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Best Nigiri in Vancouver?

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My husband and I are heading to Vancouver for a week on Wednesday to celebrate our last few months as a couple before our first child arrives in October. We want to find the very best nigiri in Vancouver and avoid those over-mayonnaised concoctions many Japanase restaurants offer Westerners. Any particular suggestions? From my initial research, it seems like Ajisai and Octopus Garden may be good options. We're open to a a variety of experiences - from holes in the wall to the best service available. Thanks!

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  1. Where you from and what qualities of sushi & nigiri are you accustomed to ?

    I've never been, but Miku is highly regarded:

    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/134970...

    And Aki, a long-time institution that I've not personally been for a long time even before their recent re-location:

    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/762765...

    Some may suggest you avoid well-known places like Tojo's. I'm not one to enter into debate there ;-

    )

    As to Ajisai and Octopus Garden, they are extremely consistent, in a good way.

    1. Congrats on the imminent arrival! If you're really seeking nigiri, may I suggest Miko (not Miku, where to me the only real standout is the salmon aburi)? They really know their fish at Miko and the wait staff will steer you toward the especially good cuts if you act reasonably serious. I've never had mayonnaise on nigiri (only temaki, gunkan or maki) so I'm not certain what you're after, but Miko kicks it old school and doesn't do any "weird" stuff. Book a cozy two top on the east side of the resto, be sure to order a la carte (not the set lunches/dinners) and bring money. Good sushi is not cheap even here in Sushilandia :-). No need to sit at the bar here as the itamae are working hair straight back and don't interact much. I also like Ajisai a bunch but I find their table seating uncomfortable so if you do try it, go early and get seats at the bar. Haven't been to the new Aki but I never found them strong on sushi, more on the robata stuff, previously. OG is a good bet too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: grayelf

        Thank you, Grayself! This is so helpful! Miko is now at the top of the list. And good to know that OG and Ajisai are good options, too. We'll be sushi hopping in just a few days!

      2. Ajisai and Octopus Garden are great choices!
        A cheaper alternative is Shiro on Cambie & 15th. Little hole in the wall but they deliver the goods!

        1. Dan on Broadway is a good option as well.

          1. In addition to the above suggestions, if you're looking for an option on the east side, Kishimoto (2054 Commercial Drive) has great sushi, nicely presented. And Sushi Hachi is in Richmond (8888 Odlin Crescent) but I'll mention it just in case -- it's definitely an "over-mayonnaised concoctions"-free zone (I think the Califiornia roll is about as non-traditional as they get). Their nigiri comes with very small pieces of rice so you can fill up on plenty of neta instead. Slow service, as it's a two-person operation (no kitchen, just sushi), but good quality.

            11 Replies
            1. re: queueueuq

              Has Sushi Hachi extended their hours? If no, may be too late for OP to get a reso (no walk ins). Glad to hear their quality is still there, I thought I read a downward report a while back.
              Kishimoto does lovely, delicious rolls (IMO the most beautiful in town) but they are pretty out there with unusual combos, though mayo is not a problem. Had one experience with still-frozen tuna in the sashimi there, and all deepfried items should be avoided, but their salmon aburi is nearly as good as Miku's and is about a third less cost-wise. Cute room too but small so OP should get resos. Don't miss the housemade yuzu ice cream for dessert.

              1. re: grayelf

                Yes, Kishimoto has creative rolls, but I thought it'd be ok since the OP is focussing on nigiri. (Btw, their toro tataki might be my favourite tataki in the city.) Yes on the yuzu ice cream!

                1. re: queueueuq

                  Come to think of it, I don't recall ever getting mayo on any nigiris I've eaten. Actually I never understood why mayo is even introduced in rolls in the first place.

                  1. re: LotusRapper

                    As I mentioned, I've never had mayo on nigiri (gunkan, yes) either. I will admit that I enjoy a shot of Kewpie on certain rolls, particularly ones that have a tempura component. But a judicious hand, please, and not on everything :-).

                2. re: grayelf

                  According to Yelp, it's possible to just walk in to Sushi Hachi. It sounds like a fabulous place! It's definitely on our list, so hopefully we'll be able to get in there without a problem.

                  And yes, I haven't had mayo on my nigiri, either, but sometimes when you ask for sushi recommendations people point you to the popular Western joints, which my husband and I really don't care for anymore. After a trip to San Francisco truly educated our palates, we started up the hunt for the best sushi we can get our hands on whenever we travel.

                  Oh, and we're definitely open to rolls as long as the fish is the focus, so sounds like Kishimoto is up our alley, too. Thanks!

                  1. re: makinitgreen

                    There's also Kura in Burnaby, on Kingsway. Avoid lunch ..... too busy due to office lunch crowd. Dinner is when you get the full staff attention and quality eats. They are Japanese-owned & operated.

                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/181027...

                    Ichiro in Steveston Village of Richmond is good too:

                    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/180867...

                    1. re: LotusRapper

                      I think last time I walked past Kura there was a sign saying they were closed; hearsay suggests they are converting it to an izakaya, but I have no confirmation of this.

                      In addition I was very jet lagged and exhausted when this all went down so take this entire post with a grain of salt, my memory is a bit fuzzy.

                      1. re: jerkstore

                        Interesting, maybe jumping on the izakaya bandwagon. Hope the rest of their operation remains as core. Been awhile since I ventured out thataways for meals.

                        1. re: LotusRapper

                          I will keep an eye out and report back if there are any developments...I live nearby and walk past relatively frequently on the way to Pho 24 Express.

                    2. re: makinitgreen

                      I hope SH works for you but bear in mind they are only open for three hours a night Tues-Sat and they only seat about 20 people so your trip may be in vain without a reso. The guy on Yelp appears to have been a solo dinner. See May 25 entry here for a recent take on the no-reso approach: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/181736...

                      If you do get in be sure to order the three-line grunt if it's available. Their fish menu is limited.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Excellent! I will definitely take all of this into consideration!

                3. Sushi Hachi - One chef - who knows what he is doing. I have been to Tsukiji in Japan and the fish served here was better if not comparable. This place is the most authentic Sushi restaurant in Vancouver hands down. I had one meal where the rice was too hard but every other meal has been the best in Vancouver by far. If you sit at the bar you can have a better view of the chef cutting the fish and preparing all your sushi. The chefs special at $25 for 10 pieces of sushi and one hand roll is the steal of a lifetime. Reservations one or two days in advance are recommended.

                  Ajisai - Great sushi. I have not had one bad meal here. Great every single time. I think its their pressed hamachi sushi that I really like but I can't remember exactly. My brother and sister who are vegetarians love eating there too.

                  Tokyo Thyme - Their black sesame tuna tataki and chicken teriyaki are amazing. The Mexican sushi chef used to work at Tojo's and his Japanese wife cooks in the back.

                  Kishimoto - Really amazingly presented sushi. They put effort in to everything and it shows

                  Miku - As some have said it is good but the stars are the aburi dishes especially the salmon oshi and ebi oshi.. which Kishimoto also has

                  Shiro - Really good every time I go there but it always smells like fish

                  Hamaei - Wow. I really did not expect this place to impress when I first saw it from the outside but once you get inside you know it is going to be good.

                  My friend really loves Aki and keeps wanting me to try it - especially the black cod there. I think it will be my next restaurant.

                  Of the Izakayas, I think Kingyo and the Guu (Guu with garlic being my favourite) family of restaurants are my top picks. I also like Zakusshi quite a bit but I have had one or two mediocre meals there (and a few spectacular meals there)

                  Stay away from Tojo's. I have been there three times and regretted it each time. I had the Omakase two times - we were presented with almost the exact same dishes both times (these visits were years apart). There were some standout dishes such as the deep fried shitake mushroom with fish paste but that is about the only dish I was really impressed by. The last trip was the worst where the sushi platter we ordered was of a grade just above AYCE - it seemed as if they had cut the sushi hours before and left it out to sit. The pieces of fish were also cut clumsily; they were not cut to fit the piece of rice underneath. You can eat at all the restaurants listed above for the same amount as one meal at Tojo's.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: quddous

                    Great list quddos - almost identical to my own list.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Is there anything I'm missing?

                      1. re: quddous

                        Miko is currently on top for me.

                        1. re: fmed

                          I went to Miko just a few days ago to try it out and it was mediocre. Not bad but not something I would consider best in the city.

                    2. re: quddous

                      Just want to say that all of these recommendations are right on, at least the ones we made it to. We had sushi every night we were in Vancouver, and Sushi Hachi in RICHMOND (do not make the mistake we did and carelessly write down the Sushi Hachi VANCOUVER address - it's a complete dive) is amazing. We sat at the bar and watched the chef prepare our meal, and my god the fish was divine. The rolls were a little sloppy — falling apart — but I didn't care because the quality of the fish was so top notch.

                      We ended up at Octopus Garden twice because I messed up on the Sushi Hachi Richmond reservation and went to the Vancouver restaurant of the same name instead. Of course we left immediately. I have to say, OG's sashimi was wonderful and the ambience elegant. The chef, Sada, owns the restaurant, which has been in business for 20 years this year. He was so friendly and interested in his customers. A wonderful place to go with friends for a special occasion.

                      Ajisai was also great — the kanpachi was WOW! As was their toro. Ambience nothing special, but who cares if all you're looking for is great sushi.

                      Kishimoto's was good, but I wasn't super impressed with it. I didn't leave there wanting to run and tell everyone about it. But I certainly wouldn't complain if it were the only sushi restaurant in Vancouver. I guess I was a little confused by the waitstaff, who were all very young and very white. In all of the other authentic sushi places we went to, all of the waitstaff was Japanese, which helps make it feel that much more authentic. (Obviously a weird little bias of mine.)

                      Finally, Miko on Robson (not Miku) was probably the best sushi for the best value. The fish was fantastic, and it was significantly less expensive than all of the other places we went to. Of course, still not cheap if you're going to eat a lot of sushi the way we did, but still cheaper.

                      Thanks, all, for your recommendations. That was the most amazing sushi tour we've ever been on. Now we just have to empty our piggy banks to pay for it all!

                      1. re: makinitgreen

                        I didn't included Octopus Garden on my list because it ends up being really expensive each meal I go there. Usually about $120-180 for two people while at Ajisai our meals end up being about $60. There is a huge disparity there. They do have some great quality food if you have tried everything else and want something new.

                        Miko is one that I have wanted to go to for a while now. Quite a few people have recommended it.

                        1. re: quddous

                          Hmmm, that's interesting. We paid $100 and $120 for our two meals at OG, not including tip. We paid about $100 at Ajisai, too. We didn't have drinks at either place, so that's all sushi. Maybe it depends on what you order . . .

                        2. re: makinitgreen

                          Interesting comment about Kishimoto. The owners are a couple, she white, he Japanese. I haven't noticed all the wait staff being non-Japanese but I haven't been for a few months. I have noticed the service being a bit confoozled at times. Did they have the yuzu ice cream?

                          1. re: grayelf

                            The service at Kishimoto is enthusiastic and sometimes confoozled. If you are looking for a more traditional Japanese style service with Japanese staff, this isn't the place for you. Since I don't put Kishimoto in the "authentic sushi" category, I'm OK with it.

                            1. re: fmed

                              What he said ;-)

                          2. re: makinitgreen

                            "Ajisai was also great — the kanpachi was WOW! As was their toro. Ambience nothing special, but who cares if all you're looking for is great sushi."

                            Kanpachi, mmmm. That's probably my favourite nigiri, after uni. Hard to find, but better even than hamachi (which is great in itself).

                            1. re: jcolvin

                              Yeah, Ajisai often gets interesting/unusual fish as specials, worth a look if you can make it by and the kanpachi is always good. We got takeout on Friday and it was tiptop -- they always do a great job on the rice, so important! Something that really impressses me there is the variety of veg based sushi they have. They do a great red pepper nigiri, for example, and their avopara roll (avocado and asaparagus) is so refreshing. The okra gunkan alone was worth the candle. They also use yamaimo and natto a fair bit which I love. Not too much cooked stuff though as they don't have a full kitchen or deep fryer (they use tiny Japanese cornflakes in their dynamite roll instead of tempura) but I did see a mighty fine looking gindara saikyo going by as we were picking up our order.

                        3. Sorry - replying to an old thread, my wife and I moved to Vancouver a few months ago and I'm browsing the archives to use for discovering the city :)

                          Since we've been here, we've been going to Ajisai every single week - well-made nigiri, good fish selection for a reasonable price... the hamachi-toro (off-menu) is pretty consistent and our favourite, our other regular choices - toro, kanpachi, hamachi, sockeye, amaebi, uni, hotate - vary from good to great depending on the day... and the staff are good with suggesting options that are good on that day. We love it, and highly recommend it.

                          Does Vancouver have any 'special occasion' sushi restaurants like the serious high-end ones in Japan? i.e. a place with really good rice, real wasabi, serves one piece at a time at the proper temperature and sauce, serves only the high-quality fish they can find that day rather than a set selection, etc... Sorry, I know that sounds pretty snobby

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: analogarsonist

                            Check out Tojo's. It's very overpriced in my opinion but the experience there is closest to what you describe.

                            You'll also get some great sushi at Blue Water Cafe. It's not a sushi restaurant per se, but they put out beautiful sushi.

                            1. re: waylman

                              Tojo's would have been my first guess, but it gets so many negative reviews on this board :) I'll just have to try it out for myself I guess! And Blue Water is on my list as well...

                              Thanks! Will update with my thoughts when I try them :)

                              1. re: analogarsonist

                                My personal rule-of-thumb is, unless there's an unanimous decry of a certain restaurant, I would venture to try them out to experience for myself and make my own assessment of its merits (or lack thereof). Tojo's is to be experienced, if for nothing else, then it being the "pantheon" of local great sushi mythology ;-)

                            2. re: analogarsonist

                              Ok, ate at Tojo's tonight :)

                              When I called in to make the reservation, I inquired about the sushi bar, they mentioned that it was omakase only, and would cost between $150-$200... I thought about it, since this would clearly be the way to get the best experience from the restaurant... but then decided against it and asked for a table - figured I would give the restaurant a test-run before going all-in.

                              Sat down and looked over the menu, and noticed that the only nigiri on the menu was the "chef selection". Given that we were primarily interested in nigiri, we asked the waitress whether we could order individual nigiri pieces, she replied "We don't recommend nigiri, you can get nigiri anywhere, at Tojo's we're known for our rolls - did you know that Chef Tojo invented the California roll?" So I told her I would order other stuff too, but I would still like to order individual nigiri.

                              She brought over a separate printed menu with a decent selection of about 20 nigiri. I asked what was good today, but she didn't understand. I asked whether there was anything off the printed menu, there was only one additional option - a young sea-bream... OK - so, this is clearly not a serious sushi restaurant, but we were still optimistic

                              We ordered sake, hotate, mirugai, toro, hamachi (no hamachi toro), uni, amaebi (all nigiri) - the rice was very good, perfect texture, a bit underseasoned, but probably the best I've had in Vancouver. The fish was also very good, but pretty comparable to the other places we've been (Ajisai, Miku). Toro and mirugai were the stand-outs. Real wasabi, no varying individual sauces...Major problem though: about half of our fish was cut VERY poorly, lots of tough chewy tendon, which is kinda inexcusable

                              We also ordered some fillers - Tojo's Tuna (pretty good), Agadeshi Tofu (pretty good), Tojo's Roll (just ok), Golden Roll (pretty good but not worth $26). We also had their black sesame panna cotta for dessert, which was fantastic! We ended up spending about $125 pp, which is about twice as much as we normally spend at Ajisai (although they are clearly different class restaurants).

                              We looked over to the sushi bar pretty often - it definitely did seem like those people were having a very different experience. The hot food looked like mostly off-menu items, sushi was served one-at-a-time with some discussion (maybe this is where they emphasize the local fresh selections)... and lots of happy-looking (and rich-looking) Japanese people, which is always a good sign

                              So, we went to Tojo's looking for a serious sushi restaurant (reminiscing our experiences in Japan), and it's clearly not that. But we still ordered like it was a serious sushi restaurant, and ended up being disappointed... But we're still a bit intrigued about the omakase experience at the sushi bar, and still willing to give that a shot some day

                              1. re: analogarsonist

                                It's been a while since anyone posted here on Tojo's so thanks for the update. The one place that might have met your needs is now closed (Sushi Kimura) and you might still have had something to say about the knife cuts but never the quality or variety... sigh. Please do let us know if you decide to spring for the omakase at Tojo's.

                                1. re: analogarsonist

                                  I remember when Tojo's Golden Roll was $6-and it was nothing too special back then.

                                  1. re: analogarsonist

                                    I've had omakase twice and it is no different from a la carte - extremely disappointing.

                                    There are some things that are different/delicious - but that is only 10% of the meal.

                                  2. re: analogarsonist

                                    It doesn't get as much love on this board as I think it deserves, but I still think Dan (on Broadway) is one of the better places in the city. The omakase there is consistently wonderful and much more reasonably priced than a place like Tojo's. Generally though I suppose you're not likely to get more than a few pieces of sushi in the meal - the menu changes drastically depending on the day and season.

                                    I haven't been to a place in Vancouver that is close to the same style as the high end of sushi-ya in Japan - generally the ones around here tend to be less focused on sushi alone, and more about providing variety to complement it. (Not to say it doesn't exist - but I haven't found it).

                                    1. re: jerkstore

                                      I like Dan-the food is outstanding-bit too much of an emphasis on booze for me though and the sometime erratic hours can be a trial to deal with.

                                      1. re: jerkstore

                                        Hadn't heard of Dan, have added it to my radar (walking distance for me too)

                                        I'm starting to come to the conclusion that there aren't places in Vancouver similar to the Japanese high-end sushi places - oh well, gives me an excuse to travel :) I'm already extremely happy with the affordable choices we have here in Vancouver for my weekly sushi fix...

                                        1. re: analogarsonist

                                          Vancouver has an abundance of decent low priced sushi.

                                          We have a few good mid level sushi restaurants but we are missing high end. Tojo's is supposed to be high end but he is pawning off mediocre sushi at high end prices.