My partner insisted that I try the sushi available in his home town of Thetford Mines. One of the only two places in town to get sushi at, not including the fast food kind at I.G.A. He was convinced it was good because his cousin recommended it, and has given it her highest endorsement. I raised my eyebrow in response and skepticism. I had to remind him that there are no Japanese residents in this town, no one travelled to Japan to learn the art of sushi crafting to bring their talents back here. That what the people living here described as good is only good them. Good because they haven’t had any better. Good because it is made to their taste. I continued to remind him of all the sushi options we have in Vancouver. How seafood is available fresh to us. How there is at least one small shop offering rolls around every corner. And how Vancouver is more multicultural and there for the quality of our sushi would be more on par with what is offered in Japan. And to conclude my argument, I recalled how we have just come back from Japan, less than two months ago. Japan, where sushi originated from and Japan, where I had the opportunity to try real authentic sushi. So needless to say I was wary of how good this “sushi” would be. I made my mind to go in not comparing it to anything. But instead to enjoy it as the gathering of ingredients that it was. The shop’s name was in French after all and their “red fish” was a clown fish with red and black stripes. They were definitely not going for authenticity so why should I expect it. The restaurant was a renovated house. You walk through two doors to enter the foyer. Double doors are common here, the extra barrier traps in hot air and keeps our cold. Plus it allows extra mats and carpet to catch the drips from slushy boots in winter. Given its older exterior and the overall look of the town I was surprised at how modern the interior or restaurant was. My partner spoke of how he went to school with the owner. A young man who left Theford to travel out West. There he learned of sushi and was able to bring back his learning in an interpretation that catered to his beloved community.
We took our order to go, but I was able to enjoy the red, black, and green theme setting as we waited. Cushy chairs, chandeliers, and abstract art. It was a lot posher than I anticipated. It certainly earned the “lounge” in its title. I can definitely imagine something like this in Vancouver, though not serving sushi. The theme didn’t really match the cuisine. Maybe as a wine bar?
Interestingly the rolls came in a cardboard box, the kind you would store cakes or pastries in. There was an attempt at displaying them in a decorative fashion, but overall it seemed clumsy in its packaging. They were true to tradition using sesame seeds, including soy sauce as a accompaniment, and providing chopsticks as the tools to eat them with. But that is were the similarities ended. There was no wasabi anywhere, there was no raw fish used, and there was no artistry in its composition. Overall the ingredients threw me off, but in a surprisingly good way. Once again, I opened my mind up to this, I didn’t not consider it sushi, but a new and convenient way to eat a rice dish. With a menu listed solely in French I relied on my partner to do the ordering. He choose a combo with three unique rolls. We got the chef special, the “celebrity”. A set that included 15 pieces of what they categorized as “Futomaki”. Given the actual definition of “Futomaki” this was a fitting title, minus the non traditional presence of seaweed on the inside. “Futomaki” are thick and large cylindrical pieces of sushi with nori on the outside. Typical five to six centimetres in diameter, they are often made with two, three, or more fillings that are chosen for their complementary tastes and colours. The first roll was the “Dragon”. In it had salmon, ginger, green onion, avocado, and tempura. Its deep fried coating naturally went well with the side of orange coloured mayo provided. Dipping fried and crispy foods into luscious cream is always a win. Think fish and chips with tartar sauce, and yam fries dipped into garlic aioli. Given an option I choose the sweet mayo over a spicy one. I was not surprised to see cooked salmon in its centre, as apposed to raw salmon. My partner and his father are not a fans of fish let alone raw fish. Eating meat raw is not common in a town like this, and the practice may even seem savage. The flakey, drier texture of the pink fish went well with the creamy ripened avocado chunks and the pickled tangy ginger slices. The same pickled ginger that is often used as a palette cleanser in between different pieces of sushi, was a star ingredient here. However, it tasted like it belong. The “Kazam” roll had lobster, shrimp, apple, tempura, avocado, cucumber, and Sriracha and honey. The roll had visual interest, with the sprinkling of black sesame. It was filled with more cooked seafood, seasoned heavily with spices and dressed with a tangy vinaigrette. Its spicier nature paired well with the cooling tartness of chopped up Granny Smith apple slivers. This roll went well dipped in both the creamy sweet mayo and the light soy sauce. The “Honeymoon” roll has salmon tartar, mango, honey, tempura, and cucumber. Dressed in regular golden sesame seeds this the most interesting roll. It was filled with a slushy mixture of salmon and fresh fruit that resembled the taste and texture of salsa. I wondered how it all held in place with its juiciness. The fried puffs of tempura added some much need crunch and an interesting textural component. The roll was surprisingly good when dipped into soy sauce. Like sprinkling salt on to fruits, the saltiness of the soy only made the filling taste sweeter. Their menu included many more interesting Japanese adaptations and sushi variations. The “strawberry” roll had shrimp, strawberry, cream cheese, tempura, and panko. The “sweet and salty” roll had smoked salmon, wonton, pear, avocado, and green onion; all coated in wafu sauce. The wonton and the wafu sauce definitely came from Chinese influences instead of Japanese. Similarly was the the”yin yang” roll made with shrimp, smoked salmon tartar, salsa, and tempura; coated in a sweet chilli sauce. You don’t often did chilli sauce in sushi, let alone it paired with salsa. The “Peddington” roll had salmon tartar, apple, mango, cream cheese, tempura, and coco nibs. Would chocolate in sushi make it a dessert roll? Maybe without the salmon it could be considered as such. And of outse they had to represent Quebec with a “seafood poutine”. It was prepared with fries, baby spinach, crab, green onion, lobster, and shrimp. The lot of it was coated in a sweet and spicy sauce instead of the traditional gravy. Would I come back? – Yes. Would I line up for it? – No. Would I recommend it? – No. Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes. This is the Caucasian interpretation of sushi, specifically the French Canadian understanding of sushi. They took the principal of rolling ingredients between seaweed and rice, and used to the word “sushi” as more the technique applied and less the concept of fish on rice. I have had creative rolls in Vancouver, rolls created to meet the North American palette, but none that was this creative, none this good. A merger of ingredients I have never seen before or tasted until today that just went. Don’t deny your cravings.