Roll with the punches

New sushi spot bit of a mystery

THIS PLACE SUFFERS from a bit of an identity crisis (the storefront’s moniker reads “N.K. Sushi”), and the sampled backkitchen– prepped offerings fall into the ho-hum category, but the sushi chef rolls a pretty mean spicy tuna, and prices are reasonable.

There are just two people here at the lunchtime peak on a Friday: the aforementioned sushi chef and one server (who flip-flops between doting and oblivious).My date and I double the head count.

Without any other customers, there’s plenty of choice for seating (and silence on the speakers echoes the odd, empty feeling in the room).We opt for a table near the sidewalk window and take in our surroundings. A very narrow front entrance space, divided into even smaller sections with ubiquitous bamboo-like partitions, can fit just a few dark-wood tables and chairs.This area opens up to a wider,more sophisticated space at the back. Here, a banquette along the west wall provides peekaboo access to the sushi chef station.

The usual spectrum of sushi restaurant offerings breaks down into salads, soups, maki, à la carte sushi and sashimi, appetizers, combos, teriyaki, bento boxes, fried noodle or udon and rice dishes.

A Japanese dumplings order ($4.98) brings six steamed then fried beef bundles.The filling boasts ample savoury flavour, but watery pockets and a hard cartilage chunk in one dumpling take away from the pleasure.Too much chili kills off other tastes in the accompanying dipping sauce (no forewarning of spiciness on the menu or at delivery to table).

Pleasant chewiness is an inherent quality of seaweed salad. In Nikko’s version ($4.98), however, rigidity plagues some wakame strands that even the fresh cucumber strands and light vinegar-sugar-soy dressing can’t balance. Stirred-in sesame seeds contribute nuttiness and texture. Nikko roll ($7.98) wraps rice around crisp nori, shrimp, tempura and fresh avocado. Bright orange tobiko blankets the tight,multi-textured roll of eight pieces, evenly sliced and prettily plated.

The chef also succeeds with spicy tuna roll ($5.98). Fish freshness contributes to the pleasure of the six pieces, which also include tempura batter and green onion, but the chef can take credit for the balanced flavours and the satisfying slow burn of the togarashi.

Slices of teriyaki-dosed chicken breast, well grilled and tender, repose goopily over a cluster of mushy matchstick carrots and tiny beans ($7.98). Chopsticks easily pick up mouthfuls of the well-timed, slightly sticky rice from the moulded mound alongside.

There is much to build on here: solid rolls, seaweed salad, but more needs to be done to make a lasting impact on the local scene.


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