tamagoyaki which is very thin layered egg wrapped on itself. I love their rendition of the tamagoyaki because it is still very wet, like the texture of scrambled egg to my liking, and they incorporated other flavours into the egg, including green onion. They also had 4 pieces of maguro maki served in between.

Sushi Dai was as we had remembered it, and they were nice enough this time to provide hot tea during our wait outside. They were also much more organized in providing order to the line, and telling their patrons roughly how long the wait will be from their position. Overall, they’ve really done well in managing the tourists who come for their amazing sushi. Their chefs often dabble in multiple languages, and are proficient in english. The particular chef that we had on both occasions we were there spoke some Cantonese and Mandarin which was nice, and added a sense of familiarity that many tourists realize they are missing when travelling.

I love this sushi shop and will be sad if they do not re-open upon the move of the Tsukiji Market (date unknown as of yet).

Food: 9.2/10
Service: 4/5
Atmosphere: sushi bar, small
Cost: ~$40CAD

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Yasu – The Annex

Because we were craving for sushi, we decided to treat ourselves for the Christmas by going to a relatively new omakase restaurant on Harbord St. We had arrived for the 6:00pm seating, and were the first ones to get there, so we could get acquainted with the restaurant. We were greeted by one of the two waitresses (ours was Amy), and saw the two sushi chefs (Yoshi) busying themselves with final preparations.

The set up is extremely similar to the one that Nakazawa displayed. However, due to the fact that there was no restaurant service, the wait between pieces was less and there needed to be less people working, which also decreased the amount of (potential) chaos in the room. There are 3 rounds of 13 seating per evening, and the switchover time in between is quick.

We were impressed with the ginger that was provided, as we are both not fans of ginger. This one had a very faint sourness, with a good amount of sweetness, which balanced the ginger’s spiciness. It provided for an excellent palate cleanser, whilst still being a treat itself.

As I was driving, we did not order any sake or alcohol with the meal, but were lucky enough to try some of the Tatenokawa sake, courtesy of a very kind gentlemen sitting close to us. This sake is, as explained, the highest quality sake, as each grain of rice is polished down to remove any impurities and husk. It was incredibly smooth, and had a slight floral taste.

Some highlights of tonight’s fish were:

Seabass from Greece: the texture was almost like scallop; less chewy than most fish but not as buttery as white tuna.

Marinated Maguro: silky texture, soft

Smoked Spanish Mackerel: the amount of smokey flavour was excellently balanced, which was also able to soften the taste of mackerel that some people may veer on the dislike side.

Ocean Sea Trout: Slightly fatty, good flavour and well balanced. The thickness was perfect and was key to the overall mouthfeel

Hamachi: being tfung’s favourite type of fish for sushi purposes, this took the trophy for best overall nigiri of the night (the ootoro came in a close second). It’s just a perfect balance of everything, perfectly levelled. Not too fatty, not too firm, not too chewy, the flavour was not overpowering or lacking.

OVERALL

The food, the atmosphere, the company were absolutely amazing. I love how quaint the restaurant felt. It was proper, done well, and didn’t have that stuffy prestige that Nakazawa tended to have looming over your head. It was relaxed, easy, and extremely enjoyable. The chefs were not overly chatty, but still maintained that friendly banter from time to time. They were efficient and honoured the art of sushi to the best of their ability. The waitresses were both proficient in pronunciation of the Japanese fish and products, which I personally find affects my perception of the restaurant immensely. I was overall very happy with the meal and the evening, with the price and the service. I highly recommend anyone who is a sushi lover to come here. It is worth the money to experience all types of fish around the world (not just in one area as most omakase may tend to present), and if you’ve never been to omakase, this is definitely one that should be on your list.

Service: 5/5
Food: 9.3/10
Price: $80 (plus tax + tip), any extra pieces will be charged accordingly
Atmosphere: clean, simple, quaint, quiet, not for large groups (max 4)

YASU on Urbanspoon

~ kehwon

Sushi Nakazawa – West Village

I was very lucky to have been able to go to Sushi Nakazawa on the eve of my 24th birthday. Tfung was incredibly sweet to take me, and we were able to book the bar. The bar seats 10 guests, and since they were all pairs, I believe there were 5 reservations made at 12am, exactly 30 days prior. This is important when booking: make sure you have fast internet connection, and you have the windows open at around 11:50pm to wait for the 12:00am mark!

We were promptly seated when we walked in (even though we were embarrassingly 7 minutes late). Luckily, there were a fair few couples that had not showed up yet, so I felt a little more at ease. To be seated, we were told to climb up onto the high chair and then the hostess had to physically push us in while on the chair, due to the design of the bar. They are very nice about it, though I did find it a little annoying if you had to go use the restroom.

Already placed were the black lacquer serving plates, chopsticks and two glasses (wine and water). As we sat down, the waitress came around with hot towels, to clean our hands with. She then asked for our choice in water, brought it, and then set down little white plates with a folded wet napkin sitting on it. This was for cleaning the fingers if one chooses to use their hands to eat the sushi.

When all the guests were properly seated, Nakazawa greeted each of us with formality, as per tradition. (I revel in this kind of stuff). Then he said we would begin. He explained generally how it works, that the sushi is served as it is to be eaten. There will be 21 pieces, and asked if we were hungry, as it will be filling. He added that if we were starting to feel too full, we can tell him and he would reduce the amount of rice, as everyone is to finish each piece of fish.

Then, he started. There were 5 chefs total. Chef Nakazawa, 2 sous chefs (one on either side of him) and 2 assistant chefs. Everyone was well situated into their roles and had no hesitation. The role of the sous chefs were to slice the fish, torch the fish, and to cook the shrimp. The other sous chef was in charge of the plating. Chef Nakazawa puts the sushi together, the fish, the rice, the wasabi and the soy sauce. I was buzzing in my seat from the excitement that is about to unfold. I felt like I didn’t have enough eyes and brain capacity to take in every detail that I wanted to.

The chefs had very particular ways of handling their tools. Everything is wiped down and cleaned before commencing the next step. Tools and equipment are always placed in the space they should be filling after each use. Everything is clean, sanitary, and of top quality. Having taken lots of food safety courses, I often scrutinize restaurants (especially if they have an open kitchen) on their sanitary practices. There was nothing that made me raise a red flag so far.

Thus, the meal commenced:

The experience was amazing. He did not disappoint. From food, to service, to decor, to experience, everything was on point. He explains every fish right before he serves it, even using his Samsung Galaxy Tablet to show us what the fish actually looks like in the ocean (for the less common ones like Trigger fish). He looks like he enjoys what he does, cracks jokes with the clients, creating a different atmosphere and tone each time you visit. Everything is timed perfectly, for example, the cooking of the shrimp. Everyone’s minds are sharp and they know exactly what to do next, without ever losing complete focus on the task at hand. You can tell their minds were not wandering to their hot date tonight or any such trivial matters. Their passion was sushi, and they try their best to create perfect pieces of art.

My verdict: if you can afford the hefty price, you should definitely go. It is probably as close you can get to Jiro’s sushi without needing to know too much Japanese. Due to Nakazawa’s fluency in English, there is no language barrier. I will say though, that if you don’t get a bar reservation, it might not be worth your time (especially if you’re from out of town). There is no experience, and the sushi will not be prepared by Nakazawa himself. It is simply just not the same. It was definitely one of my most memorable birthday memories, and I’m so glad to have shared it with someone who loves eating and sushi as much as I do!

~kehwon

Park Sushi – Westmount

So in celebration of finishing our exams, we decided to treat ourselves to one of the most talked about sushi restaurants in Montreal. It has been quoted by MANY as the “best sushi restaurant in Montrela”. Hence, we wanted to see how “good” it is. Equipped in our team were foodies T, M, K, a Japanese authentic A, and myself. M, A and myself have all been to Japan and definitely had the best sushi of our lives there. We were excited to be able to find a place that might be able to match the quality of sushi there.

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So we arrived, and I was honestly very nervous. After our last horrible experience at Maiko, we hoped this would not be a disappointment. We were seated promptly, as T made a reservation. The waitress was very friendly, not intrusive and quite detailed. She realized that some of us couldn’t see the cocktail menu as the menus are on the three walls of the restaurant, and the angling of our seat made it impossible to see. She then ran through the list very efficiently, highlighting key ingredients without any memory lapse. Amazing. She then proceeded to explain to us the main menu.

T had ordered the kimchi Caesar, which is a regular Caesar, with kimchi juices added, garnished with a few pieces of kimchi as well. I hadn’t tried it but she said ti was very tasty. The kimchi added an interesting twist to Caesar. I’m not a huge fan of Caesars, but if you are and like the taste of kimchi, this might be one amazing drink for you. The other drinks on the menu were quite interesting too. They had a Yuzu Gin and Tonic (I was extremely tempted), Lychee Mojito, just to name a couple. I love that they just put an extra ingredient to very basic and common drinks. They don’t overdo it with too many added ingredients, ending up with a nasty tasting concoction

We decided that we would just share the sushi sets and try how good their fish was. We settled for the Sashimi Moriawase (18 pcs, 5-6 types of different fish), the Nigiri Moriawase (12 pcs, 6 types of fish), the Seasonal Maki (8-9 pcs), and the Chef Special Maki (8-9 pcs). The exact menu changes as they will change up the types of fish served in accordance to market pricing, and what’s in season.

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Regrettably, I don’t remember all the fish that we were served, but it included Salmon, Tuna, Red Snapper, Albacore and Mackerel. This was for both the sashimi and the nigiri. The sashimi was served with three dipping sauces which were absolutely amazing. The first was a sesame carrot oil mixture, very thin and didn’t appeal too much to me. The second was the basil edamame, which was absolutely amazing. The third was a mixture of cilantro, celery and tomato, chopped up with some spices. This was also very good, slightly sour and had an interesting punch to it.

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The Nigiri was garnished with different types of ingredients, including Spanish Caviar, chives, green onion. Some were also very lightly drizzled with a sauce, making the flavours more interesting, as well as melding the garnishes with the fish. I’ve been to several “Japanese fusion” restaurants to this day, and this has definitely got to be the most well done combinations I’ve ever tasted.

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The Seasonal Maki was a massive roll filled with salmon, tuna, albacore tartare in the centre, wrapped with rice and then seaweed. On top, there was a seared piece of Eel, thoroughly marinated and some more garnishings. This was absolutely amazing, and was packed with rich flavours, and was my favourite dish.

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The Chef Special Maki was an even more elaborate roll, with the same tartare as the Seasonal Maki, but the garnishings were different. It came with seared albacore, drizzled with truffle oil, topped with a slice of jalepeno peppers and a dollop of carrot puree. It was served with spicy mayo next to it for you to indulge if you so please. To be honest I didn’t taste the truffle oil, but the carrot puree and the jalopeno was genius. The spiciness of the jalapeno worked with the tartare amazingly, and the carrot puree just added that lighter taste and texture to make it interesting. I didn’t taste much of the albacore though.

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As the night was winding down, we started craving for dessert. We had heard from our waitress that there was a hazelnut cake (this was part of their $75, 5-course tasting menu). We decided to hear what other desserts they had, which included a mousse pot, with lime yoghurt at the bottom, followed by poached persimmons and chocolate mousse, then topped with a chocolate brownie on top. It came in a cute mason jar. I didn’t order it because the lime yoghurt put me off, even though I was dying to try the persimmons. They also had Seaseme, Green Tea icecream, but I wasn’t interested. So I went for the hazelnut cake. It came with two pieces of cleanly poached pear (no sauce or reductions), and pear cream on top. To decorate the plate,  pear purée  and chocolate sauce, with a small sprinkling of roughly groundhazelnuts. The cake was very dense, yet retained a lot of moisture. M, who is a patisserie chef, was wary of this cake as they are usually dry, went with the mousse pot. However, even she was surprised at the texture of the cake. The pear cream on top had a slight saltiness to it, adding amazing complexity to the whole dish.

Obviously, this is no Tsukiji Market, and we’re not being served purely the freshest fish, so don’t come in expecting that. However, they do a good job with trying to get the freshest fish they can, and create extremely interesting combinations, giving true meaning to fusion. I thoroughly enjoyed my whole experience there. Unlike most other places, which overdo the sauces and garnishings, completely masking any trace of the flavours of the fish, Park Sushi uses their additions wisely to complement the flavours of different fish. They understand the importance of getting fresh fish, and therefore did not have any set fish that’s always available on the menu.

As a note, They do omakase ($95) tasting menu which is more sushi-based than the #75 tasting menu. Both comes with soup, salad and a dessert, but the two mains are different.

I did think that they served the food a little slow, but we didn’t get any appetizers, which may have made a difference in the time we had to wait for our mains. The price is a little on the expensive side, but Montreal is not a city full of sushi options, so I’m definitely willing to pay this price. I ended up paying $50 after tax and tips, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would’ve been. Finally, the service was quite good. It had the standards of a fine dining restaurant. They are very particular about the positioning of their bodies and limbs as they pour you water, and how they set the plates down. Obviously we moved it around to better suit our hungry needs, but you can see that they want you to enjoy the atmosphere and the mood. I absolutely loved that I never once felt rushed, or felt like I was kept waiting too long. The size of the restaurant and the layout allows the waiters and waitresses to be aware of all the customers easily

If you have a couple extra bucks to spend, and you’re a sushi lover, I do recommend this place. It has got to be the best sushi I’ve had in Montreal thus far. Our next adventure in this category will likely be Juni.

Service: 4/5
Food: 9.0/10
Atmosphere: chic, modern, fusion, rustic
Price: $40-60

Park Restaurant on Urbanspoon

~ kehwon

Japonais Bistro (Kaiten Sushi – Mobile Sushi bar) – Downtown Edmonton

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Kaiten Sushi (name of the catering service), which is operated by Japonais Bistro, was hosting an event to promote their mobile sushi bar catering. They offered all you can eat of a select items on their menu for $30 + 15% gratuity, which includes sushi, sashimi, maki, and a variety of cooked dishes that they have created. If you didn’t know, kaiten sushi in japanese means conveyor belt sushi. We decided to give it a try since the menu looked pretty interesting and it was a good price as well.

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The setup was very interesting. If you have ever experienced any type of kaiten sushi before, it is similar to that, except in this case you have to walk up to get your own food from the rotating conveyor belt as opposed to having the food rotate around you at your table. This was sort of expected since it is a mobile sushi catering service and it would be impossible to set up something like the ones in japan. The decor is modern and vibrant. The sushi bar is brightly lit so you can see the sushi chefs hard at work.

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We started by trying one of each of their special rolls of the night and a few of their regular rolls. All the rolls generally tasted very good. They were all very elaborate and used a very unique combination of ingredients that I have never seen used together. Here are the ones we tried below:

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New York Roll – crab, avacado, salmon roll with chop scallop, parmesan cheese, sliced cheddar cheese, sweet soy and spicy mayo sauce on top
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Mt Fuji Roll – Shrimp Tempura, chopped scallop roll with spicy tuna, avocado and ginger vegetable dressing
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Green House Roll – Crab, avocado, spicy tuna, shiso leaf and fish eggs wrapped in a cucumber crepe with yuzu sesame sauce
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MK Roll – Smoked salmon, tempura, cucumber, grape, soybean paper roll with wild salmon and ponzu onion on top
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TNT Roll – Shrimp tempura, tobiko, TNT sauce and sesame seeds on crab and avocado roll
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Flamingo Roll – Tamago, tuna, avocado, red pepper roll with BBQ eel, mango, yam chips and sweet soy on top
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Harbour Moon Roll – Grilled salmon skin, organic greens and cucumber roll with tuna and avocado and sesame balsamic sauce on top
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Sunshine Roll – Shimp Katsu, cucumber, avocado roll with wild salmon – tobiko, bonito flakes and spicy mayo sauce on top
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Red Flower Roll – Avocado and cucumber roll with salmon, seaweed salad, coconut flakes, fish egg kamikaze sauce on top

All the rolls were 10/10 for creativity and uniqueness . I have never had any of these rolls before and each and everyone of them were worth trying. Some were obviously better than the rest. My favourite 3 rolls, in terms of taste and flavour, were the MT Fuji, Sunshine, and TNT. The MT Fuji shines because of the scallop, which gave the roll a very pleasant sweetness. The Sunshine was amazing because of the torched wild salmon on the top mixed in with the bonito flakes, which gave it a very smokey rich flavour. The sauce is on the TNT roll was outstanding and really made a very typical roll stand out and gave it that pop that landed it in the top 3. My least favourite roll was the MK roll. The combination of smoked salmon and fruity ingredients didn’t go well together for me.

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Beef Tataki
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Glass Noodle Salad
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New Style Sashimi – Tuna and salmon seared with hot olive oil, yuzu soy, thin sliced ginger, garlic, green onion and sesame seeds
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Tuna Nachos – spicy sesame tuna with tobiko, avocado, sesame seeds and jalapeno on crispy wonton chips
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Sushi Tortilla – tuna on crispy tortilla with avocado, red onion, cherry tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and arugula

The beef tataki was good but not great. The quality of the beef itself was done well, however it was a bit too thick for a beef tataki. Also there was too much ponzu sauce to the point where the beef was swimming in it. It was also a bit too sour for my liking. The glass noodles were done well and the sauce wasn’t too overpowering. The new style sashimi was great. They used very fresh tuna and salmon and I liked how they torched them on one side. The yuzu soy had a very subtle hint of yuzu flavour in it which added to the freshness of the sashimi. Tuna nachos were good and interesting to say the least. The combination of the avocado, sashimi, and a deep fried chip went really well together. However, I couldn’t say the same for the sushi tortilla. It was dry, bland, and poorly put together. Now onto the main menu items.

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Pork Cheek Tempura – with wasabi sour cream and yuzu salsa
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Seafood black sesame cream udon – mussels, prawn, squid, spinach, red pepper, onion, and udon noodles in house cream sauce
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Bob “Ishiyaki bowl style” – Sukiyaki beef, seaweed, shitake, greens, onions, tobiko, parmesan cheese on rice in a hot stone bowl and spicy butter soy
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Traditional shoyu ramen – tonkotsu soy soup base, egg noodle, kombu, bok choy, egg, red onion, and pork slice

To start, we tried the pork cheek tempura. It was delicious. The outside had a lightly crispy batter and on the inside, there was a very tender and moist pork cheek that was relatively lean. It was topped with a wasabi sour cream and yuzu salsa. Although we couldnt really taste the wasabi or the yuzu flavour in the salsa, it was a very good dish and innovative. The seafood udon was not enjoyable. The seafood was not fresh (likely frozen) and the sauce resembled a condensed can of Campbell’s mushroom soup. It was not something you would expect at a Japanese restaurant. The Bob “Ishiyaki” bow was great. It came in a hot stone bowl which gave the rice at the bottom a very nice crispy layer. The sauce was excellent. It was soy based but the addition of the onions, seaweed, shitake mushrooms and butter gave it a very nice aroma that gave the dish an excellent flavour. I highyl recomend that dish. The ramen on the other had was very poor. The noodles taste like the frozen ramen you can buy at the grocery stores and the broth was bland and boring.

For dessert we had the Matcha Crème Brûlée and the Double Cheesecake brownie with yuzu yogurt icecream. The Crème Brûlée was delicious. The green tea flavoured custard with the hard caramel top was a real treat and a must try. Yuzu yogurt icecream had a very strong yuzu flavour but was very good. Unfortunately it was almost melted by the time it arrived. The cheesecake brownie tasted neither like cheesecake or brownie and was frozen solid. I wouldn’t recommend it.

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Matcha Crème brûlée
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Double cheese cake brownie with yuzu yogurt ice cream

Dining at Japonais Bistro and sampling the mobile sushi bar by Kaiten sushi was a very interesting and delicious experience. The food was certainly very innovated and intricate. There was a lot of attention to detail applied in creating the dishes as well the presentation of it. Most of the food tasted as good as it looked, however there were a few not so great ones. Although the servers were extremely busy at the event and were unable to attend to us consistently, the experience was very positive. There is another Kaiten sushi event next Wednesday, November 27th and I would highly recommend everyone to try it out.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.9/10
Atmosphere: modern, Kaiten
Price: $30

Japonais Bistro on Urbanspoon

~Thomas

Maiko Sushi – Mile End

This friday was Tamishka’s birthday and we celebrated by going out for sushi (because we were all craving it) and some drinks after. We were recommended by our good friend who hadn’t been to Maiko in a long time but remembered it to be up to par with good sushi places. We had all chatted about our endeavours in Japan and our love for sushi and that’s what kick-started our craving.

So a reservation was made for the 5 of us and we had some high expectations for this fairly pricey sushi restaurant. Their site showed an exquisite display of sushi and as we walked in the decor was quite good. It had a high end and modern flair to it with Japanese-theme and cultured accents. I thought it was nice. There were some Christmas decorations too which I actually enjoyed because I’m excited for the holidays.

I will say this outright. This restaurant is awful for sushi.

Three of us shared some dishes: two Chef Specials ($18 each), and a Sushi Chef Sleection (depending on the Chef’s mood) which was $60 meant for 2 people to share. I also ordered a Chawanmsuhi (which they decided to name Shawanmushi..) for myself.

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We’ll start with the Chawanmushi. It was quite delicious, and was scolding hot. The egg was very very smooth, fluffy, very flavourful and had a good amount of fish and scallops. It was topped off with a shiitake mushroom and a piece of broccoli (which was insanely hot). I quite enjoyed this and was probably the best thing I ate at this restaurant.

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Next we ordered the Scallops which were flambéd in alcohol and served with ponzu sauce, fennel, raspberries and blueberries. It was quite nice but I thought that the alcohol was a little overpowering and was difficult to taste the sweetness of the scallops. The presentation was definitely good.

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We also ordered the Seared Salmon marinated in ponzu sauce which was plated with an assortment of fruits, greens and avocado. It was enjoyable but I didn’t think that the 5 pieces of seared salmon was worth $18. The salmon was a little hard and seemed to have been sitting in that shape for a while. But at least the fruits were fresh.

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Last but not least was our chef selection sushi. This was the biggest disappointment ever. We were given california rolls, rolls with pickled vegetables and 6 pieces of sashimi. This was absolutely pathetic. The rolls were extremely messy, and they didn’t even take care to cut off the straggly ends. The rice was hard and cold, making all the rolls very unenjoyable. I cannot believe we paid $60 for this. I would definitely discourage anyone from coming here for sushi. Where I get takeout (sushi inbox) has much better quality of sushi than here and I only pay $12 dollars for 11 pieces.

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The service was very amateur and I felt that I was being served by a high schooler. He didn’t really care about us and was more focused on getting our orders down and then going to the back to play with his phone or something. One of my friend’s order was completely wrong only she was too hungry and nice to make him redo her order. We also get a random assortment of staff who come to tend to us which makes it extremely difficult to understand if we’re supposed to direct our requests (and complaints) to anyone or one specific person.

Service: 2.5/5
Food: 5/10 (only saved by their delicious chawanmushi)
Atmosphere: modern, up-scale, Japanese-themed accents
Price: $40-50
Maiko Sushi on Urbanspoon