The Best Thing I Ate All Week: Vegan Volcano Sushi from Nightshade

The eruption-inspired roll from this vegan Yaletown restaurant is a pretty spectacular example of how awesome plant-based dining can be.

Purists might argue that vegan sushi isn’t really sushi at all. And part of me agrees—I’ll eat a kappa roll if it’s the only thing left on Party Tray B, sure, but I’ll take raw fish over veggies any day. I’ve never had a fish-free roll that compared.

Well, not until I tried the vegan sushi at Nightshade earlier this week. The plant-based Yaletown restaurant is just over a year old, and has recently launched a vegan (and gluten-free) dish called the tempura crunch sushi roll. And this thing is a monster.

My tempura crunch roll from Nightshade.

Shortly after the roll arrived at our table, my dinner date and I both gave up trying to eat it with chopsticks. The tempura-coated nori was evading capture, so I grabbed one the old-fashioned way (hands) and couldn’t help but observe: “Holy shit, this is heavy.”

The rolls are both large and dense—according to chef Chanthy Yen, the dish was inspired by a volcano. There’s a gorgeous red pepper tartare topping the roll, along with a crunchy black sesame potato “coral” that looks kind of like burnt debris you’d scrape off a pan, but tastes delicious. Inside is a sweet smoked maple tofu (supplied by Oomé, a local Vancouver brand) and pillowy sweet potato.

I ate my first piece of the roll in one bite and my second in two, and can report there’s simply no way to consume this beautiful beast while maintaining lady-like elegance. Who cares? The dish is so rich in texture (not to mention colour) and has the same fishy spirit of regular sushi. In fact, it’s complex and inventive and fun: exactly what sushi is meant to be.

It might not be traditional, but you can’t stop a volcano.

Tempura Crunch Sushi Roll, $18
from Nightshade
1079 Mainland St.