Saturday, December 13, 2014

Episode #50: Sushi California

Coquitlam, $ (Budget)

After having lost a few pounds from studying for final exams (it's a really effective weight loss program for me), I decided that I needed to take action to stop myself from slipping into the underweight category (a cause of concern for most guys). If I was only going to eat two meals a day, let them be big meals. In the end, I couldn't think of a better solution than to go for a Sushi-a-thon at Sushi California - the restaurant is affordable, the portions are big, and it's not too far away from SFU. It was time for me to engage in my most favourite activity of all time - eating all I can at a non-AYCE Japanese restaurant.

Sushi California is pretty much eternally busy, be it noon, 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. It is perhaps the most popular Japanese restaurant in the neighbourhood and is a favourite of many SFU students. Fortunately, there are enough servers to handle the crowds.

First visit (December 3):

Las Vegas Roll - A-

One of the latest additions to their slowly but continuously evolving menu, the Las Vegas Roll consisted of tempura yam, avocado, cucumber, crab meat, spicy mayonnaise and masago. The tempura yam was appetizing with a nice, light crunch while the avocado was soft and fresh. The sweetness from the tempura yam and teriyaki sauce worked together quite well. Although the sushi rice wasn't top notch, the fact that a decent-tasting special roll could be made with such simple ingredients made this a hit in my books. It was only $3.95 too!

Here comes the fun part ...

... nigiri banzai! I felt like I was rapping while ordering this, and laughter ensued as I had to pause my "rap" to allow the waitress to write my order down. With closer inspection, I noticed that each of the nigiri were about 20% larger than standard.

Toro Nigiri - B+
Hamachi Nigiri - B
Salmon Nigiri - B

The Toro Nigiri was very soft (it was dangerously close to being mushy). I liked how it had no metallic taste and it was full of moisture. The Hamachi Nigiri came with a thick, generous cut and most of it was soft with a nice chewier dark red portion. The Salmon Nigiri had a fresh, creamy taste and a fatty long tail. The rice formation was a bit on the tighter side and with regard to the fish-to-rice ratio, the ratio was in the right range but it felt like a lot of rice due to the large pieces of fish on top. I suppose that adds to the value though.

Tai Nigiri - B+
Saba Nigiri - C+
 Wild Salmon Nigiri - B+

The Tai Nigiri was cut thick but was surprisingly not too chewy. It had only a very mild flavour. I found the Saba Nigiri too stiff and salty for my liking. The Wild Salmon, on the other hand, had a nice smooth sheen and a delicate sweet flavour.

Tuna Nigiri - B
Hotategai Nigiri - C+
Unagi Nigiri - A-

The Tuna Nigiri was literally humungous, and the tuna was fresh and fatty. The Hotategai Nigiri tasted really watery and lacking in flavour. My favourite of the whole platter was the Unagi Nigiri, which was freshly seared and had steam coming out when it was served! I even managed to hear the searing taking place from my seat at the bar.

Ikura Nigiri - B-
Wakame Nigiri - B+
Inari Nigiri - A-

The Ikura Nigiri didn't have a lot of salmon roe on top, and the fish oil was overly sticky and thick. The Wakame Nigiri was nicely seasoned, while the Inari Nigiri was soft and pillowy with a rich, sweet flavour. It could use a bit less rice inside.

At this point, I was so stuffed that I couldn't eat another dish. I suppose my eating capacity shrank along with my weight, which sucks as a food blogger. Oh well, that's what Sushi-a-thons are for.

Second visit (December 9):

Energy Roll - B+

The Energy Roll consisted of asparagus, avocado, masago, mayonnaise, unagi, teriyaki sauce and special wasabi mayonnaise sauce. At $4.50, this was by far the cheapest roll I have ever seen to feature 8 pieces with unagi on top. The unagi was quite meaty too! The interior exhibited some crunchiness due to the asparagus and I thought the asparagus and avocado were a good match.

Tempura Udon - B-

Another very good deal I found on the menu was the Tempura Udon at $5.95. It came with 4 pieces of tempura - one piece each of yam, prawn, zucchini and carrot. The tempura displayed some inconsistencies, such as the batter on the prawn being too hard, the carrot being a bit mushy and the zucchini being sliced too thin. I enjoyed the soft bean curd, though the udon noodles were standard fare and the broth was quite simplistic.

Okonomiyaki - C

The Okonomiyaki was huge and I was still surprised at how big it was even after the warning by the waitress that it was going to be quite large. Every time I've had this before, I would complain about the slight sour, vinegar-y taste of the okonomi sauce to my friends on Facebook. Fortunately, they have more or less eradicated this problem. Unfortunately, the Okonomiyaki was now very lacking in sauce overall and as a result, the pancake itself became rather tough to chew. So close, yet so far. Interestingly, I found a few slices of bell peppers in the mix.

I found the service non-problematic as the servers were quite energetic and on the friendly side. It was also good to see that the food had undergone some improvements since my previous visits and it now compares with the average Japanese restaurant quality-wise. Most of all, the prices are one of the lowest in town and the portion sizes range from large to extra extra large. The highlights of the whole Sushi-a-thon were the Las Vegas Roll and the Unagi Nigiri. Of course, I failed to complete the second day of the Sushi-a-thon and left the restaurant carrying a large takeout bag. I now officially have the appetite of a 10-year-old. FML.

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


benilhalk said...

Wow!! That’s really interesting dear! Well, this food is looking very yummy. I think you enjoyed this food a lot. I have never tasted Okonomiyaki – C So, I will try to find this dish in my favourite Boston restaurants. I hope I will get this!!

Raymond Zeng said...

Okonomiyaki is very tasty if prepared correctly. I haven't been to Boston yet but I hope you can find decent okonomiyaki there!

twin said...

Will you try sushi California in vancouver?

Raymond Zeng said...

I will get to it! I've actually been there before but just never done a blog post on it.

Thanks for the updates on the closed restaurants!

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