A sampling of sushi plates at Ajisai Sushi Bar in Vancouver. Photo: Eating Club Vancouver
A little known fact is that Tokyo has the most Michelin star restaurants, eclipsing such well known gastronomical delights as Paris, Rome, and London. It’s all because of freshness: Tokyo boasts the largest fresh fish market in the world. Outside Japan, Vancouver is renowned for being on the radar of Japanese connoisseurs. I’ve previously written about the izakaya tradition which is sweeping the city but it’s the quality of the sushi by which most of us judge Japanese food. And in my opinion, Vancouver comes as close as possible to mirroring Japan in the quality of the food.
When it comes to freshness, Ajisai Sushi Bar excels. Housed in a small modern space, this place is tucked off the street in a walk-through corridor. The fish literally melts in your mouth and the chefs are extremely creative in their preparation. There is no hot kitchen so forget about tempura and grilled items ... it's just sushi and sashimi. This doesn't stop the chefs from being innovative, such as using corn flakes to give a crunch to their dynamite rolls. Other unique items include uni (sea urchin) with raw quail egg on top, ankimo (monkfish liver), and pressed saba (mackerel) sushi. And you can’t go wrong with their signature dish: the seafood salad with a bounty of seafood (tako, ebi, salmon and tuna) on a bed of lettuce and spring mix drizzled with a light and delicious dressing. Ajisai Sushi Bar, 2081 W. 42nd Ave., Vancouver, 604-266-1428; Tue-Sat: 11:00am - 2:00pm, 5:00pm - 9:30pm; Sun: 5pm - 9:30pm. Lunch $20/person, Dinner $30/person. Close to the Vancouver Olympic Centre.
A local favorite is Toshi Sushi which only opens for dinner. There is a strict no reservation policy and lines start forming long before the doors open. Make sure your entire party is there when your name gets called or they won’t seat you. You’ll find extremely fresh and inventive sushi/sashimi at very reasonable prices. Ask for the Box Roll (salmon, prawns, scallop, mayo and lemon) which is not listed on the menu. Toshi’s has a full kitchen so you can order perfectly cooked tempura, delectable oyster motoyaki, or the signature baked candied eggplant. You won’t find better value anywhere. Toshi Sushi, 181 East 16th Avenue, Vancouver, 604-874-5173; Tue-Sat: 5:00pm-9:45pm. Dinner $25/person. Close to Vancouver Olympic Center.