The original location is in Coquitlam, but since my first visit a couple years back, they have grown more popular and have opened a new one along West Broadway.
During one visit I noticed that the chefs spoke Mandarin to one another, as they wrapped rice in seaweed. My question is then, is sushi any less authentic when made by a Chef who isn’t Japanese by ethnicity, but has been trained in the art? Regardless of your opinion you can’t deny the result as it lands on your plate. Here you get the common sushi stop classics that appear on every sushi menu. But for those regular sushi eaters, who are bored of the normal and want a little strange in their rolls; this is the place for you. “Sushi California” gives you the options of a fine Japanese tapas with the casual comfort and speed of a quickie stop and take out shop. They offer less commonly seen dishes like “takoyaki” (octopus balls), “yakitori” (skewered grilled chicken), and “ishi yaki” (hot stone bowl with fish roe). All these normal appetizers here are delicious, and something you cannot get out of any other fast food sushi place.
I have visited here for cheap and fast sushi on several occasions. Each time I was required to stand and wait, pushed up against everyone else in the tiny foyer. It is a struggle to leave your name on a wait list without everyone thinking you are budging in line. Together we ,the group hungrily stood, overlooking all the 20 tables and 10 bar seats. All ages, races and relationships gathered for lunch and dinner. They accommodated parties of one, to groups of 8 with tables joined. Nothing unique about their set up. Narrow table tops, wooden chairs, and sushi bar at back. On one occasion I was surprised to see a non Asian, blonde waitress working a section. She chimed in with the others, calling out Japanese greetings when customers came in and left. Her being there did not affect the customers, service or food; I just thought it was something of note and nothing you’d see ever day. So far this was my first and only experience.
In the past I have had their “Box Sushi”, named for its shape. It is avocado sandwiched between rice, topped with thin slices of smoked salmon and cooked scallop and shrimp. Each piece is cut and topped with a tiny slice of lemon to accentuate the seafood. I ordered this more for the novelty of a squared roll. You pay more the labour required to make this and it is not any better or worth it, just like a square watermelon. I found there was too much rice, it over powered the gentle texture if the seafood. I ended up removing half of it from each piece before I started eating.
There was miscommunication with my udon order. I had asked for their “Vege Udon” with no leafy greens or green onions. Instead I got a bowl of white noodles in brown broth with a couple of mushroom slices. The fish cake pieces gave the bowl its only colour: white with a bright pink swirl. The soup was bland and required the Japanese all spice, traditionally found on the table to accompany soupy noodles. I shook a whole bunch in and with it was able to finish my bowl. I did not complain about the mix up as I was under the weather and a simple soup and less confrontation was a blessing.
“Chicken Teriyaki Roll”: chicken teriyaki, lettuce, cucumber, with a healthy scoop of teriyaki sauce poured on top.
“Beef Teriyaki Roll”: beef, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, and mayo.
Both rolls were pretty standard, too large to eat in one bite. It is an easy way to enjoy your teriyaki bowl in convenient, pre-assembled bites.
Today I wanted to judge the quality of their take out and take advantage of their discount. Those with the ability to plan their take out needs ahead of time were rewarded. Order 2 hours before pick up and receive 5% off with a minimum order of $25 or more in cash.
“Grilled Beef Tataki”, sliced beef cooked medium rare, and served with ponzu sauce. This takeout version lacked an effort on presentation. For the $8.95 price point I expected more than a clumped up ball of ten tiny slivers. I did not touch the onion and sprigs of watercrest vegetable on the side. The taste was all there and they were extremely generous with the ponzu sauce, but I would be able to get more and better for that price else where. Had it been in the restaurant and plated differently, my decision may be different.
Not often do customers check through their bundled up take out orders, before their commute home; the result is incorrect items or missing pieces. In this case it was the former that sullied my experience. I had requested a “Ikura (salmon roe) nigiri”. In its places was an “Albacore Tuna nigiri”. I was not charged the 60 cent difference, but was disappointed to go home and have to eat it instead of what I had craved and therefore ordered. At least the tuna was a generous piece that engulfed the rice. It was fresh and tasted as expected.
I also picked up the “Tobiko and Quail Egg nigiri”. The presentation did not survive the trip home, I lost more than half of the tiny eggs, that was suppose to balance on top. Eaten one at a time they did nothing, and did not taste like anything; but as an assembly you got a great texture that popped in your mouth with each bite down. The quail egg was raw and runny, it helped adhere the individual eggs together and as a whole on to the soft ball of rice. I enjoyed the piece with my ample container of ponzu sauce. The taste is nothing I am familiar with, but I enjoyed the surprising deliciousness out of this new.
“Grilled Beef Teriyaki” with “seasonal vegetables” and teriyaki sauce. Any where this is always prepared with the same vegetables: large, slightly cooked pieces of carrots and broccoli; a shredded mix of cabbages, and bean sprouts. This is despite the menu listing them being seasonal choices. The boxed was packed, and the promise of lots of meat was high. But through clever packing the beef was only thinly spread over the top. Below the grilled beef was a bounty of white rice and chopped cabbage as filler. After eating all the beef with vegetables and rice in each bite, I ended up throwing away more than half of the box in rice and “seasonal vegetables”.
I will be returning to eat and take out from “Sushi California” in the future. Their Coquitlam location has easy front of shop parking. The staff are friendly enough. The food comes quick. And the selection is sure to satisfy with classics and delight on all the variations to it.
Would I recommend it? No, the prices are a little steeper here than at other sushi fast food places. Chances are that people wanting sushi are content with the simple California roll. And those wanting stone bowls or sashimi platters are willing to go somewhere a little more formal and a little more pricy to get their fix. There are just too many Japanese options out there and I am confident this is not the only or the best.
Don’t deny your cravings.
501 North Road, Coquitlam BC