Five stellar spots for sushi in Ottawa
If you love sushi (and these days, many people do) then you’re not short of choices in the nation’s capital. It seems like every week a new all-you-can-eat joint pops up somewhere in the suburbs, and most food courts and grocery store prepared-food sections now have a sushi option as well.
But what if you want to go out for a fancy-ish sushi dinner, as opposed to some great takeaway to enjoy with Netflix and chilled beer? I visited five of Ottawa’s à-la-carte sushi restaurants to see how they measured up.
The traditionalist: C’est Japon à Suisha
208 Slater Street (Centretown)
The restaurant formerly known as Suisha Gardens has occupied this long, narrow space since 1974. Downstairs, tatami rooms are great for private parties, while the upstairs dining room is subdivided into intimate sections for maximum coziness.
The sushi menu leans heavily toward the traditional–no wacky rolls topped with mango or pink rice paper here, just a solid selection of nigiri (fish draped over a ball of rice) and maki (rolls) with some specials thrown in for good measure, like the salmon sashimi appetizer that arrived with six thick pieces of gorgeous-looking fish. I also appreciated the presence of B.C. albacore tuna on the menu, which is more sustainable than bigeye (red) tuna.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it: Sushi 88
690 Somerset Street West (Chinatown)
Tucked into the other half of the building that currently houses Bar Robo in Chinatown, Sushi 88 is a tiny, tightly-packed room of about eight tables that are hopping whenever I go in. One of the nicest things about Sushi 88 is the option to have your fish paired with brown rice instead of white (they’ll even do half-and-half). They also have a great list of “fancy” rolls that always lure me in. Most of them are “wrapped” with a thin layer of sashimi draped over the top of the roll, something I find particularly delicious.
This is a great casual date-night or girls’ night out place. See if you can score one of the white pleather booths in the front window.
The west-end gem: Sushi Umi
1311 Wellington Street West (Wellington West)
Umi is a narrow red hallway of a restaurant that mainly does a brisk takeaway business in the evenings, but is likely packed at lunchtime with public servants from nearby Tunney’s Pasture.
The quiet and friendly staff served us some of the best sashimi I’ve had in this city as well as a few creative-but-not-weird maki rolls. The Wellington roll, with fresh and smoked salmon and a bit of tempura yam wrapped up with fresh avocado ribbons and a drizzle of mango coulis, is probably my new favourite sushi roll. Brown rice tea was offered on the house, but there’s no liquor license, which might account for all the takeout orders. It’s worth the trip to Wellington West.
The Preston upstart: Kiko Sushi Bar
349 Preston Street (Little Italy)
Kiko’s signature sushi rolls include the “Phillian Special”—salmon with avocado and cream cheese dredged in panko and given the fryer treatment—which sent my mom into raptures as it recalled a roll she had in Brazil years ago and has never found since. Other funky choices include the Kraken, a whole squid made into a sushi roll (legs included). I found their sashimi to be served a bit too cold, but the fish itself was fresh and nicely cut.
Service is friendly and laid-back, and they have a nice wine list, unusual for many sushi bars. Thumbs up for their huge selection of Japanese appetizers, so this is the place to grab a bunch of friends and go do happy hour Tokyo-style.
The Market maven: Wasabi Sushi Bar
41 Clarence Street (ByWard Market)
Wasabi remodelled and doubled in size a few years back, refreshing their menu at the same time. They now offer an izakaya (Japanese pub) menu and ramen in addition to the usual sushi and bento boxes.
We stuck to sushi for this outing and were very pleased with ourselves. Sashimi was impeccably fresh and at perfect temperature. Maki rolls like the Ottawa (smoked salmon, crabstick, avocado and tobiko) and the Clarence (cucumber and salmon tempura, fresh salmon draped over top) were well-executed, though some were too large to eat in a single bite, a pet peeve of mine. A good wine and beer list and long selection of house cocktails as well as the lengthy and varied menu make this a great place for a group dinner with friends or family.