Apr. 04, 2012 - Issue #859: Spring Style
Bringing the Pacific inland
Great sushi can be found in Edmonton
Sushi is unforgiving, for its minimalist presentation hides neither knife slips nor sloppy arrangements. The artistic expression in the preparation and presentation of sushi is an inextricable component of the dining experience and may, at its worst, evoke a clumsy crayon scribble or, at its best, the fluid finesse of a watercolour painting. Sabu Sushi Bar proudly epitomizes the latter.
Sabu occupies an inconspicuous spot that once housed the Buddha Bowl and, prior to that, Jugs Pub. The building's interior presents a palette of chocolate brown and white accented by round paper lampshades and framed Japanese prints. It's a family-run operation; the son runs the front of the house while his father works behind the sushi bar.
Dinner commences with a fragrant cup of sencha green tea that whispers with toasted brown rice grains. It complements Takoyaki ($6.50), which are small, spherical octopus dumplings. These auburn, piping-hot balls are a toothsome combination of chopped octopus, dashi, eggs and mayo. Salty and savoury, they whet our appetites for subsequent sushi.
Salmon sashimi ($9.95) presents an artistic pinwheel of coral-hued salmon slices, each gently arranged like a flower petal. A tangle of daikon and a rosette of wasabi wait on the side. Each slice is thick enough to provide substance, but thin enough to slowly melt on the tongue, releasing the rich flavours so integral to salmon.
Bulgogi roll ($14.95) is a departure from traditional Japanese recipes, and reflects the owners' Korean heritage. This clever cultural combination fills a sizeable sushi roll with shreds of juicy bulgogi beef. Ginger, soy and scallions recapitulate quintessential Korean flavours, though the roll's sheer size makes it difficult to pick up and maneuver.
Two colourful rolls conclude our meal. Rainbow roll ($12.95) is visually stunning. Overlapping slices of tuna, mackerel, salmon and avocado conceal glossy white rice that, in turn, hides a mild filling of surimi. The flavour is remarkably understated. Each flavour, instead of competing for attention, reveals itself and then defers to the next. Instead of manifesting itself as a blur, each bite is a slow meander from one distinct flavour to the next. Rock n roll ($14.95) showcases sweet and spicy barbecued eel. The eel rests upon a rice roll decorated with bright orange roe and sesame seeds. The rice could be stickier to improve the ease of handling. Regardless, the eel steals the show.
Many diners lament the relative paucity of excellent sushi in Edmonton and long for the masterpieces so prevalent on the West Coast. For those who pine for the Pacific or for anyone seeking sushi both artistic and delicious, I immediately direct them down 82 Avenue to Sabu.
Sabu Sushi Bar
7450 - 82 Ave
More info about Sabu Sushi Bar →
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