Sushi Van

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A new sushi restaurant on South Granville. A welcomed change to the neighbourhood, from the “Wrap zone” that previously held the location. This week was their grand opening and the no tax banners and signs attracted my attention. Though it not being on street level and the need to walk down a flight of steps hid it from general view.

Once inside the space opens up, with a sushi bar by the door and a dining space done in black and white to the right. The bar was left simple with black shelves holding white dishware. Their logo branded behind all this and spotlighted with lamps. For a small sushi place it was eye catching. A cozy space to have dinner at and enjoy your company in. I am sure “Sushi Van” will give the two sushi restaurants in either direction a run for their money.¬†Three chefs worked behind the sushi bar. Two in black coats and caps, one in a traditional male style kimono. A server/hostess in branded tee and a bus girl in all black ran the front of store. Both buzzed around running odd jobs. Everyone working today was in a good mood they joked with customers and laughed with each other. And they were all conversing in Japanese so things seemed authentic.

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The small stone fireplace, the black painted wooden tables and chairs, and potted green plants kept things looking fresh and clean. Each table was prepped with a delicate white soy sauce jug and tiny sauce bowls to pour it into. A welcomed change from the usual reusable “kikkoman” bottles used else where. The tea was free and set up as self serve by the cash desk, and soft drinks were available at cost, in a cooler that you grabbed yourself.

Right a 6pm, for the early dinner rush, individual bodies came filing in. I just missed the line and eagerly order. I was asked to wait for 15 minutes for my take out to come to pass. But between the two sushi chef my 15 minute wait easily became 9. The extra appeal and the added popularity of the place probably came from their promotions. As I mentioned earlier, this was their week long Grand opening celebration. They offered their new guests no tax and lunch bento boxes at 2 for 1. This would be offered until January 31st, 2014.

The biggest appeal for me was their focus and attempt at making their sushi even more healthier. Orders came with packets of naturally brewed soy sauce, made with no preservatives. Not that I used any, each roll of sushi was already pretty tasty. And all their rice was cooked in green tea. This gave each roll of sushi the flavouring and essence of green tea, with all it’s health benefits. Say hello to eating sushi with antioxidants infused into each grain. The down side to this was that this cooking method caused the rice to lose a lot of its usual adhesive-ness. It easily crumbled from the pressure of chopsticks. When eating nothing hit my mouth in a cohesive segment.

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Their menus were take away versions, photocopied papers folded into three parts. For those wanting more pictures to help the decision making process, a coloured album-ed menu was available to be shared amongst all guests. It proudly advertised their use of “green rice” for their customer’s health, how they spend a lot of time thinking up the perfect sushi combinations, and they encouraged diners to “not eat to live and but live to eat”. There were lots to be interested in on the “specials” section of their menu. Though with little description, the vague-ness of things forced me to ask a lot of questions. And not all of these questions were able to be answered by the hostess or the sushi chef. “Sushi risotto”, “nude boy”, and “burning love”? Quite a list of names, it certainly peaked my interest.

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“Sushi pizza”. Deep fried sushi rice topped with imitation crab meat, avocado, two pieces of salmon, two pieces of tuna, and masago. A growing sight in more fushion and modern sushi restaurants. The novelty of combining something Japanese in taste with an eating experience common in North America. Here you have your sushi presented as a flattened and rounded sheet of rice, topped with the appropriate seafood and sauces. It gave quite the presentation. The warm crispness of the rice was a good contrast to the chilled smoothness of the raw fish.

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“Tokyo tower”. Sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, avocado, chopped scallop, crab meat, and fish eggs. I understood the “tower” in the name, as ingredients were piled up, one on top of another. But I just didn’t get the height I was expecting. This came recommended when I asked for what else was popular. It was a nightmare to eat with chopsticks. It presented well, but gets ruined quite quickly when attempting to get a bite out. It is nothing more than a rice dish made into a round. It could also be considered a pizza, and should not listed as a specialty roll.

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“Tuna 4way”, Each a different look ^^”. And yes, that was exactly how it was written on their menu. Spicy tuna, tuna gomae, tuna tataki, tuna yukke”. I don’t know which was what, but each offered a unique play on the common tuna. My only regret was not starting with this first, as it’s pleasant and mild taste was lost after consuming a sauced up and flavourful sushi roll.

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“8 flavour”. A crab meat, avocado, and cucumber roll; cut up. Each segment is topped with different ingredients. Simply put, aCalifornia roll topped with add ons like spicy scallop, shrimp, and even more imitation crab. Once again another roll that was a visual feast. This was the roll that the server had to ask for clarification from the sushi chef. Who in turn needed to ask the head chef for an explanation.

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“Tuna tataki roll”. A crab meat, avocado, and asparagus roll; topped with seared tuna and a deep fried garlic piece. The roasted garlic changed the taste, of what would be a normal roll. It was the best part of the dish, and it’s presence made this my favourite.

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“Calamari roll”. Lettuce, crab meat, kappa (cucumber), avocado, deep fried calamari, and fish eggs. Great chewy crunch from the lightly tempura-ed squid. This is the one roll I would use with soy sauce.

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“Nude Boy”. Salmon, tamago, crab meat, avocado, and kappa, all wrapped up in sushi rice and a sheet of rice paper. The rice paper is in place of the traditional seaweed. The see through nature of the wrapping is what gives this roll its name. Definitely different and very inventive, but I don’t think the substitution served any purpose. The rice is still present and seaweed actually a more health conscious option. Truthfully the white floor skin made the roll worse. It’s mushy texture throws you off, it is missing the crispiness of the seaweed that offsets the gooey-ness of the roll. To quote my dining companion, “It feels weird inside my mouth”.

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“Burning Love”. Salmon, avocado, kappa, tamago, and crab meat roll. Topped with seared salmon and coated in a green onion spicy sauce. And yes I saw the use of a blow torch in play. I enjoy how the searing brings out a sweetness in the salmon. With the chilli sauce, it starts off fairly sweet and ends with a spicy kick. Though nothing was “burning” as its name suggested.

As a side note, I wished their business cards and take out menus was better proof read. Letters went missing and words went misspelled. I would like them to stay in the neighbourhood and do well.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
I liked the food and enjoyed the uniqueness of their green rice. Each roll was fresh and very flavourful. This saved me the need of adding any soy sauce to things. Though be warned if you are looking for regular white rice sushi rolls, they don’t have any here. The presentation was so nice in styrofoam take out containers, I can only image how stunning it would be on a dine in plate. Though realistically, everything we had was comprised of the same ingredients, just presented in different ways. My dining partner tonight put it best, this sushi was not about the fish (as traditional Japanese sushi is), but about the noise used to mask the fish. Either way I have been back twice since, and can definitely see this being a weekly occurrence. Therefore am deeming this as one of my top favourite sushi places in the city, if not the favourite. Don’t deny your cravings.

SUSHI VAN
2566 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3G7
604-739-9440
Sushi Van on Urbanspoon

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