I’d just left a lecture at the Plaza last week when it dawned on me that I’d never been to Kensington’s Sushi Club. People have been raving to me about it for years, so I made a point of stopping in to see what all the fuss is about.
It’s certainly not about the space. Besides a large, intricately illustrated chalkboard behind the sushi bar, the high-ceilinged room isn’t anything flashy. I wouldn’t mind seeing the carpet go, and they might want to cut the wires on the convenience-store-style doorbell that rings with the comings and goings of diners, but other than that the room is fairly nondescript.
After waiting a few moments to be seated (reservations recommended), my husband and I take a seat by the window and dig into the menu.
I’d heard good things about the tuna tataki ($10.80, only available Thursday, Friday and Saturday), but by 7:45 p.m., it was sold out. Bummer. As an alternative, we go for the gyoza ($8.90). Made with flavourful ground chicken, the yummy dumplings are plump and dense with a tangy citrus ponzu sauce for dipping.
Be forewarned that Sushi Club is busy, so the food service tends to take longer that one would prefer, but I can assure you, the fish is well worth the wait.
Our first bite from the sushi menu is the crunchy tuna roll ($5.60). It’s a nice burst of flavour and texture. The tuna is spicy and succulent and the cornflakes add a fun crackle to the roll. I like it, but there may have been a few too many cornflakes added tonight as a couple of my bites are on the dry side.
Next up we try the scallop tempura roll ($6.90), which is similar to a typical dynamite roll made with shrimp tempura. If you like scallops, it’s a nice departure from the shrimp, with pops of roe and creamy avocado.
In between bites of the rolls we sample a few sushi selections. I’m impressed to find three types of salmon on the menu — coho, smoked and sockeye. Our server recommends the evening’s sockeye ($2.30 per piece), explaining that it usually comes from Alaska, but tonight’s is from Russia (with love). Her advice is right on target. The salmon is deliciously fresh and tender, and not the least bit mushy.
The maguro (tuna, $3.80 per piece) is equally good. Lean, mean and a deep shade of crimson — it’s fresh and uncomplicated.
It’s important to note that Sushi Club also has a vast menu of specialty rolls. Loading up on these particular rolls will likely break the bank if you go too crazy, but I would suggest trying at least one with your meal. A few of the more interesting selections include the prosciutto mango roll ($14.50) made with smoked steelhead trout, smoked black cod, pea shoots, wasabi tobiko, cream cheese, mayo, mango, prosciutto and a house dressing. Or the Sunkissed roll ($13), a combination of smoked steelhead trout, avocado, thin sliced lemon, roe, unagi and maple syrup.
For our grand finale, we decide on a roll that has the potential to eat like a dessert, the Hawaiian shrimp katsu roll ($15). It features panko-breaded shrimp, yam tempura, tomato, cream cheese, tonkatsu sauce (think Japanese Worcestershire sauce), mango, avocado, crushed pineapple, coconut milk and Japanese chili. Looking over the ingredients I’m worried about an overly creamy, flavour overload — thankfully this isn’t the case.
The roll is refreshing, with nods to each ingredient, but nothing so bold that it overwhelms. I can see why the chefs chose to serve this roll as our last dish, and I’m happy to taste each subtle nuance with every bite. I would definitely order this island-inspired roll again.
If you haven’t visited Sushi Club, you should make a point of it. Though busy, the service is friendly and informative and the sushi is a cut above. I can see why it’s been a Kensington mainstay for over nine years.