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Jul 27, 2009 02:29 PM

"Real" sushi in vancouver- gimme!

Visiting Vancouver in 2 days! (yes I'm a procrastinator).
1)I need an omakase lunch/dinner. I want the real sushi. Let me qualify: no rolls, fresh grated wasabi, seasonal fish, mostly wild if not completely, personalized sushi portions to diner's dimensions, crazy samurai knife skills, no cold rice, no hot falling apart rice, no sake bombs, no saketini's, usually clean minimalist wooden sushi bar, place that understand rice is more important than fish but still has the best fish, and of course love.

2) Please also recommend day from Wed-Fri. I'm assumming there are a few days when the fish purveyors are not available to avoid. reservations necessary?
3) Also need to know which itamae I should be in front of?

so far I got tojo's or octopus garden

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  1. My choice would be Octopus' Garden. If you ask for omakase - tell Chef Sada that you want "real sushi" (local fish, no fusion rolls...just tell him excactly what you want.). They serve real wasabe there, etc. We don't really have a "fish delivery day" depends on the place.

    Go for the gusto and order the horse sashimi as well.

    10 Replies
    1. re: fmed

      It'll be tough to find what you want for lunch.

      1. re: Sam Salmon clarify: OG is dinner only.

        1. re: fmed

          To be honest I like Octopus Garden but I don't love it. I live two blocks away and it's a great neighborhood modern Sushi restaurant. They do go nuts with the creative rolls.

          What disappoints me is that I like to sit at the bar and watch the knife skills and the way they have theirs set up you are completely blocked from everything below the shoulders (unless you want to watch the assistant on the back counter hammering out the rolls).

          In my opinion one of the somewhat unsung masters is Yoshi-san who has been in charge of the sushi bar at Blue Water Cafe for the last few years. He used to have his own place years ago and he is the real deal and very creative in a classic way.
          They, alas, are closed for lunch but he should be there Thursday, Fri, Sat.
          Blue Water has impeccable seafood standards.

          He would be my next choice for a serious sushi fix.

          1. re: eatrustic

            Blue Water is one of my faves too (could be my favourite for premium sushi here)....but I don't recall seeing real wasabi there. (I have heard that they do have it....I just have never had it served to me).

            I agree with you...OG is much more known for their fusion rolls, but they are certainly capable of traditional sushi ( I have had it there a number of times ).

            My own neighbourhood favourite - Lime - now does omakase. But they too don't serve real wasabi.

            1. re: fmed

              I loved Lime when we took Papa-san there for Father's Day (fmed's fave) but do be absolutely sure to book at the bar -- the front of the resto is a bit odd and "Bavarian" looking, and there is a band sometimes. We enjoyed interacting with the itamae there -- it all seemed very Japanese to me, if you know what I mean.

            2. re: eatrustic

              maybe I need to change my approach in vancouver and play to it's strengths...i do love the fusion stuff as long as it's good and done with water seems like i could get my sushi fix as well as have other great seafood...

              1. re: eatrustic

                It appears that Blue Water not do omakase. In fact, my waiter this evening claimed never to have heard the term before, and asked me to explain what it meant.

                1. re: antirealist

                  You have to sit at the Raw Bar with the chef. He'll just tally it up at the end. They don't do it officially or as a prix fixe like many places. Most premium sushi restaurants will do omakase if you ask the chef for it. I'm not surprised that the waiter didn't know what it meant as Blue Water isn't a sushi restaurant in the traditional sense.

                  1. re: fmed

                    Really? You're not surprised that a professional waiter, at a high-end restaurant in Vancouver, renowned for its seafood, and which has a large Japanese component to their menu, has never heard the term omakase?

                    The food was excellent. But my entire meal was served to me in 45 minutes, and I left less than an hour after I arrived. Thank goodness I didn't order a cocktail. From my experience this evening, they seem to be clueless about how to deal with solo diners.

                    1. re: antirealist

                      >>Really? You're not surprised that a professional waiter, at a high-end restaurant in Vancouver, renowned for its seafood, and which has a large Japanese component to their menu, has never heard the term omakase?

                      Not surprised at all (sad to say). I have encountered many such waiters. The issue is compounded at Blue Water where the Raw Bar component runs as almost a separate operation. It sounds like a they need to do a little sit down with the waitstaff.

                      Did you sit at the bar or did you opt for a table? I ask because I sit at the bar when I dine solo. It removes the waitstaff from the equation for me - I deal directly with the itamae.

        2. I'll be in Vancouver in a few weeks. Our local paper had a pre-Olympics Sushi article, by Remy Scalza, highlighting Tojo's.

          I appreciate the nod to Octopus' Garden from fmed, but am looking for some lunch options as well.

          Please let me know if this article rings true on the Vancouver Sushi scene and if the 'burb area mentioned is accessible by public transit:

          10 Replies
          1. re: Lydia R

            I'd say the article is good. Main Street is nowhere near a suburb though! It's walkable from downtown, about 4 km to the corner of 16th, where Toshi is. Public transit is frequent and simple by taking the Skytrain from downtown to Main St station and hopping on the number 3 bus southbound.

            Any location that's actually in the city of Vancouver is relatively easy to access with public transit. Even areas like Burnaby, North Vancouver and Richmond are easy to get to as well. It's further out spots like Surrey and Delta that are harder to get to.

            I'm a fan of Toshi, but haven't been in awhile. It's not open for lunch either.

            1. re: Lydia R

              I guess you can't really write about the Vancouver sushi scene without mentioning Tojo. While he doesn't get much love on this board, he does get lauded elsewhere. If you have the time, it could be worth a shot dining at Tojo's.

              The locals eat at their neighbourhood sushi joints like Toshi, Ajisai, Shiro, Lime, etc. and reserve 'special occasion sushi' to places like Octopus' Garden, Tojo's, Blue Water, and places like that.

              For lunchtime, the writer mentions the multitude of corner sushi joints that outnumber Starbucks - these places are fine if you want a quick California Roll, but generally the sushi is not very good. I often just pop into Fujiya (a popular Japanese food mart) that specializes in takeout sushi - serviceable, but also ultimately not that great.

              PS It sort of irks me that Tojo continuously takes credit for introducing sushi to Vancouver. That is not true at all. This city has had sushi since the '60's. I do give him a bit of credit for perhaps popularizing it....even then, that's a stretch. In some articles, he takes credit for inventing the California Roll - yet another bit of fiction.

              1. re: fmed

                Yeah, Main Street is definitely an "urb" not a 'burb! My two favourite places for value sushi are on Cambie and Main -- Hiroshi's and Zipang respectively. They are both Japanese run which can make a difference and they both have a creative side to their menus that doesn't always work but does often enough to keep me happy. Their prices are also low enough that if you get a dud it's not the end of the world. I would characterize both as neighbourhood sushi joints just not in my neighbourhood so I guess I'm willing to travel a bit further :-).

                Re the Tojo's thing, it irks me too. And was it just me or was that article intimating he'd created the BC roll?

                Zipang Sushi
                3710 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3N7, CA

                Hiroshi's Sushi Creations Ltd
                3720 Oak St, Vancouver, BC V6H2M3, CA

                1. re: grayelf

                  I think he says he created both the BC Roll & California roll. I know when we ate there (one of the best meals in my life), they mentioned that to us, and I ordered the California Roll (called Tojo Roll). I wouldn't have ordered that normally, but that made me - and it was $12 or something!...Though I loved that meal so much, I have never been back as I can't afford to! Even when I'm splurging I can't bring myself to do it.

                2. re: fmed

                  Good point fmed about the corner sushi joints. I guess I'm so used to knowing my neighborhood shops and their individual quality levels that I don't even think twice about that. To a visitor, all of these shops would be overwhelming!

                  1. re: fmed

                    I recall (as a young LotusRapper) eating my first sushi in the mid '70s at Koko (E. Hastings) and another (forget name) that was on Powell just west of Dunlevy.

                    1. re: LotusRapper

                      Was it Aki? Apropos of Aki, I just heard what is prolly old news that some bank or other big corp is redoing the building they are in on Thurlow and they will be ousted. Bleh.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Yes, I think it was :-) location still has some of the old facade:


                        1. re: LotusRapper

                          That's the old Aki location for sure.

                3. Ok, so what are the lunch options then? Tojo and Toshi are not open during lunch.

                  Is there no place for me to get Omakase on a Friday afternoon?

                  1. Not that I've been in a while (it's maybe been 10 years), I still hear reports that the sushi at Miko Sushi on Robson is pretty good. I don't know if they've got an omakase, but it is Japanese run and looks exactly like most Japanese sushi restaurants. One of the big issues looking for a lunch-time omakase is that quite often the head sushi chef might not be working at that time. I might suggest checking out one of the local izakayas as we purportedly have the best outside of Japan. Same might be said for our sushi though!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: barcosbarcos

                      I had an excellent lunch at Miko in late August. Very traditional -- I believe they refuse to make "crazy" rolls with cream cheese etc outright. Quite pricey. Good value. Don't know about omakase there.

                      1. re: barcosbarcos

                        The sushi chef at Miko is a hero -- I once tried pulling a 5th chair to a table and he demanded I leave (though his more sensible wife moved us to a bigger table). I went a few months ago, and think it is one of the better most consistently fresh sushi places downtown.

                        barcosbarcos : You wanna go get sushi sometime? From your posts, it seems like you really know a lot about Japanese culture, and perhaps have a beard.

                        1. re: brokentelephone

                          Actually, I'm mostly mustachioed these days due to my time spent in Italy. I dunno if a sushi date is a good idea. I've heard rumours that you're a bit of chav.

                      2. check out tdays Vancouver Sun o front page "Sushi:A guide to best bites in Metro" by Mia Stainsby