Sushi Nanaimo: Popular, Decent, and Cheap

Sherman visits a sushi joint that's popular with the locals

Sushi Nanaimo offers guests wild salmon sashimi.

There I was. Caught between a rock and a hard place. No, I wasn't in a parking lot fighting for a space on #3 Road in Richmond (although that would be quite the pickle..). Rather, I was given the task of organizing lunch with the following criteria: gluten-free but not vegetarian, kid-friendly, not expensive, not Asian and within Vancouver. Argh...  Seriously? OK, I'd rather be fighting for that parking spot with nothing but my fragile body... Apparently, they do that in Richmond, too... Anyways, I was able to remove the "non-Asian" stipulation out of the equation when Herbie the Lovebug relented in his demands. So I ended up suggesting Aki, yet they were not open for lunch on Sundays (pretty common for authentic Japanese restaurants). Hence, I resorted to a Korean-run Japanese restaurant out on Nanaimo simply named Sushi Nanaimo. Now, don't let the generic name fool you, the place is very popular with the locals as it does its best "Sushi Garden" impersonation.

Luckily we arrived before noon as the place was quickly hopping with a lineup out the door. Taking advantage that Nikita, Bluebeard, Lana Banana, and Herbie the Lovebug were all hungry, I went ahead and ordered too much food. Like that would be a surprise... To make things simple, I got theTray C consisting of Nigiri (three pieces each of Salmon, Tuna, Ebi, Hokkigai, and Chopped Scallop) and Maki Sushi (Dynamite, Red Roll, Chopped Scallop, Mangodise, and California). For $35.95, this was a lot of food which was actually decently prepared. As you can see, they didn't merely hack up a bunch of seafood and slap it randomly on rice. There was a certain neatness and order to the presentation. The sushi rice was a touch dry, but acceptable with a hint of vinegar. As for the rolls, everything was pretty typical with the red roll having a considerable sesame oil hit. Next up was an order of Wild Salmon Sashimi. Although cut a bit strange in my opinion, the fish itself had a nice sheen and was naturally sweet. I liked the buttery smooth texture with a nice bite.

So far so good, until we had the Tokatsu-Don... At first glance, there didn't seemed to be anything wrong with the dish. Look at it. It was large portion with a big tonkatsu on top caressed by egg. Yes, the pork cutlet was fried nicely and it was sufficiently tender. Furthermore, the egg was both plentiful and fluffy. And, there was enough sauce to properly flavor the rice. So what's wrong you might ask...  Well, if the rice underneath was supposed to be waterlogged and soggy, then it would've been a solid Don. But since that is not how one makes a tonkatsu-don, it was a fail. Seeing how the Yakisobi was the daily special at $6.95, we got one of those too (with chicken). Unlike everything else so far, this was a more modest portion served on a sizzling hot plate. The noodles were al dente and properly sauced while the chicken was plentiful and moist. However, the whole dish was quite greasy.
As evidenced in the pictures, the portion sizes were very generous and it got even more generous with the King Chicken Katsu. At $7.50, we weren't expecting much, however, the darn thing was massive and took up more space on the table than J-Lo's derrière. Compared to the one I got at Gawa Sushi, this was easily 2.5 times bigger. What made it even better was the fact it was fried beautifully. The cutlet was crunchy, yet juicy inside (despite being rather thin). Although it looked like an aftermath of a Peter North flick, there was just the right amount of sauce and mayo. Lastly, we had one each of the and Prawn Tempura. They were served hot and crispy. The prawns were pretty big and even though the batter was a touch heavy, it was still light. Despite some pretty big eaters at the table, we struggled to finish the food (and we didn't). We all agreed Sushi Nanaimo is a fabulous value considering that the food is above-average. Yes, we realize it is not an authentic Japanese restaurant, but we really didn't care either. We weren't looking for authenticity anyways. What we got was decent eats, big portions at low prices.
The Good:
- Cheap
- Large portions
- Decent food
The Bad:
- Service seemed a bit confused
- Gets busy and the place ain't that big either
This post originally appeared on the blog Sherman’s Food Adventures.