Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Episode #229: Hong Sushi

Burnaby North, $ (Budget)

The first restaurant that I ventured to after I had become bored of SFU's campus food was Sushi Town. At that time, I was aware that Hong Sushi was even closer to campus than Sushi Town. However, I ended up going to Sushi Town because it seemed the more popular of the two, and more importantly, I was too lazy to cross the street prior to eating. Hong Sushi ended up in my list of restaurants I wanted to try but forgot to, until Jeff from my office mentioned how he used to regularly order their very cheap and filling combo: 18 pieces of sushi + miso soup for just $6.95 (now $7.95).

Thus, the two of us went to Hong Sushi during one of our lunch breaks to try out their $6.95 combo among other things. Hong Sushi is Chinese-operated, and although it is rather small in physical space, its menu is not small at all. There were enough appetizers and special rolls to give me a hard time deciding how to construct my ultimate tasting experience.

One notable thing about Hong Sushi is that they serve everything on foam dishes, which complements their budget-friendly focus. Another notable thing about the restaurant is that you order using tablets (there's one at each table). Given the low volume of dine-in customers, I'm not sure if the tablets really contribute to improving the restaurant's efficiency. However, they are great if you find human interaction terrifying and are mortally afraid of actually having to talk to a server.

Salmon Roll - B
California Roll - B+
Yam Roll - B

The $6.95 combo comes with a Salmon Roll, a California Roll, a Yam Roll, and a bowl of miso soup (not pictured). The rolls turned out better than I had expected. The California Roll featured sweet imitation crab, while the lightly fried tempura yam in the Yam Roll had a decent amount of crispiness. The Salmon Roll came with fresh, buttery salmon, although we thought the sushi rice could have been a little more flavourful. All three rolls were neatly constructed and came in rather large portions. 

Salmon Sashimi - A-
Toro Sashimi - B-

Next up, the Salmon Sashimi was creamy and buttery and came in neatly cut, generous slices. I also liked how the pieces were not too thickly sliced. The toro did not fare as well, as it was slightly fishy and not especially melty. 

Appetizer Tempura - B

The Appetizer Tempura came with one prawn and one piece each of kabocha, zucchini, sweet potato, and carrot. Some of the vegetable tempura was well-prepared and turned out savoury and juicy. However, the batter tended to be quite thick.

Scorpion Roll - B+

Next, we had the Scorpion Roll, a massive roll with deep-fried prawn, spicy tuna, salmon, cucumber, imitation crab meat, soft shell crab tempura, and masago. Despite their colossal size, the individual pieces actually held together quite well. The soft shell crab was remarkably well-prepared and contributed a nice crispiness to the roll. The spicy zing from the spicy tuna also went well with the other savoury ingredients in the roll.

Chopped Scallop Nigiri - B+
Unagi Nigiri - B
Saba Nigiri - B-
Tai Nigiri - B-
Hotate Nigiri - B-

After our large roll, I was presented with some rather large nigiri. The nigiri were more about size than quality. The sushi rice was dry and too tightly packed. However, some of the toppings were decent. The chopped scallop had a pleasant, creamy sweetness, while the unagi was soft and dressed with ample sweet unagi sauce. The saba was too salty and not smooth in texture, while the tai and hotate lacked flavour. 

The service was very minimal, as the server seemed to expect us to interact with the tablets more than himself. However, the food was decent given the budget prices. Hong Sushi is not a place I would frequent, but it is a place I can fall back on if I ever felt the need for a change of taste from the other budget sushi restaurants on Hastings. 

Hong Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Episode #228: Sushi Hub

Vancouver (Southwest), $$ (Moderately Priced)

I probably would have never found out about Sushi Hub had they not followed me on Instagram. Located on one of the less busier parts of Main Street, the restaurant makes it quite obvious that its feature dish is Aburi sushi. As soon as I returned the follow, half of my Instagram feed was filled with delicious-looking photos of fusion sushi from Sushi Hub. I took this as a sign that Instagram was persuading me to try the restaurant and got Tamsen to join me for lunch. 

The restaurant is not very large, but the dining area appeared clean and in order. I suppose word about this restaurant had not really spread, as it was not packed even during peak lunch hours. As such, we had a comfortable amount of room at our table.

Miso Soup - A-

Since we ordered an Aburi Box, we were entitled to one miso soup. However, they were nice enough to give us two. Served hot, the Miso Soup came with green onion and bean curd and was well-balanced.

Edamame - B+

The daily special that came with the Aburi Box was a small serving of edamame. These were salted and tasted fresh with sufficient moisture.

Salmon Sashimi - A-
Tuna Sashimi - B+

Next up, the Salmon Sashimi was buttery and creamy with a pleasantly smooth texture. The slices were not particularly large, but the cutting was on point. The Tuna Sashimi was very soft and refreshing.

Aburi Box

There was some peculiar pricing going on, as the Aburi Box ($11.50), which contained 3 pieces of Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, cost less than an order of 6 pieces of Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi ($12.50). Since it was lunch time, it didn't make much sense to get an order of Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, so we opted for the Aburi Box.

Salad - B-

The Salad was comprised of mixed greens and came with rather little vinaigrette. Although this made the Salad slightly too dry, perhaps this was a good thing because the vinaigrette was oddly salty.

Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi - B

The main feature, the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi, came with thinly sliced pieces of seared salmon, which were graced with huge, honking slices of jalapeño. Although the seared salmon had a nice smoky flavour, the jalapeño was quite overpowering and brought death and havoc to our poor tongues. I also found the oshi slightly rice-heavy.

Teriyaki Beef - B+

The Teriyaki Beef was sweet and helped bring our tongues back to life. The beef was tender, though sliced thickly in some places. The steamed rice underneath was well-prepared.

Tempura - B+

With a light layer of crispy batter, the Tempura was one of the better items in the box. There were 2 juicy prawns along with 3 small pieces of yam. The prawns were excellent, though the yam could have used a little more moisture.

Volcano Hub - B+

Of course, our visit wouldn't be complete without trying one of the hubs (their code name for special rolls). I wanted to go for the Barbie Hub (for obvious reasons), but I couldn't convince Tamsen that having asparagus in a roll works if done right, so we went for the Volcano Hub instead. With crab meat, avocado, chopped scallop, spicy mayonnaise, and sweet sauce, the Volcano Hub came with some really soft scallops. The roll was quite sweet with a delectable, cheesy layer on top.

Overall, the service was reasonably friendly, and the food was reasonably consistent. However, the food didn't exactly have the wow factor suggested by the restaurant's Instagram photos. With average prices and slightly above average food, Sushi Hub would have to do more to perfect its Aburi sushi before attracting crowds.

Sushi Hub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 28 July 2017

Episode #227: Sushi Mania

Vancouver (Northeast), $ (Budget)

I am usually quite good with numbers, but recently, that hasn't been the case. This time, not only did I miscalculate the amount of time it would take for me to get to Sushi Mania on Main St., but I also bussed down to 32nd Ave. instead of 23rd Ave. Getting stuck in a traffic jam did not exactly help. After doing a few facepalms, I had to frantically speed walk to the restaurant so that I would not miss any sushi photo opportunities. I ended up being 30 minutes late to my own dinner, but thankfully, Gee, Pat, and Jaden were patient enough, and none of the food landed on the table yet.

Sushi Mania has a reputation for being affordable and decent as well as having a good variety of dishes. Indeed, we found many intriguing appetizers and special rolls, and much of the food that whizzed by us looked appealing. However, we agreed to keep the dinner light, as dinners with me are almost always followed by a visit to a dessert shop. The restaurant was quite busy, and we found the seating a little tight, but bearable.

Spicy Salmon Nuggets - A

After having a very good version of this from Ki Isu, I was looking forward to trying the same dish here. These delectable salmon nuggets were no disappointment. The salmon inside was very juicy, and the batter had just the right amount of crispiness. The spicy mayonnaise complemented the nuggets without overwhelming them.

Sushi Pizza - A-

Next, we had the Sushi Pizza, which came with salmon, tuna, crab meat, and avocado. The fish was fresh with smooth, appealing textures, while the crispy rice at the bottom was not hard. We also enjoyed the sweet imitation crab, but thought there could have been a bit more of it.

Crunchy Munchy Roll - B

While we were musing over the menu, one of us spotted something very cool-looking, and we were determined to order it before we even fully knew what it was. This turned out to be the Crunchy Munchy Roll, with spicy tuna, cucumber, and yam tempura bits. There wasn't a lot of spicy tuna, so the tuna provided little flavour to the roll. What produced most of the flavour were the yam tempura bits on top. These were crunchy and went well with the accompanying drizzle of spicy mayonnaise.

Black Dragon Roll - A-

Our next roll of choice was the Black Dragon Roll, which came with crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and seared unagi. The roll came in small pieces, but was neatly constructed. The searing of the unagi created a wonderful smokiness, which was easily the highlight of the roll.

Mania Roll - A-

The Mania Roll consisted of crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and seared chopped scallop. Once again small but neatly constructed, this roll came with excellently seared scallops. The soft textures of the scallop and the sweet crab meat were a delight.

Hokkigai Sashimi - A-
Salmon Sashimi - B+
Saba Sashimi - B-
Tuna Sashimi - B
Tai Sashimi - B+
Tako Sashimi - B

For some odd reason, our Assorted Sashimi arrived towards the end of our meal. The hokkigai tasted the freshest and had a nice sweet flavour. The salmon and tai also tasted fresh. The tuna and tako were slightly less fresh, and the saba was rather chewy and salty.

Even though the restaurant was packed the whole time we were there, we received friendly service. Most of the food exceeded our expectations, especially after considering the price. If this place was a little more convenient to bus to from SFU, I would be a regular. 

Sushi Mania Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato