Friday, July 22, 2011

The Ginza of AYCE sushi.

If Montreal's all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants were shopping districts in Japan, then Ginza would be... well... Ginza. Ginza is a very small and inconspicuous restaurant situated on the busy street of St-Denis. Despite its small stature, it is still relatively well-decorated, and serves some of the better AYCE sushi I've had to date. And believe me, I've had my share.

I'm not generally a fan of AYCE sushi restaurants, because their fish tends to be unfresh, and their rolls are generic and loose, which was why I was a little skeptical when my friend told me they made good sushi. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Finding Ginza was like inhaling the first breath of fresh air after spending a particularly long bus ride next to that pre-soap era homo sapien. No, I left the other sapien out on purpose.

Accessibility - Grade: A
It's about a 10 minute walk from Mont-Royal metro.

Service - Grade: B
The service was surprisingly good for an AYCE joint. Granted, the store is very small, and it was empty when we went and only filled up at around 9 pm (really? AYCE sushi at 9?). The waiters smiled little, but they were efficient and polite. The food also arrived at a good pace. They did forget one of our rolls towards the end when it got busier, but granted, we probably wouldn't have been able to finish it anyway.

Food - Grade: B-
Bonus Marks: Best AYCE I've had in Montreal.

Please bear with me. My friend grabbed my phone and went photo-happy.

We started off with a house salad and a seaweed salad. There wasn't particularly noteworthy about these dishes, except that the house salad was really watery. Kinda like the frost had just melted off the lettuce or something.

'Hunan' dumplings


For shaaaaame! Why the peanut butter wontonlings? Well, because my mutant half-Chinese-half-white friend (and she's not a mutant for being a halfie - no, I'm not that mean - she's a mutant because because of her strangely recessive Asian genes. Natural blonde hair and blue eyes on someone with Asian blood? HOW? ...Jealousy? Watchoo talkin' about?) sided with her domineering Caucasian genes and decided she wanted fake dumplings. Needless to say, I was disappointed in that young grasshopper. Anyhow, the dumplings didn't end up that good, even by peanut-butter-and-wonton standards, and my friend agreed with me, so. The tempura was also pretty standard, if a bit less flaky than the ones found in real sushi restaurants.

Garlic Mussels

Garlic Snails

 What caught my eye when I first saw the kitchen section of the menu was the mussel and the snails. Mussels and snails in an AYCE sushi restaurant? Of course I'm gonna order that! My friend warned me against the cheese-based ones, so I went for garlic seasoning on both. And hey! They actually weren't so bad! Obviously, the mussels weren't as fresh as the ones you find in seafood restaurants, but they didn't feel sandy or grainy, like the frozen ones usually do, and the snails were obviously canned, but still tasted pretty good. I was actually quite enjoying them until my mutant friend (who is also part dog and part cat, by the way) was overtaken by her curious cat genes and wanted to find out if she was allergic to snails by trying one. One swollen throat and one quick run to the pharmacy later, we found out that she was, in fact, allergic to snails. Geez.

Grilled Shrimp

Beef Sashimi

The grilled shrimp was pretty good, but again, nothing special. The shrimp still retained its elasticity and subtle crunchiness, so I'm assuming it was fairly fresh. The beef 'sashimi' reminded me of the the beef tataki at Imadake, only obviously not as good. But still, it was well-marinated so that the raw taste was masked, and the beef was quite tender. I'm generally a bit skeptical of the raw meats served at AYCE places, especially if it's beef, but my other friend all but inhaled this plate when the waiter brought it to us, and she's still as healthy as ever. Plus, this particular 'sashimi' eats more like a sliced blue steak than sashimi.

Finally, onto the good stuff! Ginza offers a variety of rolls that you can't find in any other sushi restaurants, such as the 'Mont-Royal' (the pink), which consists of tuna, salmon, shrimp, and avocado wrapped in pink soya paper. They also offer various scallop rolls and lobster rolls (Friday and weekend only), as well as spicy tuna and spicy salmon sashimi (the lumpy stuff in the corners).

The rolls themselves are decently rolled, seeing as how they only fall apart when you bite into them as opposed to when you pick them up. They are also of a reasonable size, and aren't all deep fried and drenched in mayo (thank God!).

The Dragon-Eye

Of course, being an AYCE place, the fish still isn't the freshest. The salmon sashimi still had that sticky texture to it, and it didn't have that sweetness that the really fresh ones have. Another downside is that the fish came out at room temperature instead of being chilled, which made it very hard to eat too much of it (Edit: Went back recently, and the fish came out chilled. Apparently their fridge broke last time I went?). 

Also, as with many AYCE places, the seaweed wrapped around the sushi is a bit stale, made evident by the fact that it's rather tough to chew through. Still, the quality is still leagues better than your average AYCE place, and the variety more than makes up for it.

Lobster roll and possibly the Rive-Sud, whose name I have forgotten.

Black Mountain roll

Now, instead of serving the typical green-tea/mango/red-bean ice cream at the end of the meal (which they apparently also do offer, but it's just not on the menu), Ginza offers you their special dessert roll, called the 'Black Mountain'. Or you can be a special snowflake and order it along with your other makis during the meal.

The Black Mountain contained strawberries, bananas, pineapple and kiwi, and was topped with a drizzle of thick chocolate sauce. The tartness of the fruit was a welcome change after all the raw fish and rice, and kudos to Ginza for using real melted chocolate for a sauce. There was one thing that was very off about this roll, though. They used the same rice to make this dessert as they did when making sushi; this means that the rice is salted. This creates a rather jarring conflict in flavours, one that doesn't quite work at all. Had they used sweetened sticky rice, it probably would have worked better.

Price - $$$
We went on a Friday night, so I suppose the price was more expensive than usual. It was $29.99 before tax, which, yeah, is more expensive than your average AYCE sushi place. I haven't been here for lunch, so I don't know what their lunch menu is like and I'm not sure what their lunch price is. However, if you are a student and are planning on spending your precious $30+ on an AYCE sushi place anyway, I would highly recommend that you check this place. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't want to be eating here too often.

Final Grade: B
I have to say, I was pretty impressed, especially with the variety of the menu. Obviously, I still prefer going to sushi restaurants than AYCE places, but if I ever need my fix of bottomless sushi, Ginza will be the first place I head to.

Ginza on Urbanspoon


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