Ajisai Sushi Bar is truly a hole-in-the-wall gem. It is a tiny, tiny Japanese restaurant in a mall just off West 42nd Street in Kerrisdale. It is not visible from the main street, so it is a little hard to find. We went in about half an hour before closing time during the lunch hour, so I was afraid that we would be told to leave. Nope, when we went in the restaurant was still full, and there was a group of six people still waiting for a table.
This is at the front of the restaurant. There maybe a tiny, microscopic possibility that there is photographic evidence of me sticking my face through one of the holes.
This is the assorted sashimi. One thing I love about Vancouver is the abundance of fresh fish we can enjoy at a relatively cheap price. While Ajisai is not the cheapest place for sashimi, they do have high quality fish. The fish was fresh, sweet, melt-in-your mouth tender, with none of the weird fishy taste.
The hotate(scallop), and toro nigiri sushi and the triple salmon and unagi basil rolls. I don’t often eat nigiri sushi, but the scallop was extra sweet and the toro was…heaven. Buttery, smooth and just falling apart. Though the rolls do not look as tight and organized as they could have been, they were freshly made and delicious. The unagi basil was refreshing, though the basil was not overpowering.
The salmon battera. The pressed sushi is a delicious trend in Vancouver’s Japanese restaurants. I’ve had the joy of eating aburi sushi at Minami, the sister restaurant of Miku that started the aburi-style sushi trend. The salmon battera at Ajisai is a great alternative. There is a generous amount of salmon in each piece of sushi, the dressing is light and it is just slightly torched, so the fish is still tender and not overcooked.
One thing I love about Ajisai is that they offer the option of adding a quail egg to any gunkan sushi, for a price of course. I was actually hoping to eat some uni at Ajisai, but unfortunately on the day we went, the kitchen had no uni. No matter. I will live my dream of uni with quail eggs another day. Quail egg and ikura are a match made in heaven too. The ikura are tender, little briny pearls that taste like the sea. Together with the raw yolk of the quail egg…it made me swoon. Quail egg should be added to all kinds of nigiri sushi, they just make everything taste better. The negitoro also tasted good, but the ikura and quail eggs completely stole the show.
The lobster california roll. This is off their specials menu. The roll has lobster inside and torched aburi-style salmon on top. The presentation was gorgeous, and the roll tasted even better than it looks. The lobster california roll is a little pricey, but I think it was worth it.
The BBQ Gindara. I love trying out gindara or black cod at different Japenese restaurants. Black cod is such a fatty, white fish, so they are very hard to overcooked, but when it is done right, it is just dreamy. Ajisai nailed it. The black cod was tender, fresh, sweetly caramelized and oily. You can squeeze some lemon juice on it to cut through the fattiness, but why ruin the dream? There is also some fermented soy bean on the side that can be eaten with the black cod. The soy bean is incredibly salty, so it can overpower the black cod’s sweetness, but it is still fun to try.
I would definitely return to Ajisai. I have yet to try their uni, which I have heard great things about. Ajisai does many things with uni, from rolls, nigiri sushi to rice bowls. It’ll be like going to uni heaven. One thing of note, underground parking is available at Ajisai, so don’t spend too much time trying to wrestle for street parking.