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Dec 21, 2008 05:31 PM

Vancouver Sushi

Anytime I post some thoughts on sushi in Vancouver it seems to be pretty controversial. I'm curious to know how Vancouver hounds qualify good sushi so I can try to get a sense of what's going on here.

The main things I think make for good sushi are:

- good cuts of fresh, appropriately named fish (I think we get mislabeled fish).

-good rice. If you were to dip your rice into soy it should fall apart. The rice in Vancouver usually would stay stuck together (if one were to, wrongly, dip their sushi into it). It should have light vinegar and sweetness.

-real wasabi if possible. real wasabi is really nice, but I don't think many places here serve it.

-homemade pickled ginger. No pink ginger!

That's it!

There's maki too I guess, but I just like basic maki. Spicy tuna rolls, tightly wrapped up don't really impress me (but I will eat them because that's just what we do in Vancouver). The best maki I had was lightly toasted nori and some rice and fish just loosely rolled in one hand (no bamboo sheet pressing).

So I find generally most sushi in Vancouver is pretty close to the same and as such I generally judge a place on the atmosphere and the price.

Lime is three times the price of Toshi and I got a lot of flak on this board for suggesting it was not worth it. I am curious to know what makes Vancouver chowhounds think its worth it. Please let me know what your criteria are for good sushi so I can understand where you are coming from!

I've eaten sushi at that little place Anthony Bourdain went to in Osaka on one of his TV shows (Koyoshi- I found it thanks to a chowhound post). I've been to Sushi Yasuda in New York (the best sushi I've had in North America- not factoring in price), and Sushi Zanmai in the Tsukiji fish market (the best sushi I've ever had). I took a two month trip to Japan to eat and take cooking lessons. I feel I've had really good sushi, but I don't think I understand how hounds in Vancouver rate their sushi.

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  1. seeing that I am not a resident of Vancouver, I aM SURE THERE ARE SOME OTHER STELLAR sushi bars but the one that has always impressed me was TOJO. Always more sashimi style similar to Nobu.

    1. I rate sushi bars based on the quality of the sashimi and the expertise/skill of the itamae. A sushi place that specially sources their fish is just above and beyond the typical lunch-grade place. The cuts of fish served at Lime are very fresh and beautifully textured. The sashimi I have had at Toshi is just ordinary - often something you can buy at Angel Seafoods etc that you can cut yourself.

      You can SEE the difference...the first image (from is the sashimi at Toshi. The next three images are from Lime. These are not ordinary cuts of fish.

      Perhaps I was at Toshi on bad days...but I was never really that impressed. It does provide good value, I'll admit.

      PS Lime has some unique offerings from their kitchen - specifically their house made 100% soba noodles, and some of their more izakaya like dishes.

      5 Replies
      1. re: fmed

        Fmed (or anyone else)- can you suggest a place to get a great piece of chu toro on some well made (not sticky) rice? I haven't had good chu toro here yet- it should taste like peaches.

        1. re: Mawson Plan

          I would try the usual suspects (including the much maligned Tojo's) - Have you been to Octopus' Garden, Okada, Dan, Yoshi, etc.? I have had good rice at Koko on Hastings St just recently - not too vinegary, nor sweet and the rice was loosely packed.

          1. re: fmed

            I'll go to Octopus' Garden tonight and try the 10 piece nigiri. Thanks!

            1. re: Mawson Plan

              Bluefin toro isn't that common (for one thing, Bluefin is getting exceedingly overfished) you may have to adjust your expectations regarding availability. I know Lime (and definitely a few other places) gets it in once in a while. Sit at the bar at OG tonight and chat up the itamae and ask him provenance and seasonality of his fish he uses for toro.

          2. re: Mawson Plan

            If price isn't a problem, Tojo usually has it for $(infiinity)/bite.

        2. Octopus Garden is grossly underrated. I'm actually saddened that not a lot of people talk about it here but the place has fantastic sashimi and sushi. The rice is made just right, enough acidity and bite.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jecolicious

            We do talk about Octopus' Garden here a lot. I have personally recommended it here on this forum perhaps dozens of times. It is one of my top three favourite sushi places in this city.

            1. re: jecolicious

              Octopus' Garden was fantastic. Thank you for the suggestion! Chef Sada was in fine form. He gave us some free mini beers to go with the promo fried shrimp head and was very welcoming and friendly. I had the 10 piece nigiri and it was stunning. We also had some American 'Kobe' and chu-toro (I know its bad to do but I had to). The chu-toro wasn't the best I've had, but it was real chu-toro (I've had some strange things brought out after ordering toro in Calgary). The black sesame 'gelato' brought out to finish was beautiful. Mari, the sales manager, told me that she works there because she really likes sushi. She said her favorite spot was Ajisai. I can't wait to try it!

            2. As a student, I've got a fairly limited budget, but I do like my sushi. I'm all about finding the places that offer value. Toshi is one of them. Ajisai is another. It only costs a little bit more than your neighborhood run-of-the-mill sushi joint, but the fish quality, selection and attention to detail is much greater at places like Ajisai. My guess (since I haven't been there) is that Lime is simply another notch above, hence the rare cuts of fish and apparent better quality. That would justify the 30-50% price increase over Ajisai.

              Maybe an establishment of a sushi restaurant class system is in order? A-class are the top of the bunch, B-class offers excellent value but may not have the absolute best quality, C-class are your spots that are cheap and cheerful, harmless and nothing special.

              Alright, I'm kidding about the class system. We'd probably start a small war between Chowhounds, but I know I keep these lists in my head.

              4 Replies
              1. re: peter.v

                I don't at all agree that 'we get mislabeled fish' that's nonsense.

                I know what I'm ordering and can't be fooled-the only possible mixup could be YFT for Bigeye or the reverse but that being said the only way to really tell the difference is to count the striations on the liver one is smooth the other not-that's probably why we often see 'Red Tuna' on offer.

                Since I'm not a big Sashimi eater Rice is very important and the two places with the very best Rice have now changed hands and aren't the same well time changes everything.

                Sushi can be so easy and yet people want to make it a contentious subject.

                Having eaten Sushi in the tropics many times-different countries with different fish on offer-I now try and relax and enjoy while eating here.

                Maybe the amazing Albacore and Salmon we have so much of has spoiled us to a degree.

                1. re: peter.v

                  peter, have you been to Ajisai lately? We did our usual Christmas Eve sushi takeout from them and noticed two things: our bill was about $20 more than last year for a similar order, and the sunomono, which had up till then been my favourite in the city, had taken a turn for the bland. Off night or ... ?

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Last time I had Ajisai it was not so nice. Maybe its because I was there at lunch for takeout with two small kids and not being taken seriously, but it made me wonder what all the fuss is about.

                    Fmed's photos from Lime indeed look better than anything I've had recently, although the rolls at Zest are a) beautifully presented and b) remarkably delicious. Too bad I'm so lame with a camera.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      I was there just before Christmas and I thought it was great. The wakame sunomono we had was definitely not bland, but I'll admit to not having it there before, so I definitely did not have a reference to past meals. I can't recall my bill being more than it has been in the past. Individual nigiri from the special fish menu were $3 each.

                      Though I'm a big fan of Ajisai, I would say it's very much a neighborhood joint. Might not be worth the trip to folks from elsewhere.

                      I'm hoping that was an off night grayelf (and waver!).

                  2. If you want a balance of quality, creativity/ presentation on a budget I would recommend AkaTomBo on Lonsdale in North Van. Been going there for about a year and its pretty consistent. The budget might sway you from calling a top spot on this list but it deserves a mention in my opinion.