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Sushi Bars


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I'd appreciate thoughts on where to head for impeccable sushi in Vancouver proper, other than at Tojo. I'm looking for a place where I can sit at the sushi bar, talk to the sushi chef and be assured of very fresh fish and perfect sushi rice (fancy cooked and other preparations not necessary). I not inclined to go to Tojo this trip (although I like it), as I am not interested in sitting at the bar and eating only what Chef Tojo wants to serve, and I find sitting at his tables to be less than thrilling, especially as I will be dining alone.

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Peter,

Some impeccable sushi alternatives:

En, 2686 Granville, 730-0330 or

Bluewater Raw Bar, (chef Yoshi Tabo) 1095 Hamilton, 688-8078

Bluewater has an up close and personal sushi bar; both have good wine lists, Bluewater is very deep in prime sakes.

Of course there are 240 more of them out there in Vancouver alone, but these

answer your criteria.

Let us know when you want to go izakaya.

Cheers,

Jamie

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Peter,

I absolutely concur with Sam's choice of Octopus' Garden as a superb choice. Lots of character (and characters) too. Reasonable prices also warm this chilly Scottish heart.

Cheers,

Jamie

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Sam raises another interesting question in his post about Japanese-run sushi restaurants. That’s not to say that Korean, Chinese or, for that matter, even Occidents waiting to happen like me can’t cut fish. But Japanese-born and -trained chefs come with a provenance, a tradition, and, most importantly, a seven year, or more, apprenticeship.

Tojo, for instance, contends he knows more than a thousand recipes, each committed to memory on a sort of mental rolodex that spins with the seasons. And to watch Yoshi Tabo (now at Blue Water), eye an eight kilo block of big-eye tuna, is to see a sculptor coolly appraising a piece of marble, albeit with a rather shorter shelf life. Within 40 minutes it will be reduced to domino-sized sashimi. The training of the master is found in the absolutely minimal wastage and the conformity of each piece of what he has wrought. Conformity being another Japanese tradition and all.

As legend has it, they begin by sweeping the floor, performing squeegee boy duties in the fish coolers, ironing the chefs’ kimonos and massaging the master’s feet. Only after a year or more are they allowed to get anywhere near the rice. Then they attend the morning wet (fish) market with the master, learning how to look a fish in the eye, coring tuna samples, building relationships with the mackeral guy. By night they sleep in the back of the restaurant. And you can be sure that more time will pass before they’re allowed to pick up a knife. And it is those knives that tell the story, for they are bound into the tradition as tightly as a geisha’s feet.

Because if you want to find the genuine article—the real apprentice now made master, versus the imposter—standing behind the sushi bar, we’ve found it very useful to ask him where he got his knives. What you don’t want to hear is “They came with the job”, or “Boris the hot prep guy lent them to me.” Yellow plastic handles? Leave now and don't look back.

What you do want to hear is that they were obtained in Japan, paid for over time from the (measly) salary of the apprentice, cleaned and honed many times each day and honored like a Japanese mother.

There are more than 250 Japanese restaurants in Vancouver now. Even when (like in the subjective sports) you throw out the expensive celeb-traps and the all-you-can-eats, there’s still a great mid-section to choose from many of them owned and operated by well-trained Japanese and Japanese-Canadian chefs.

And now with the tsunami of izakaya and ramen joints arriving fast, we can also look more accurately into the mid-week cuisine of the Japanese.

So that’s my simple suggestion. “Where did you get your knives?” may reveal all you need to know and then some. Eight years ago, at the very beginning of our relationship, my now fiancee bought me a set of Japanese knives. She consulted Yoshi (then on 4th Avenue), who faxed the same factory that had made his own, many years before. The knives arrived on Christmas Eve and were such a thoughtful gift that I was overcome with the kind of glee more typically usurped on the Big Day by the lesser Talents. But alas, I'm afraid that I use them infrequently. Yoshi has forbidden me to slice turkey with them. And you see I like watching the masters at work, slicing albacore and eel with a precision that I will never enjoy, for I remain, I'm afraid, that Occident waiting to happen.

Jamie

Jamie

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I really like Ajisai in Kerrisdale, esp. for lunch on a Tuesday or Wednesday. There're usually 3 - 6 daily features, I've had many fish I haven't seen elsewhere and some excellent toro, o-toro and chu-toro from time to time. Also great uni this past year.

I don't know about the sitting at the bar/talking to the chef aspect, I've never really noticed anyone talking to him too much. But I have always really enjoyed my sushi.

Edit: Oh, it's small, so get there early (11:45 or something), and no magazine features on this one, please. ; )

Edited by dillybravo (log)
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I'll second Ajisai.

We go there on a regular basis and the sushi is of very high quality.

However, it is not the kind of place where you can yack back and forth with the sushi chefs. They are very courteous and give you eye contact, but the interaction is very low-key and restrained. The focus is on the sushi.

We used to go to Tojo's, until a few years ago when the prices got so ridiculous that you had to think twice even if you were on an expense account.

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I am reluctantly piling on to the Ajisai recommendation - not because it isn't good. In fact it is really great, but so small that us locals really don't want anyone else to find out about it. We are there on at least a weekly basis and haven't been able to engage the sushi chefs in conversation, or at least any sustained conversation. But, after all it is the food not the talk I am there for. Be prepared to wait for a table almost anytime you go - but it will be a worthwhile wait.

We used to frequent Shijo's on 4th Avenue but it has really gone downhill following a change in ownership. En is our other favorite.

Now that Shijo's is so mediocre and I can't afford Tojo's does anyone know of a sushi restaurant that has tuna gomae in the same style and of the same quality as Tojo's tuna? My mouth is watering at the thought.

Cheers,

Karole

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There you go you restaurant reviewers, publish and perish, hehe.

I have been to En two or three times now and although I've always found it acceptable I've never seen the appeal. Some of the dishes are indeed inventive (and tasty), but all are quite expensive, and I find the nigiri pretty average. Anything specific anyone would recommend in case I make it there again? For this type of thing, I think I prefer Wabi Sabi, although I haven't gone to either enough to really say.

Plus as far as Peter's request goes, I think En is perhaps the least interactive joint in town? Maybe I've gone on odd days.

I also mention dan, which has seen some coverage here. Not a huge selection of nigiri (although some days bring two or more nigiri specials, usually toro, saba, etc.), but what is there is excellent and the rest of the menu is beautifully presented and of impeccable quality. I always stick to the special board myself, though, which is usually a good ten items or so, items I haven't seen anywhere else in Vancouver.

The chef and server are also very friendly (but busy!) and if you sit at the sushi bar you can chat a bit at least. So if you're not strictly looking for sushi, this may be the place. Probably the most like Tojo's, although definitely a rung or two down on the fancy scale, and more solidly rooted in tradition.

Edit: I can't decide if you'll like dan or not; maybe you should just go to both (or, for the cost of Tojo's, both, twice!)?

Edited by dillybravo (log)
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