Yamato Sushi -
I wouldn’t have known about tiny Yamato Sushi on Davie if not for its being one of the more popular downtown/Yaletown sushi places on Urbanspoon. From the reviews, I gathered that it wasn’t popular for its authenticity or the variety of fish it offered; it was popular because it served huge portions of inexpensive sushi that didn’t taste all that bad.
So when I needed to get some takeout before heading home for lunch from Yaletown today, it was the first restaurant that came up on my mind (it was also within my line of sight). I was really hungry and I didn’t feel like spending a lot on lunch. Even though the description of the restaurant in the reviews make it sound like it was similar to Sushi Town, I decided to take the risk and give it a try. I was going to try the restaurant sooner or later because of its popularity, and today seemed like the perfect day to try it; my car was parked within a very, very short walking distance to the restaurant and I had plenty of time left on the meter.
The restaurant was as tiny as the reviews indicated. It was so tiny and filled with people that I was not able to find a spot to take a picture of its interior. There were only a couple of two-tops along with a three or four seat counter. Most of the people in the restaurant were there waiting for their takeout orders. I grabbed one of their menus and quickly made the choices for my order.
I over-ordered. The amount of food I ordered was overkill for two adults and a three-year-old, but I couldn’t help it. I was so hungry that I wasn’t thinking straight.
The first thing I ordered was the Party Tray A.
The Party Tray A came with the following items:
- tuna roll – The sushi rice felt ok. It had an acceptable vinegar/rice ratio. It also felt like there was more tuna than rice in the roll, and there was enough rice to create a balance of textures between the fish and the rice. The roll failed in that the tuna did not taste fresh. I thought that there was a very fishy flavour when I tasted the tuna.
- salmon roll – The fish to rice ratio in the salmon roll was not as uniform as the tuna roll. In some pieces, there was more rice than fish. In others, there was more fish than rice. The raw salmon in the salmon roll did not have a fishy flavour like the tuna, which made it easier to ingest than the tuna roll.
- dynamite roll – There were two tempura shrimps instead of the usual one tempura shrimp in this dynamite roll. The shrimps were on the small side, but the two added up still equated to more shrimp than one medium-sized shrimp. The size of the roll was nowhere near the biggest dynamite roll I’ve had, and I like this manageable size. What I didn’t like was the sweet sauce that the roll was glazed with. The sauce was so sweet that it basically covered up all of the other flavours of the roll.
- California roll – This was huge. It was not big in circumference, but it was really thick. It was so thick that I had trouble fitting each piece in my mouth. My preference is for pieces of a California roll to fit comfortably in my mouth so that I can chew it and savor its flavours. I don’t like to split a piece of California roll into more than one bite because I am not a fan of disintegrating pieces of sushi. The pieces of the California roll were so big that even though I could fit each piece in my mouth entirely, I was too busy trying to chew through the roll to be able to carefully examine its flavours. All I know is that there was a whole lot of imitation crab mixture in the California roll. There was a little piece of avocado, but its texture and flavour was totally overshadowed by the imitation crab. The amount imitation crab was so overwhelming that I even had a hard time trying to detect the texture and flavour of the sushi rice. There was simply no sense of balance with the ingredients in this roll.
- futomaki – The futomaki came with a piece of tamago, some tofu skin, and a piece of avocado. I enjoyed this roll the most out of every roll in the party tray. There was a balance between each ingredient and between the ingredients and the rice. Even though the ingredients were a little unorthodox for a futomaki, I felt that the combination worked. There were also no fishy flavours, over-sweet sauce, or unwieldy size to distract from the enjoyment of the roll.
- salmon nigiri – The piece of salmon was not thick but long, which was the size that both my wife and I preferred. We would’ve actually preferred the salmon to be cut even a bit shorter so that it would work better with the diminutive ball of rice it rested on top of. I guess most people would’ve preferred the length of the salmon for its perceived value. The piece of salmon was fatty, which indicated that it was probably farmed salmon. Farmed salmon is less expensive than wild, local salmon and therefore considered inferior by some, but it was a welcomed change from all of the wild, local salmon that I’ve had in recent months. Even though it tasted like it came from the knife of an unseasoned apprentice, the piece of fish nonetheless tasted fresh, which was all that I was looking for in this piece of nigiri.
- tuna nigiri – The tuna tasted as fishy as the tuna in the tuna roll. The bigger piece of fish on the nigiri simply accentuated the fishiness. The tuna nigiri was a failure in every sense of the word.
- shrimp nigiri – The shrimp was very thin and had a very insubstantial bite to it. It was thin enough that I was not able to tell whether it was fresh or not. It was also so thin that I wasn’t able to get much of a texture from it. I ate it, and I did feel that I ingested something. That’s about all I can say about the shrimp nigiri.
I also ordered the Box B because my son wanted some beef teriyaki.
The Bento Box B came with the following:
- beef teriyaki – My son ate about 99.9% of the beef. He finished it all without complaining so I guess it wasn’t that bad. I had the 0.1% scraps he left on top of the rice. I guess I got the burnt ends because the pieces I had felt dry and powdery. I also felt that the sauce was a little to sweet for my liking.
- shrimp and vegetable tempura – The tempura was very oily. It was actually more oily than crispy. It was so oily that the batter went limp and peeled off the sweet potato when my wife tried to eat it. There were two shrimps and three large pieces of vegetables so I guess the size was substantial enough. The flavours were about average. The shrimp tasted like the shrimp, the eggplant like the eggplant, and the sweet potato like the sweet potato.
- California roll – This California roll was cut to smaller pieces than the California roll in the party tray. As a result, each piece was easier to be chewed through in the mouth and that made each piece more manageable. The ratio of the ingredients were still out of whack, which meant that the roll was still pretty unenjoyable.
- gyoza – We were too busy eating everything else that none of us touched the gyoza. It looked greasy.
- miso soup – The miso soup was very thin and tasted rather bland. This was probably the result of either not using enough miso, or using a lighter type of miso.
- salad – The vegetables were fresh and the dressing was the typical grainy and tangy Japanese dressing. I thought that it was ok.
Finally, just in case there wasn’t enough food, I ordered the Spicy Tuna Combo.
The Spicy Tuna Combo had these items:
- spicy tuna roll – The spicy tuna roll was the best tuna item of the meal. Because they mixed the chopped up pieces of tuna with enough of their spicy sauce, I was not able to detect any of the fishy flavours that I detected with every other tuna item. The spicy -flavoured tuna that came as a result of the mix was suitably spicy and thus became enjoyably flavourful. There was also a lot of the spicy tuna included in the roll. But unlike the Califonia roll where I felt that the amount of imitation crab was overwhelming, I thought that the higher ratio of tuna to rice worked in the spicy tuna roll. I guess I prefer spiciness over sweetness.
- spicy tuna sashimi – Like the tuna roll and tuna nigiri in the party tray, the tuna sashimi had a very unenjoyable fishy flavour. The spicy sauce tasted like watered-down sriracha and there was not enough of it to cover up the fishiness of the tuna. If they just used straight sriracha and used a lot of it, they might have covered up the fishiness of the tuna. I guess they could’ve even covered up the fishiness if they used Korean kochujang.
- kappa roll – It’s hard to screw up a kappa roll, and they didn’t screw it up. There was a good cucumber to rice ratio and the cucumbers were fresh, crispy, and juicy. Good on them for not screwing this up.
I think my initial impression of Yamato sushi from reading its online reviews was right. It was more similar to sushi town than it was different. It served large portions of inauthentic sushi that made me full, but that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. The differences between Yamato Sushi and Sushi Town was that, though still large portions, the portion sizes of the food I got at Yamato Sushi were a little smaller than the portion sizes at Sushi Town. But I did like the thinner cuts of fish that Yamato gave me over the thicker cuts served at Sushi Town. Sushi Town seemed to have the upper hand in terms of the freshness of the tuna; Yamato seemed to be better when it came to its sushi rice. Each restaurant had its advantages and each also had its disadvantages. Both restaurants are extremely popular, and both served inauthentic sushi. I would’ve liked Yamato Sushi a bit more than Sushi Town if the tuna I was served today didn’t taste so fishy. But since serving fishy-tasting fish is the cardinal sin of sushi restaurants, I have to conclude that I am as equally unimpressed with Yamato Sushi as I was with Sushi Town. I won’t be returning to either in the near future…or at least I hope I don’t get the urge to.