For years in St. John’s there was only Basho and Sun Sushi. Either end of the street, either end of several spectra.
Then the gimbab of J Korean snuck onto the scene, which in turn spawned Sakura Sushi in Churchill Square, Kimchi and Sushi in Atlantic Place (then Rabbittown, then the TD Building on Water Street), and, somehow, Sushi Island appeared in the middle of it all. We are living through a sushi tsunami. There is talk of a new sushi place on Kenmount Road as well.
When the waters recede, what will the sushi bar landscape look like? Enriched by competition and a critical mass of raw, whetted appetites? Or will the tide pull out leaving only a damp salty wreckage of empty storefronts like rotting capelin on our shores.
So far the competition has given Sun Sushi new fire and, with a re-vamped menu, all you can eat lunch, and steadily increasing quality of service and ingredients. They are finally earning their place in local hearts previously won through lack of alternative.
Now, with a bold opening consisting of three hours of free sushi for all who came by, Sushi Nami Royale has announced their arrival and made literal my metaphor. A Nova Scotian in Sin City. And they are trying hard. If we were kids in grade six that would be a pejorative, but we are grown-ups who want to use our money and our time well on a night out.
Such a grand grand opening is an excellent thing for a new enterprise to be doing. The staff are all palpably concerned for the success of the restaurant. They make it clear that they like their product and their work. After tasting the food, I can see why. It is quality, the food and the work.
The space is brightened from its days as The Works with simple black and white decor. The menu is more ambitious in its range of fish than the other sushi shops have been.
St John’s can be a hard place on fresh food so I won’t hold it against them if some of the selection they planned on doesn’t pan out, but I hold out hope that their excitement and pride in product will prevail and we will all be eating toro this winter to fend off the blues with the best bite of fat the oceans offer.
Every crumb of vegetable, fruit, and fish brought to me was fresh. The chopped cilantro and jalapeño adorning the Viva La Vida roll were crisp and green and clearly just prepped. Their fusion style rolls were well proportioned in their elements and flavours; we are benefitting from a well-tested product.
The mackerel (saba) was cut with geometrical prettiness and, in all the nigiri I tried, there was not one sloppy detail about the plating, the wrapping, the rice seasoning or the garnish. If all of this holds past the initial blush of first opening, we will be richer for the flood.