I've tried on a few sushi restaurants in the last month.
Sushi Club in Kensington was recommended to me by another cook who is a fanatic about fish. I thought the decor was alright but the paintings sucked, or at least needed framing. I did like the big chalk board. Staff were friendly, though not very knowledgeable or maybe just not very communicative. If I hadn't seen the feature sheet on the outside chalkboard, I would have had no idea about what was available (the big one inside was blank). We tried two of the futomaki (Towa) style rolls, which were basically the same as Towa rolls, but you only get 50 cents on the dollar by comparison. The Nigiri was flawless however, and good value. What makes Sushi Club remarkable was the feature Scampi Tempura roll with coconut and an oysterish bbq type sauce. For 16 dollars, it was right up there with Lobster Poutine at Brava, or the Elk Carpaccio at River. Too bad it's only a feature. I'd definitely go back to Sushi Club, but more for an expensive snack then dinner. Given the downtown buzz about this place, I think they will stick around.
Shikiji Sushi is on Centre Street. The last time we went, we decided to order Izakaya style. I always enjoy the attention to detail, the plating and the little Amuse Bouche that gets sent out. The more creative rolls at Shikiji suffer from seasonal issues. Mango is never consistently ripe in Calgary - simple as that. However they have a fairly rich palette that stretches from deep salty bonito covered Tako Yaki (prepared with love, though I'm sure from a freezer), all the way to bright salmon and fruit rolls. It's not going to blow your mind like Towa, and the Nigiri is nice, but never stunning. What I enjoy about it as a local Sushi place is the price is cheap and you feel well filled out in all the corners for under fifty bucks (for two with beverages).
Misai Japanese Restaurant is in a flat top business ghetto in the North East. My brother is in the neighbourhood and wanted to split a lobster feature that they have. The restaurant is styled in the very standard way, though the staff are rather dour. The lobster feature is rather pleasing in its conception - you order a lobster, they yank one out of the tank and serve it three ways.
First - Salted and roasted lobster claws. Pretty nice - simple, and thus dependant on the quality of the lobster.
Second - A Lobster liver miso congee. Now, after having it, the congee end of it is not what it could be, as there is barely a cup of mushy rice floating around in miso. All the flavour comes from the liver - I really don't think it sets up long enough to get anything from the shells or legs. Could definitely benefit from some lobster oil or some kind of seafood booster to deepen the flavour. Given the time constraints in preparing the course, it wouldn't be 'cheating'.
Third - Lobster tail sashimi served with some various nigiri. The tail has to be frozen in order to kill off some parasites that hang out in fish tanks - so basically you are eating cold cubes of protein. Texturally it is smooth, though a touch more resistent on the tooth then a scallop. I'm going to assume covering it with roe was just to colour it up and add a touch more salt. I was glad to try it, but I'll be honest, I chucked several pieces into my congee to cook it and add a bit more flavour.
So despite the fact that Misai has garnered the most writing, I'll probably never go back. The staff were garbage. No offers of a second round of drinks, despite the fact that three of us were having plum wine, sake or other multi dollar drinks. No spoons for the miso - and if I step across tradition here, forgive me - but no one needs to watch four caucasians slurp runny congee out of a soup bowl; especially considering the thumb size chunks of tofu. The nigiri that came with the third course of lobster were poorly cut, veins all over the tuna, and skin trim on the salmon. If the eye rolling and sour staff were so ill opinioned of us as customers, you'd think they would give us the bill instead of making us wait for 30 minutes for it. Especially considering they had cleared away all our plates and glasses.
I still love Towa like no other Sushi place in Calgary, especially now that I hear Sushi Boat is closed. Shikiji and the Sushi Club are definitely worth a visit.
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