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Uptown Sushi, new in Calgary

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Uptown Sushi, new in Calgary

John Manzo | May 25, 2005 04:16 PM

In the space across the street from the new co-op at 11 and 11 SW, next to MLA Harvey Cenaiko's office, is a new sushi joint called Uptown Sushi. It's in a space that used to be a coffee shop that never seemed to find its groove, with an unfocused menu and very ugly interior. So when the windows were papered over, I wasn't expecting much- in fact the space is so hidden (despite being streetfront- it is set back and part of the facade is the office building's entrance) that I imagined it would be something like a dentist's office or a tanning salon.

But it's open, and it's a sushi place. Moreover, it's made great use of the space; all new flooring, lighting, seating, a very cool steel menu board, a massive improvement over the last tenant. Their logo is slick- they have obviously given great thought to design, and it's welcome.

Uptown is a rare concept in Calgary, and most cities, because it does not have conventional table service- it's an order-at-the-counter place, and the counter person brings you your meal. This saves on overhead, naturally, as does the use of disposable cutlery and styrofoam- a bit jarring in a sushi place given the importance of presentation for Japanese cuisines. But these shortcuts contribute to very reasonable prices: I got two spicy tuna rolls for $2.25 each (the cheapest I've ever had), one avocado roll ($2) and three pieces of unagi negiri for $2 a piece. So with tax, lunch was about $13. Ordering a la carte sushi is always more expensive but given that I detest raw salmon and other things that always end up in combos (california rolls, surf clam, octopus), I always order this way.

So the value is there, no question- I also got a bowl of so-so miso soup gratis (would have been better with silken tofu instead of the firm they use here). I am delighted to add that the sushi was absolutely wonderful, start to finish. The pieces are not remotely huge but the balance between rice and filling is perfect-for example, the avocado rolls were just delightfully done, tight and with perfectly ripe avocado; the spicy tuna was made with a sauce that is done in-house (no spicy powder, no sambal oelek, no cutting corners); most amazing was the unagi, which was toasted under a burner to get crispy, notjust warmed in a microwave. The whole experience was wonderful.

Afterwards, I talked to the counterperson and gave a hearty and honest "go chi so sama deshta!" to the sushi chef (Taiwanese by way of Vancouver), discussing the state of sushi here, their business plan, and on and on. As I was leaving the sushi chef chased after me and have me a to-go container with an order of negitoro rolls. They were delicious.

This is a great spot- don't let the styrofoam and plastic dissuade you!

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