Minami

1118 Mainland Street Vancouver, BC CAN V6B 2T9 (604) 685-8080 minamirestaurant.com

Having heard people rave about the sushi in Vancouver I felt the need to see and taste for myself. Better than New York they said. Superior to LA and San Francisco they implored. They even went so far as to compare it to the likes of Nobu… Which turned out to be a big NoNo.

And thing is I knew it the moment I set foot in the door. Something about the vibe screamed amateur hour. And I’m not just saying that because the bar is slower than a turtle stuck in a tar pit filmed in hyper slow motion with a Phantom camera. In other words, we ordered our drinks well before any food and didn’t get them until after we were already three dishes into the meal.

Of the meal itself, I can only speak highly of one dish, which wasn’t even on anyone’s “must try” list, the yellowtail, spicy tuna roll. It had really good flavor and just the perfect amount of heat. I know it sounds relatively standard, but I’m trying here people. I’m trying so hard to see it, but all I kept seeing was a place that’s no better than virtually any neighborhood sushi joint in Manhattan.

The foie gras, black truffle gyoza, while amazing on paper tasted no different than your garden variety chicken potsticker. The salmon oshe (pictured) was way too overpowered by the brick of rice beneath it and it’s nothing by comparison to the pseudo equivalent, hanabe, of LA fame. Oh, and the ebi version of the oshe isn’t any better.

The tuna tataki with black pepper was a snore and sushi and sashimi platters were all decent, but again, nothing you would ever even dare think to compare to the likes of New York or LA. In fact, the only fish in the lot that sparked a twinkle in my eye was the albacore sashimi. But let’s forget New York and LA for just a second and get really real up in this bitch. I’ve had far better sushi in Harstdale, NY at Azuma. In Breckenridge, CO at Sushi Breck. At that’s in a friggin’ land-locked state for Christ’s sake! Even at Blue Ribbon in Vegas, which is in a godforsaken dessert!

So I don’t know what everyone else is smoking out there, but please pass it my way, because I just don’t taste what you are tasting.

2 teeth

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Matsuhisa

129 N La Cienega Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90211 • (310) 659-9639 nobumatsuhisa.com

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The food is really quite something here, but that’s to be expected. I mean Nobu isn’t an icon of Japanese cuisine because he doesn’t know his ass from albacore. What isn’t to be expected however, is how horribly cheesy the décor is, covered in hand-painted murals that look like something out of the halls in an elementary school. And on top of that, there are trophies and mementos everywhere as well, like Andre Agassi’s tennis racket, and not done in a tasteful or even kitschy artful way either. Nor even campy like The Palm. More done like a twenty-something guy’s first apartment with no sense of how to make an environment appealing. As a result, it is SO distracting that it brings the entire experience down.

But if you must, there is little I’d say to dissuade you when it comes to the menu. Everything is tops.  But the one dish you would be criminally negligent not to order is the black miso cod. Nobody does it better, which is in large part due to the fact that he invented the dish.

3 teeth

 

Momoya

185 7th Ave. New York, NY 10011(212) 989-4466momoyanyc.com

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Sushi restaurants are so aplenty in Manhattan it’s hard to stand out from the sea of options between your local neighborhood joint and the cream of the crop, Michelin star destinations like Nobu and Masa.

But somewhere in the middle lies a vast expanse of Japanese eateries that range from cool to campy. Ones that are better than the average bear (to be read like Yogi), but not quite at the top of the game either.

These are the waters in which you will find the likes of Momoya. A very strong middle-of-the-road sushi restaurant that would easily be tops if it were located in Des Moines.

Fresh fish. Beautiful presentations and a sleek, clean décor. And while I found the pieces to be good, I also found them to be a bit miniscule, which only served to throw off the balance with some of their brines, because with such little fish, the brines easily overpowered most of my bites.

Also, while it was a plus that they carried my favorite Japanese dessert, mochi (ice cream dumplings wrapped in rice paper), the flavors were a touch subtle for my tastes.

So a runaway success it was not, but in Chelsea the options for great sushi are slim. Almost as slim as those tiny pieces of sushi, so if you’re not up for a trek over to Ootoya, I’d say pop a squat and enjoy. But definitely don’t go out of your way.

3 teeth

 

Jewel Bako

239 E 5th St. New York, NY 10003 • (212) 979-1012jewelbakosushi.com

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If the name sorta sounds like “Jewel Box” it’s with good reason, the décor is intended to look like one. And from the picture you can see it’s almost as though you are sitting inside a jewelry case, perhaps as one of the jewels, which is how we were treated by our waiter.

Unfortunately, though, I really wish the jewels were on our plate, handled as a little more “precious,” because while it is certainly good, it just doesn’t live up to its price tag. For me, in general, most super high end/expensive sushi joints tend to disappoint. In fact, there is really only one that doesn’t, Nobu. Granted I have yet to eat at Masa, but I heard it’s not worth it either, so I’m not about to rush to another $200+ a person meal just to confirm what I already know. That said, I do find Bako to be a worthy trip over the likes of Megu, Bond St. and Koi.

3 teeth

Megu

62 Thomas St. New York, NY 10013(212) 964-7777megurestaurants.com

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If it were only a matter of decor and platings, this place would be off the charts, with it’s daily hand-carved ice Buddah set amidst an architectural tour de force. But that’s about all I can say that’s positive about Megu.

The service barely spoke a word of English, which would’ve been fine if we were in Tokyo, but in the United States, when you’re paying over 200 bucks a head,  I’m sorry, the least you could do is put someone in front of me who understands what I’m saying. After all,  you are in a service industry. And imagine if I was trying to tell him I had a nut allergy and he thought I was saying I had a nut affinity!

But that’s small stuff. Not the dying from nuts part. The language barrier part. What was most disappointing about Megu was the food itself. From a taste perspective not a single dish was exceptional and some things were down right inedible.

I mean sure, I like the novelty of drinking bone marrow foam out of an egg shell as much as the next guy. Eating foie gras terrine wrapped in gelatin so it looks like an old-school candy wrapper is pretty cool too. And the sheer inventiveness of cantilevering a smelt over a miniature bed of smoking coals is genius. But like I said, my eyes couldn’t have been happier, however, from my mouth to my wallet I was pissed.

I say skip it and go with a sure thing like Nobu. Especially if you’re going to spend this kind of money on Japanese.

2 teeth

Sushi Roku

1401 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 458-4771 -OR- 8445 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048(323) 655-6767 • sushiroku.com

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Finding a great sushi restaurant in LA is probably about as easy as finding sand in the Sahara, but finding a sushi place that does more than just great sushi/sashimi, and has a cool décor gets much harder. Nobu? Please. The place is in a friggin’ strip mall for Christ’s sake! Matsuisha? With the cheesy murals on the walls? Sushi Park? (see previous dig on strip malls).

Roku is cool. It just is. And it has been for over a decade, which says a lot.  But they also have great food, of the sushi and non-sushi variety. Check out their grilled miso tofu steak for those patrons who don’t do fish- it’s awesome! Also, for dessert the chocolate volcano is one of the best out there. And as for the sushi faithful, they consistently serve the best Unagi I’ve ever had. They make two of my favorite rolls on the planet: The rock shrimp tempura jalapeño roll and the baked lobster roll. Another great on the menu is the hanabi (spicy tuna atop a fried rice coin), a dish made famous by Katsu-Ya, but to be honest, Roku does it better. Sure the other stuff is good, but raw fish is basically only as good as what comes off the boats. I’ve learned in LA, that if there’s a good batch of yellowtail in town- everywhere has good yellowtail. So, if you’re looking for sushi with a side of cool, and with a little somethin’ somethin’ extra, Roku has you covered. If you’re looking for a pricey omakase from one of Jiro’s understudy’s, than you’re in the wrong place.

4 teeth