We craved for quality sushi one evening, and planned for a visit to Ajisai Sushi Bar for dinner. News of their great service, and focus on fresh sushi and sashimi offerings piqued my interest, and I went in with a certain level of expectations.
Even before the restaurant opened its doors, there was already a lineup of people waiting to get in. If you were like us and came without reservations, the best times are on weekdays before the restaurant opens, although it’s always a gamble due to its popularity. Luckily for us, we only waited a few minutes or so before getting two seats at the bar.
Eating sushi at the bar feels lot more intimate to me. Intimate in the sense that you get to experience how the chefs prepare most of your food, and you can also sit side-by-side with your partner or friend during your meal. I know some people prefer to sit at a table, and sometimes I do too, so it’s up to you where you’d like to eat. However, to my experience, you can generally get seated earlier and be served faster at the bar.
The interior seems a bit small for such a popular place. Images of fish, stacks of plates, and bright lights illuminate the walls. It feels clean and comfortable, with friendly staff and excited chatter from the patrons. What the menu lacks in hot foods, like udon and teriyaki meats, is made up for in the variety of fresh fish.
The first dish that arrived was our Unagi Uni Tororo Don which is decorated with slices of unagi, pieces of uni, a mound of grated mountain potato, Japanese pickles, and strips of egg and nori on top of hot steamed rice.
The toppings tasted rich and creamy, with the fattiness of the eel and sea urchin that contrasts the refreshing mountain potato. I love how fresh the uni is, and how filling the bowl was by itself.
The BBQ Hamachi Kama (fish collar) was hot and crispy, and just what we wanted. The fish is cooked well, not too dry or too scorched, and had a subtle bitterness from the charcoal. If you crave other hot foods, I would suggest their Clam Miso Soup as an alternative.
My boyfriend got eight pieces of nigiri sushi to share, as well as their Toro Taku, I believe, which is a roll with tuna belly and Japanese pickles. For Nigiri, we went with Shima Aji, Hamachi, Hamachi Toro, and Toro.
All of the fish tasted impeccably fresh and fatty! The amount of rice was also just right and not packed densely like other places. The roll was lovely and reminded me of the richness of a Negi Toro, but sweeter and without the strong green onion flavour. This was such a satisfying plate, with all of the fish that I love, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.
Our “dessert”, we decided, was going to be a variation of their Ikura Hotate (except stuffed in a cucumber instead of as a sushi). I honestly do not know what this is called, and believe that this is an off-menu item that is actually part of their omakase or assorted sushi sets. It looked beautiful, so we asked to try one each.
The scallop was incredible! It was so sweet and tasted like the ocean, in a good way. The salmon roe on top popped and gave it a more savoury profile, and the cucumber underneath brought out more of the freshness of the sea. Best dessert ever!
While the prices are higher than the average sushi place, you are paying for quality and presentation. While the staff was kind, we did feel compelled to leave sooner than usual due to the small space and long line-ups. I would come back, but with a reservation next time!
- Fresh sushi and sashimi
- More expensive than utility sushi
- Staff is fast and kind
- Menu focused on fish
- Basically no hot food options
- Small space, long-lineups (line waits)
Ajisai Sushi Bar
2081 W 42nd Ave
Vancouver, V6M 3V3
Tues – Sat 11:30am – 2:00pm, 5:00pm – 9:30pm
Sunday 5:00pm – 9:30pm