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Dec 7, 2007 03:11 PM

Sushi in the YYC

Hey there folks. Just wanted to get some input as to what places in Calgary are recommended for Sushi dining.

I'm a big sushi fan, and here's the places that I've been so far, and a brief review of each.

Sushi Towa: My favourite place thus far. Huge rolls, and not ridiculously priced given the poshy atmosphere. Only drawback is the highly limited bar menu. Favourite roll is the Alaska roll

Kinjo: Peter makes this place a fun dining experience. If he's in one of his super friendly moods, he'll come out & talk to the customers. My first time there he didn't hesitate to embarrass me for a good 3-4 minutes when he found out it was my birthday. Food is good, nothing special though.

Ichiban: Good place to go with large groups that are hungry, especially the one on MacLeod, because it has all you can eat after 4:30pm. The beauty of THIS all you can eat menu is that there are hardly any limitations. The numbers they allow you to order each time is quite generous, and there's not a lot of stuff left off the menu.

Globefish: Quality was good, I just found that you didn't get much for what you pay for. Rolls seemed tiny, in spite of tasting good.

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  1. Hmmmm- I've not found Globefish to be poor value; and all the rolls I've had there have been pretty huge. Of course it depends on what you're ordering, but I find the crazy buster to be practically a meal, so the $13 is not outlandish.

    I have not been to Towa in ages, not since they stopped serving lunch, but I've heard some negative comments about them.

    Anyway, some places for you to consider would be Uptown Sushi, which saw a change in ownership recently but IMHO the sushi is actually better now- rice is done better and they have more staff. Prices have not changed and though the rolls are mostly rather small, they're also well-priced. I still think that their yam tempura roll is the best in the city.

    Oishii Village is relatively new and does some things very well. I love their agedashi tofu which is done 4 ways (you have to order it to see what I mean, it's lovely). Sushi is competent, prices are surprisingly good for a recently reno'ed space and the service superb.

    I've always had good luck at Sushi House Richmond out by Canadian Tire on Richmond Rd- sushi on a model train, but you can order anything a la carte too. This is one of the few places I've been in Calgary that puts a light schmeer of wasabi on nigiri- traditional but too rarely seen here. I like that about them.

    I'm sure others will chirp in here.

    I woud NOT recommend Tokyo Sushi in Chinatown, Sushi Kawa on 4th, or Sumo Lounge in Eau Claire.

    4 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      I wasn't necessarily saying that Globefish was poor value, I just didn't find it to be overly satisfying. Perhaps we just ordered some of the smaller rolls, and next time I'll have to try the crazy buster, as you recommended.

      1. re: John Manzo

        How come you are not recommending Sumo Eau Claire? Is there any connection to the Sumo Sunridge?

        1. re: sleepycat

          because I've found sumo to be terrible.

          1. re: sleepycat

            The terriyaki chicken I ordered tasted and looked like Chinese chicken dish. The soy sauce used was Chinese brand. I felt like dinning at a low end Chinese restaurant. All eight of us were very very disappointed with the food.

        2. My favourite place right now is Zipang in Bridgeland - incredibly fresh fish, quick efficient service, and a clean comfortable atmosphere. It is really busy though (and a small space), so it's probably best to make a reservation - last time we were there it was about a 45 minute wait.

          I also like Shikiji on Centre St. North.

          And along with John I definitely wouldn't recommend Sumo.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jigga

            I second Jigga. Sushi Bar Zipang is excellent. Reservation recommended. I also agree with Shikiji, and I would like to add Wa's on Centre Street near 16th Ave.

            As for my least favorites: Sakana Village, Sumo, Edo Ichiban

          2. I second Oishii Village - the sushi & sashimi deluxe combo meals are excellent value.

            I confess a guilty pleasure in going to Sushi Boat in Crowfoot. Quality is reasonable, plus you don't necessarily have to wait for the boats - just order it up. Great with kids (who like sushi of course). Super busy though. I think same owners as Sushi Towa.

            Still like Globefish for Crunch 'n Munch and appies (although I have noticed the sizes shrinking) & Shikiji as well.

            Zipang is good for more traditional Japanese.

            Used to be a real fan of Sushi Hiro downtown, but was deadly slow service. Haven't been in a long time (not because I haven't wanted to, just don't like going downtown).

            Not too fond of Yamato - the densest rice in the city.

            Avoid Sakana Grill in Crowfoot.

            8 Replies
            1. re: ybnormal

              Can't believe no one's mentioned Misato, just in the same area as Sunterra off of 17ave and Sarcee SW. Nothing grounbreaking, just really nice sized rolls and fish. Great quality, nice restaurant and the hot food is quite good as well.

              Momoyama on Richmond Rd and 37st is one of my favorites. Not much in the way of atmosphere but the value is amazing. Mark the sushi chef/owner there is great, and he cuts probably the creamiest fish in calgary, perfect sizes, amazing mouthfeel and freshness. The salmon and hamachi are so good. He paired the tiniest sliver of lime with the hamachi and it was a great contrast.

              Wa's on 16 ave and Center Street is good too, they have probably my favorite roll inl Calgary. I forget what it's called but its 6 pieces, each one with the same maki base of just tempura crisps, laid horizontally with a different topping on each.

              1. re: Hoj

                I like all three of these places too! I find Globefish really inconsistent, and Zipang is a bit too traditional for me, but they do it well. I just prefer the rolls. I haven't been to Wa's since the renovations though. Is it roomier inside or is it just cosmetic? I found it a bit cramped with the two kids, worried that the noise from our little brood was overwhelming for others.

              2. re: ybnormal

                I second avoiding Sakana Grill in Crowfoot. We've had some great sushi lately from Wa's.

                If you feel like driving out to Canmore, Chef's Studio Japan imho has the best sushi in the Bow Valley area.

                1. re: sweeterpea

                  Being a white boy who grew up in Vancouver I also suggest Wa's. The dining room isn't jawdropping but the freshness of the fish is what has given me faith Sushi can be enjoyed in the praires. This is coming from someone who gets the sushi craving only a couple times a year.

                  1. re: hclass

                    You should try other places too - Calgary doesn't touch Van for sushi, but having had sushi all over North America, it's completely respectable.

                    When I was in Europe in October I went to a place called "Sushi Cafe" in Luxembourg. It was very slick looking but all the sushi was pre-made a la T&T in cello, and it was so expensive- a "spicy tuna roll" was 2 euros (about $2.80 Canadian at the time) but it was two pieces- so imagine one-third of an Uptown spicy tuna roll- that means that a spicy roll at Uptown with 6 small pieces, which is $2.50 at Uptown, would cost more than $8 there!

                    I had to buy it to see how bad a deal this really was- but first I commented to the counter person that their sushi was quite expensive. He says, "it's made fresh every day [wow! every day?], and what's more, you get soy sauce and ginger FOR FREE!" I just tried not to laugh when he said that.

                    So right in front of him I unroll the cellophane and choke down the two die-sized (not joking) piece of tuna roll.

                    And the tuna was COOKED.

                    We have it good here, trust me.

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      COOKED Tuna lol I think thats how they do it in Winnipeg also.... joking.

                      But you're right, it could be worse, I've seen it with my own eyes overseas since I've had the priveledge to travel to over 30 countries. In Poland at a Mexican restaurant the taco shells were potato based. At TGI Fridays in Prague I got a burger so overcooked I had to pour half a bottle of ketchup on it for some moisture. In Tokyo I ate an average Tbone which cost me $125US @ the time. In Saudi Arabia at an Italian restaurant their pasta didn't even compare to a box of Kraft Dinner and you can't order a bottle of vino to make it go down smoother.

                      During this boom in Calgary one of the few positives (besides house values) is restaurants are getting better and plentier. I was looking through the phone book on Friday night for a restaurant and noticed theres over 40 PHO places in town, in 1995 we had a handful. The future looks promising....

                2. re: ybnormal

                  Avoid Sakana Grill downtown too. It was one of my favourites maybe 5 years ago, but now the sushi is just bad. Not fresh. Get something cooked if you must eat there. I liked the tonkatsu.

                  1. re: 23skidoo

                    As if the incessant birthday drumming and singing weren't enough...

                3. I really didnt want to weigh in, as i have, over time, espoused these opinions repeatedly. I don't want to come off sounding like a broken record. But seeing as i love sushi, i couldnt resist.

                  Just a disclaimer though: i hold sushi places to a very high standard. Much like John and coffee. Thus, the largely negative, slightly snobby reviews :)

                  Sushi Club Kensington (Kensington Rd) - decent sushi at slightly inflated prices. They bring in a few fish specials, but i don't see them moving very often. Your "fresh hamachi" might not be so fresh. They were the first place in town doing "fusion Japanese" - sushi towers, firecracker rolls, stuff like that. I'd eat there, but i wouldnt rush out to go back.

                  Wa's - out of the regular type establishments, probably my favorite in Calgary. Good decent food with a large Japanese clientele (when in doubt, follow the natives!). Good quality fish at a fair price.

                  Yamato - the location up by Winston Churchill. More like bargain sushi. The best night to go is Sunday, when they have X% (it used to be 25%...havent been in a while) off your entire bill. Makes it really inexpensive. But very very average. It is, however, better than Ichiban or Sushi Boat for gorging yourself. And will cost you about the same.

                  Zipang - Mr Tanaka does good stuff, but is sooo busy, that the service really suffers here. Decent sushi though.

                  Blowfish - my favorite place in town. Highest quality fish. Prices to match (in the upper echelon...similar to Sushi Hiro was, or Hana). Problem is in expectation management. There is a lot of creativity and fusion of flavours and styles from the chef (Tomo). He's extremely talented that way. This is not a traditional Japanese restaurant. Most people who go there often end up disappointed because their expectations don't meet what they are being served. Be proactive here...either expect a lot of fused flavours with your dishes and rolls and go expecting that, or ask them for a more traditional styling on the food. They've been quite accommodating as long as they arent too busy at the time. But i have had a lot of wonderful experiences here after a first bad impression. Definitely a place where you need to be more assertive as a diner.

                  Uptown - i have the reverse opinion from John here. I feel it's gone downhill since Michael left. It's still once of the cheapest establishments in town, and if you order the the platter deal (buy one get 2nd one for 50% off), it's plenty of food to gorge 4 of you for 15-20 bucks each. It's a good deal, but im not thrilled with the quality.

                  Oishi Village - i went with a Japanese friend of mine, and we both disliked it. Tremendously. Fish was terrible. Rolls were bad. Prices were decent though. I'd give it another chance based on proximity, but i don't have high hopes based on what i first encountered.

                  Misai - the sushi house of the NE, Misai has the most comprehensive menu for cooked Japanese dishes in town. A very Izakaya style menu. The sushi is ok. Ownership and chefs are all chinese. Prices are a bit inflated, but they always seem busy. My friend and I used to go once a week a long time ago when it seemed to be the best option in town. I only go at lunch now because it's close. LIke SCK, i'd go in a pinch, but i won't go out of my way to eat here.

                  Sushi House Richmond - i tried it once, only by takeout, so not a fair assessment. I disliked enough not to want to go back.

                  Hana Sushi - overpriced, mediocre fish.

                  Sushi Kawa - the worst service, with lousy food, and bad prices. I tried Kawa 4 times, since so many friends raved about it. I stopped listening to those friends.

                  Sumo Lounge - 2 locations, one in Sunridge, one in Eau Claire. Some friends swear by takeout at Sumo being better than dining in... i don't personally see how, but try it at your own risk.

                  Shikiji - the closest thing to good noodles in town. They make passable/decent sushi.I like this place, and try to visit at least once a month.

                  Globefish - the lone voice if dissention on the board- i dislike this place. The fish they've served me there has been smelly, and near/past it's due date. Terrible tuna, terrible salmon. And for Canada, salmon is tough to screw up. I liked them a lot better when they owned Sushi Chopsticks. It was at least new and creative back then.

                  Sakana Grill - pass.

                  Towa Sushi - they stamp their nigiri with a rice machine. Too dense or too loose everytime. Too much rice, not enough filling. Serving sizes are too large. If you like the creativity of these rolls, i think Globefish and Blowfish do a better job.

                  Sushi Chopsticks- formerly owned by the Globefish people, im not even sure if they are still open (as it's been about a year since i've been). They kept a lot of the same menu (which you'll see if you've been to both in close succession), but don't do it as well. It is a bit cheaper though than Globefish, and in the E (Memorial and 36th), which makes it somewhat useful if you're in the area. I'd personally make the 5 minute drive to Zipang at that point.

                  Chef's Studio Japan - the secret of the Rockies. All Japanese sushi chefs, but they are also all women (which is quite the rarity!). Order the Sea World - best value this side of the Rockies. Almost always they have very fresh fish - they do great traditional sushi. Worth the drive out to Canmore.

                  Anyway, hope that helps.

                  25 Replies
                  1. re: yen

                    Yen, have you been to Momoyama? Be interested to see what you think if you have since I've only been to a few of the other places you mention and I'm in agreement so far. Guess I should say what I think. We had a really good lunch at Momoyama with way too much food for 4 for around $50. We took a lot home. I know they are Korean but they seem to rise above that little problem.

                    Also, I'm pleased to see so many people like Wa's. We've been going there for years.

                    When my son went to Japan in 2000 with the JET program the ex-JETs (English teachers who have taught in Japan) took the outgoing group to Sakana Grill saying it was the most authentic Japanese in the city. My husband and I tried it based on that recommendation. Bewildered would be the best description of our response.

                    1. re: sharonanne

                      Lol. Authentic experience!? Im surprised one or two JET-ters didnt drop out right there :)

                      I havent tried Momoyama. I know it's had great reviews for sometime, but the two times i've tried to go, the wait was impossibly long. I think they take reso's, but im not much of a reso kind of guy. Just decide what i feel like eating and i go.

                      I will try it soon.

                      1. re: yen

                        Yen, where is Wa's? I'd like to give it a try. And is Blowfish the one on 11th Ave near Heaven's?

                        And thanks for the very comprehensive review - I love sushi too, but I often don't know where to go. I used to love Sushi Kawa, and do like Zipang (you're right, it is very busy), but I usually end up going to Shikiji or Maruju (on Centre St. N.) and getting the same basic things all the time because I know what I'm going to get (I don't like unpleasant (unfresh) sushi surprises - two serious cases of sushi induced food poisoning have made me very careful about freshness)).

                        1. re: Jigga

                          Wa's is Centre Street N and 17th Avenue - East side of the street that is easy to miss. There are a few parking stalls in front. (It's actually easiest to see heading south on Centre St).

                          Blowfish is the one on 11th Avenue near Heaven's. The frontage is set back from the road a bit. This too is easy to miss :)

                          I've never heard of Maruju - can you fill us in a bit?

                          I enjoy Shikiji - nothing wrong with going there all the time! I agree that once you've found a place you're happy at, you don't tend to try other places all the time. For me though, im trying to find a place a bit more affordable than Blowfish - you can't go high end all the time. And really, Blowfish isnt that bad relatively speaking - sushi isnt cheap to begin with. Well, not in the quantities i eat anyway.

                          I guess im looking more for good, cheap sushi - hopefully Maruju applies! :)

                          1. re: yen

                            Yen, Initially Jenny at Uptown definitely downsized rolls, but they also knocked off 25 cents from what was paradoxically the most expensive unagi in town... but now, the rolls are pretty much exactly the same size, same price as Michael had. The reason it has (IMHO IMHO IMHO) improved is that Michael's rice was hit or miss, so bad that I had t complain twice- in fact I decided at one point to stop going, especially since the new sushi chef at Midori was so talented, perfect rice... now fast forward: Midori sushi dude is at Globefish so Midori has gone downhill; Jenny has taken over the reins at Uptown and she knows rice- I never had perfect, melt-in-your-mouth rice with Michael- I TOLERATED mushy rice. Sad but true.

                            So I have to disagree with you here.\

                            Oishii is... uneven. Three of us went to dinner last night. The agedashi tofu was as great as it was last time (four small squares with a different topping on each- shrimp salad, spicy carrot, interesting little packages- and their tempura veg is really nice. Sushi- mushy, cold chicken teriyaki roll (something I never order but theirs was superb last time, nothing like what I usually have had as that scaredy cat cop-out)... it was good value but I'm not sure I'll be eating much sushi there. But I'll make that decision after another visit.

                            I've only been to Blowfish once, LOVED it LOVED it, but was put off by its turning into almost $40 for lunch.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              I may give it one more shot - it is awfully convenient. But the two times i've gone back, since the fish quality hasnt been good. I think what we order there probably has a huge impact on differences in opinion (which im cool with). I usually get sashimi, because the fish quality sushi chefs use for nigiri is a step below. Then to get my fill of rice, i order a bunch of maki - where the nori is quite capable of masking deficient rice. Michael's rice wasnt great (when he wasnt running out), but i never had a horrible experience with it either.

                              1. re: yen

                                If rice is mushy, over- or undercooked (the only place I ever got UNDERcooked sushi rice in Calgary was at Zen 8, and I can never go back to a restaurant after that experience!), or has too much vinegar (that's the problem I had at the sushi counter at co-op before Uptown opened), then for me the whole experience is moot... For me, perfect rice can make up for other sins. Also, in deference to you Yen. the stuff I order is more forgiving poorer quality fish- veg rolls like yam and avocado, unagi (which is obviously cooked), macerated tuna in spicy tuna and negitoro rolls, and hamachi rarely- oh and inari... and sometimes I get specialty rolls like the crazy buster or caterpillar rolls but those often have cooked or seared fish too.

                                If I were a true expert and are sashimi more than once in a blue moon, my standards would be completely different! I defer to you, Sensei... I just know what I like.

                                1. re: John Manzo

                                  Lol - i can't tell if you are dripping sarcasm, being nice, or both? :)

                                  Anyway, I agree with your last statement totally - im glad you've found a place you like that doesnt kill your pocket book! I'll give it another shot and order some of the things you get - see if that makes a difference. I do like their price and their location - those just can't be beat for me.

                            2. re: yen

                              Maruju isn't anything special - to be honest, it smells a bit fishy in there, but it's right on my way home and I really like their pork katsu roll (I often get the cooked rolls at sushi restaurants due to my aforementioned food poisoning). It's basically an unhealthy indulgence that replaces fast food for me (the pork is deep fried and the roll comes with a creamy sort of dipping sauce). I'd also say the prices are pretty much on par with other middle of the road places in the city. So, all in all, probably not what you're looking for Yen. Sorry!

                              1. re: Jigga

                                that pork roll sounds like exactly my cup of tea. must pursue this new deep-fried-creamy-sauce option asap. My dad insists that I will soon completely explode on the scales and he will not bankroll my fat camp rehabilitation. :)

                              2. re: yen

                                "Wa's is Centre Street N and 17th Avenue - East side of the street"
                                It's actually on the west side. Made me go by and look though!

                                1. re: sharonanne

                                  Absolutely. My mistake... im not sure why i said east??!?

                                  1. re: yen

                                    Becasue Japan is supposed to be in the East although it is West of here? Damned Europeans.

                                    1. re: sharonanne

                                      Absolutely! Yeah! What you said... :)

                        2. re: yen

                          as always, your espoused opinions are most welcome by this person! Do you eat sushi in vancouver? do you have a comparable rundown for that city?

                          1. re: alex8alot

                            I don't eat in Vancouver as often as i should - i have a lot of friends there. My issue is it typically costs $250 - $300 to fly to Vancouver. For $50-$100 more, i can fly to SF or LA. I'd much rather go there to eat :)

                            Most of my intel for Van is 3 years old or older. I wouldnt feel right posting such a breakdown (i did leave out a bunch of Calgary places too...mostly because the info is out of date). But i'd be happy to fill you in offline. I have some foodie friends who live in Van and i can pass on some second hand intel too...

                            1. re: yen

                              I love sushi myself, and after reading yen's comments, I have to agree, Blowfish is my favourite. I eat there quite often and I enjoy asking (the key is asking!) for things I want if they aren't on the menu. I love Hamachi Cheek so whenever they have it in, the servers let me know.

                              I have a few other comments on other joints in Calgary though:
                              Shikiji: love the food... but for those of you who complain about Blowfish prices, I have to say Shikijo was worse! They charged me for ginger and wasabi!

                              Oishii: not so oishii... it was horrifying! I noticed one of the chef's horking phlem...plugging his one nostril and blowing out the next...GROSS! PS: owners & chef's are all Chinese?

                              Towa: used to be my favourite - USE to - they have lost a lot of quality and the prices have hiked since I first started going.

                              Uptown: wouldn't know - they hang up a sign on their door every time I try to go saying that they're closed for one reason or another

                              Globefish: creative - yes.... quality - no... consistancy - absolutely not! Food isn't that fresh either

                              Ichiban: gross... all you can eat = all you can puke!

                              1. re: jkl

                                Anybody have experiences with Sushi Kai in Dragon City?

                                1. re: John Manzo

                                  I went just after they opened a long time ago and found the cuts and wrapping to be sloppy. Haven't been back. It might have improved.

                                2. re: jkl

                                  As Bourdain says, he'll never eat discount sushi. That's pretty much what all you can eat is :)

                                  Oishii - Korean owners i thought, but i could be mistaken.

                                  The rest - i completely agree. Except im surprised Shikijki charged you for ginger and wasabi. That must be a new practice...

                                  Tried to hit Momoyama today, but they were closed. Sigh. Next time i guess.

                                  1. re: yen

                                    shikiji has always charged for extra... the waitresses usually just forget (don't ask, just trust me). had momoyama the other day, and the rice was TERRIBLE. not just mushy, but mushy and wet. couldn't have even qualified for korean kimbap standards. Yen, you won't be pleased.

                                    1. re: yen

                                      That's something new I noticed too. But I find they forget to charge us most of the time :o)

                                      1. re: yen

                                        Oishii owner are Chinese, I've spoken with them.

                                        Generally poor experience last week there- hate to hate a sushi place that is SO close to my house so I'm not gonna jump on the hate train yet, but it was the rice (gummy and cold!) and I like it when I get maki with cooked fillings (like yam tempura or what I thought was a very exceptional chicken teriyaki roll before) to be at least WARM but the chix was COLD. Dammit.

                                      2. re: jkl

                                        Re: globefish: I think I'm blessed with a combination of good luck and bad taste. I've almost always been happy there.

                                3. Wa's is great, I love unagi and their unagi roll at $20 is the best deal going, and their "soft sell" crab roll is great, too. It seems pricey until you see the size, we ordered way too much last night and had to waddle out. It's only the second time I've been, it's a little away from my usual stomping grounds, but quite centrally located.

                                  Globefish on 14th is where I usually go, it's lot cheaper than Blowfish, which I think is better, but not worth the extra $$ unless I'm in the area.

                                  Frankly, sushi in Calgary these days is as good as anywhere, IMHO, there's lots to choose from, and as long as you go to a crowded, popular place I can't imagine the quality or freshness will be any different from, say, Vancouver or San Francisco.