Friday, September 12, 2014

Episode #28: Sushi Town (Hastings)

Burnaby North, Budget ($)

My friend Declan managed to convince me to take part in a bet with him, which, now that I think about it, wasn't such a smart bet after all. I lost by a ridiculously large margin and had to treat him for lunch at Sushi Town. At least this way, I could sample more dishes in a single visit, or so I thought ...

I discovered Sushi Town on Hastings as an inexpensive, decent alternative to SFU campus food 3 years ago and since then, I have been there so many times I lost count. It is a very popular restaurant which regularly experiences wait times (despite its rather odd location and run-down appearance from the outside) and is especially frequented by SFU students. On the other hand, they have enough chefs working at the sushi bar so that everything comes out in a minimal amount of time. The portions are quite large and it turns out that I still needed to make 2 visits (on Monday and Wednesday) after all to have enough to write about.

1st visit:

Korean Style Spicy Deluxe Chirashi Don - B+

Declan recommended this dish to me and it was a great way to sample several of the different kinds of raw seafood available. This item is listed on the menu in a somewhat confusing way - the name is too long to fit on one line, so it is printed on two lines with an extra line in the middle, making it look like two separate items. This Chirashi Don is enormous and comes with tuna, salmon, ika (squid), ebi (shrimp), hokkigai (surf clam), tai (red snapper), tamago (egg) and vegetables. Usually, the spicy sauce is mixed in with the ingredients but I had it separated and placed on the side in case it was too spicy for me to handle.

The tai (B-) was lacking in flavour, but was sliced into thin pieces which made it easier to chew. The tamago (B) had a strong egg flavour. I would have enjoyed it more if it had more sweetness to it and was softer. The salmon (A) came in abundance and was fresh and tasty. The tuna (B) tasted too salty and was a bit tough. The ebi (B) was also tough but was sweet with a slight gingery taste. The ika (A-) was mild in taste and had a desirable level of chewiness. The hokkigai (A-) was sliced very thin, but despite this, it still packed adequate flavour.

I enjoyed the sushi rice at the bottom which was well-seasoned, and the seaweed and masago added to the dish also helped enhance the flavours. I had a small spoonful of the spicy sauce (which was like kimchi sauce) and it would have been too spicy for me to handle if all of it was mixed in. There was also too much lettuce for the both of us to handle, but if you're looking for a filling dish, I guess this is a good thing.

Double Dragon Roll - B+
Awesome Roll - A-

The Double Dragon Roll consists of avocado, cucumber, masago, unagi and mayonnaise. The interior of the roll was dominated by the avocado, which resulted in a sweet, creamy and soft interior. This was well-balanced with the generous portions of unagi on the outside. The unagi was savoury but had a few bony parts (not to the extent that it was a major issue).

The Awesome Roll is widely considered their best roll and consists of crab meat, cucumber, avocado, mayonnaise, masago, salmon, green onion and bonito flakes. There was a rather heavy use of sauce with this roll, but the mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce together blended harmoniously and was especially tasty when supporting the bonito flakes. The crab meat was sufficiently soft and the salmon on top was slightly cooked but still mostly retained the smooth texture of raw salmon. 

By this time, I was full enough to call it a day, even though it was only lunchtime. 

2nd visit:

Toro Nigiri - C
Sockeye Salmon Nigiri - B+
Hotategai Nigiri - B

The Toro Nigiri looked a little suspicious with the white streaks being much less prominent than usual and the appearance of small dark red blood vessels scattered on one half of the nigiri. It was excessively fatty in an undesirable way and was mostly devoid of tuna flavour. The Sockeye Salmon Nigiri was fresh with a rather smooth texture. I wish there was a little more of the fish or less of the rice for a better fish-to-rice balance. Furthermore, the sushi rice should be a little softer. The Hotategai Nigiri could have been the best of the three as it was neatly cut and had the sought-after geoduck-like aftertaste. Unfortunately, it was as cold as ice-cream ...

Next, I ordered what probably ranks as the #1 most inexpensive method of filling yourself up at Sushi Town - the Tempura Udon. (A close competitor for this title would be the chilly Seafood Salad.)

Tempura Udon - B+

The Tempura Udon ($5.95) comes with 4 pieces of tempura (zucchini, carrot, prawn, yam) and a very generous bowl of udon. The tempura came with a gingery mild soy dipping sauce and was well executed other than there being a few bits of batter sticking out in places. There was a good ratio of prawn to tempura and a successful attempt at preserving the juiciness of the zucchini. The carrot was sweet, but the yam was cut abnormally thick (probably by accident as this was the first time this happened to me). The udon noodles had just the right chewiness and the soup was simple but well-balanced.

Tako Yaki - A-

The Tako Yaki was presented with a thin, crunchy exterior layer encasing a soft, pillowy flour layer on the inside. The tako (octopus) was prominent, chewy and provided good contrast with the rest of the Tako Yaki. The bonito flakes could have been cut and placed more neatly as it looked a lot like what you would see inside a pencil sharpener.

Other than the toro nigiri mishap, the rest of the food met my expectations. Service is adequate during less busy hours but may seem a bit rushed during "rush hour". There is a good assortment of items on the menu at bargain prices, but I wish they expanded their selection of special rolls as the existing ones are all quite popular. If you only have twenty dollars in your pocket, you can walk into Sushi Town, have a fulfilling meal, and walk out with half of your money left.

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

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