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Who makes the best sushi in the city?
We’re back with another draft! And honestly, it’s probably something of a sham that a publication called Vancouver magazine has waited this long to highlight sushi.
First, a look back at our last draft, ice cream.
It’s Anicka’s first win in a very close race! Unfortunately, she won’t get to defend her crown as (Dairy) Queen as Stacey subs in for her this time around. Can she replicate Anicka’s success?
We put our editors’ names into a random draft simulator (snake style, obviously) and off we went. Here are the results and the reasoning behind each pick.
For me, getting sushi in Vancouver is always going to come down to a marriage of quality with price. And I don’t think that’s accomplished better than at Toshi, which just happens to be directly adjacent to one of my favourite parks in the city (Mount Pleasant Park).
There’s no seating at the moment, but I’m often eating sushi on the go anyway, so that’s no biggie. And neither is the “no substitutions” rule on Toshi’s combos. Respect the damn process.
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Sushi in this city is tough to draft, since there are SO MANY great picks and they vary so much in price—so I did my best to pick two higher-end restaurants and two more affordable spots. First up is Miku/Minami, both which have a no-wrong-choice menu and truly artistic construction. All sushi is beautiful, but this place is cover-worthy.
This category seems so unbelievably broad that it’s like choosing your “favourite movie.” But given that we have no price parameters, it seems daft not to aim high, no? And it doesn’t get much higher than Masayoshi. There are now quite a few Masayoshi-style spots in town: limited seating, omakase only, rarified price point. But none are equal to the OG Masa-san. There’s precision and then there’s this place where nothing is not exactly as it is intended to be—this is sushi without compromise and if that doesn’t warrant a first round pick, what does? But what really pushed this to be my first choice is how Masa-san adapted his bespoke creations to a takeout model once COVID hit. 2020 was a crap year for restaurateurs, but it’s the year that the highest number of people were able to get a literal taste of what makes this spot so special.
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Kishimoto has been a regular on our Restaurant Awards and Neighbourhood Awards list for years, for many good reasons: locally sourced goods, a cute and cozy room (love those paper lamps) and a saba shiso roll that’ll knock your socks off. Even the more pedestrian rolls (no offense, dynamite roll) are executed with precision and care, but importantly, it’s a resto that can work equally well for a casual Wednesday night dinner out or a more celebratory occasion: a round of the cherry-wood-smoked salmon oshizushi, served under glass domes, instantly makes sushi dinner feel like a damn event.
Some (my husband) would argue Suika is an izakaya and not a sushi joint, but to that I say: who cares when the aburi is this good and the room—with its sake-bottle chandelier—is so fun? Try to argue with me when your maw is stuffed with perfectly seared, perfectly fatty saba, I dare you. I probably won’t be able to hear you over the staff singing their aggressive version of happy birthday to the next table, anyways.
Stem is such a cool place. Until it opened, I not only had never been to the awesomely named Rumble Street in Burnaby, I didn’t even know this pocket in the shadow of Metrotown existed. But once you walk in, it’s the perfect equation. Off-the-beaten-track location (with the rent savings being passed on to the customer), a wonderfully varied menu executed by masters (who helped make Zest the legend that it was back in the day) and an accessible and ambitious wine list. And really nice people working there. Of all the spots here, I think this is one that everyone would love.
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You don’t win 17 Restaurant Awards in a row for nothing. And, in all honesty, this pick is half for the awesome sushi and half because I am such a fan of Hidekazu Tojo. The chef has seen Vancouver through the best and worst of sushi times (despite other chefs trying to get in on the glory, I believe Tojo’s story that he invented the California roll as a way to sneak sushi into the diets of boring-ass Canadians) and he’s still in the kitchen rolling and crafting and maki-ing the days away. Does his classic, blunt Japanese humour—where you can’t quite tell if he’s joking or not—remind me of my grandfather? Yes. Heart and tummy are on equal ground in this decision.
A smidge more expensive than I’d typically pay, but that’s more than fine, as this West Broadway gem pushes the quality bar in an up-tempo, awesome room.
There are fancier spots around town (and Neal seems intent on taking them all), but for inventive and authentic, delicious and not wallet-busting sushi, this is the spot. This is where you take out-of-town guests when they get off the plane craving some raw fish. Or you should be, anyway.
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Absolute value getting Carp here as it’s one of my go-to spots for takeout. Very fairly priced, fresh and filling (I usually get the spicy tuna bowl) and in a very convenient spot across from the city’s greatest mall.
Okay, now on to my more affordable picks: I used to live across the street from Ah Long sushi, and my roommates and I ordered there once a week, minimum. It’s excellent, cheap, and bizarrely fast (15 minutes, whether you’re ordering for one solitary soul on a Tuesday or eight hungry girls trying to not get alcohol poisoning on a Friday). Also of note: in preparation for this draft, I tried a bunch of other highly rated, affordable spots in the city, and none of them compared.
I was going to choose Temaki here as it’s the place I order takeout from the most (I’ve weirdly never eaten in there), but Nathan swooped in a classic draft move, choosing not because he likes it (I’m going to put it out there—I don’t think Nate has been to Temaki in ages), but to stymie me. I won’t be stymied as Yuwa is an inspired fallback.
The sashimi here arrives with the most lovely, perfect pieces, the texture always elegant and on point. The room is contemporary and breezy and the wine list is stellar. It’s pricey to be sure—I once ordered a chef’s choice assortment of sushi and sashimi for my daughter’s 18th birthday and I literally gasped at the size of the bill, but it was a flawless platter for a big occasion.
Yeah, it’s pricey. You’re not going to find a $3 Cali roll here, no sir (though Chef Tetsu does whip up a $15 roll with hand-peeled Dungeness, if you’re craving crab). But the Jiro Dreams of Sushi experience—aka, Tetsu’s $150 omakase menu—is something special. Do not crunch the per-piece price of the 10 delicate morsels of nigiri (prepare for tuna that will make you weep) that will parade across your platter, served up like works of art. Just let chef take you on a culinary journey.
IMO, all good drafts involve a spite pick. But while I may have initially snagged Octopus’ Garden just to stick it to Neal—who can remember why?—I’m proud to have this iconic institution on my team. It’s another spot that’s on the higher end of the price spectrum, but your cash is getting you something that goes way beyond your local bento box offerings. Two-hundred-pound heads of tuna arrives each week for Chef Sada to work his magic on (snag the tasting platter to explore the whole spectrum).
Well, hell, I guess I’ll go all fancy, all the time with my picks—and more or less assuring that my pool of voters will be unspeakably small but retaining my integrity in a way that the person who chose White Spot for best burger will never understand. Sushi Bar Shu is one of the spots that’s broadly in the vein of Masayoshi (in fact Masa-san himself was sitting next to me when I reviewed it in 2019). It has a tiny number of seats in its smart but unassuming Marpole locale and dinner here is part theatre, part hushed reverence and quietly interactive in a way that’s unlike 99.9% of restaurant in town. Everything is so fresh that I fear they can’t be making much profit even with their relatively high tariff.
And last, my hometown hero. Gami sushi’s smoked yam roll was my go-to order through my late teens, and I still eat there regularly with my family. The popcorn attack roll is also a winner. It’s technically not in Vancouver, but not having a Richmond spot in this draft would be a crime.
Can a place on Commercial actually be a hidden gem? When it’s on the southern bend, right before the Drive turns into just another Street, then yes. Absolutely one of the best values in town, Naruto is small, welcoming and just a very good deal if you’re looking for a couple of very solid rolls. Neal (and to some extent the others) may not have been able to take off his diamond encrusted monocle for this draft, but my picks are aimed at the missing middle—well-intentioned, salt of the earth people who just want good sushi at affordable prices. Naruto is the epitome of that.
Formerly housed on Broadway near Fraser, Loku moved right to the heart of the Drive. And while it’s now in the shadow of some renowned spots, it’s still just a really great, underrated haunt for good value and great eats.
Another affordable spot with great rolls—and being open until 1:00am has made it an easy late-night favourite. In my circles, it’s also affectionately titled “the one above the sex shop.”
The fish is fresh, the prices are decent and you never leave smelling like a tempura deep-fryer. Win win win.
Obviously not a Japanese restaurant, but the plates that come the hands of Chef Yoshi (who ruled the raw bar at Blue Water in years past) are legendary,
Nathan: Toshi, Temaki, Carp, Naruto
Alyssa: Miku/Minami, Tojo’s, Ah Long, Gami
Neal: Masayoshi, Stem, Yuwa, Sushi Bar Shu
Stacey: Kishimoto, Suika, Tetsu, Octopus’ Garden
Who made the best calls? And what did we miss? Share your thoughts on our Instagram page. Voting results will be shared when we come back for our next draft.
Originally published October 2021