One day, while cutting through Union Station, Lil Sis pointed out the Sushi Shop and asked me if I would try out their offering. “Never!” was my answer, scoffing at the idea. A sushi joint in grubby Union Station!?
Shortly after, I would laugh to myself as I browsed the beautiful menu that landed in my mailbox and gleefully plotted out a few meals that would take advantage of the coupons along the edge of the menu offering a free roll with a minimum order and the like.
The Sushi Shop has tens of locations in Montreal and throughout the province of Quebec but just a handful in Ontario so far with five of them in Toronto. Besides being one of the closest locations, the Union Station location is the only one open on the weekends. In the case of independent shops, you might not want to get sushi on the weekend because fish market days are Sundays and Mondays so weekend fish is the least fresh. The Telus Tower location is just as close to me as Union Station and stays open until 7:00 p.m. on weekdays.
While waiting for your order at a Sushi Shop location, you will quickly learn they are part of the MTY Rewards program (free to join, it seems) where you earn points each time you dine at 20 participating merchants (at a rate of earning 3.6 points per pre-tax dollar, it would take $1,334 to earn 4,800 points required to redeem $10). The rewards program also offers free menu item vouchers based on your purchasing patterns and frequency. One can hope those vouchers are easier to come by and coincide with items you would order.
I stopped by the Union Station location on my way home after yoga for my inaugural visit and it was to try their Sirocco Hako sushi that coincidentally is the posterchild for this month’s menu. Because it’s beautiful. Hako is a mold into which rice and the fish and other ingredients are pressed, in other words, “pressed sushi”.
The salmon was chopped and then reconstituted with sesame seeds and crunchy tempura such that it was hard to really get its flavour. I would have wanted more avocado in the avocado-mango mixture and the bed of rice was flatter than I would like. Still, an impressive sushi and I was eager to try more and make my next order.
My next order was half a week later, at the Telus Tower location with some time to spare even after I got work late. My planned order was the Red Tiger roll, seared salmon nigiri, a novel dessert roll and the Inferno roll that was free with a minimum $15 order. Since they did not have a required ingredient for the dessert roll, I ordered the seared tilapia instead. This was one crazy “bento” box.
The Red Tiger roll was one that I had identified I wanted to try with a great fusion that introduced smoky steak sauce. It was a meaty roll that was lovely in its smokiness and creaminess. The shrimp was fresh and crunchy.
Since going to Miku in Vancouver, I have been searching for seared sushi that doesn’t cost $4/piece. The principle is the same in that searing the fish brings out some natural flavours otherwise locked into the raw fish and Sushi Shop is the right price at under $4 for two pieces, about how much I would pay for nigiri from a good restaurant. The salmon and tilapia were cut generously and lightly seared. I thought the tilapia tasted entirely cooked and the salmon was well-balanced.
The Inferno roll is from their Crunchy Sushi series and had intrigued me with the use of sun-dried tomato pesto but I will ignore any sushi with cream cheese listed as a component. The roll did a good job of packing in crunch and heat, so much that I didn’t taste a hint of the pesto. Perhaps the cream cheese tempered the heat a little and it was a fun roll.
Despite having my order all planned out, I couldn’t order again because a main reason for my third order was to try their dessert roll but twice within September, contrary to advertised in their September take-out menu, they did not have a component they needed to make the dessert roll.
It wasn’t until December when I remembered I could try again to order the dessert roll and it was available! Happily, I put together an order that exceeded $10 so I could get a free California roll.
Trilogie, one of their crispy rolls, was my main roll. Salmon, tuna, and a lot of tilapia made it a meaty roll lightly fragranced with the green onion. Although it was not still hot, the roll exterior was really crunchy and I really liked the combination. The California rolls were also solid with plenty of the three ingredients.
Paradiso, the dessert roll I waited so long to try, was unfortunately my least favourite piece and it wrapped the meal. It is served cold, of course, and even when I tried to dunk it in the chocolate sauce, it did not stick very well. I did not enjoy the cold rice and colder rice paper that was an unpleasant skin. The rolle would have done just as well, I think, without the rice paper. The three fruits–strawberry, mango and clementine–are good on their own but didn’t make the best combination with the rice.
That was truly a fun tour of the Sushi Shop menu!