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If you know sushi, Vancouver is the place to be


Richard Ouzounian
Toronto Star

VANCOUVER–When it comes to Asian dining, you have to envy our fellow Canadians in British Columbia.

Richmond has what is generally accepted as the widest and best assortment of Chinese food available outside of Hong Kong.

And crossing the bridge into Vancouver, you encounter an assortment of Japanese restaurants unmatched anywhere in North America, with the city's sushi bars occupying a particular place of honour.

Large, small, elegant, casual – every kind is available.

Here are a half dozen of my favourite and most reliable choices:

TOJO'S RESTAURANT, 1133 W. Broadway; 604-872-8050: For 20 years, this has been considered one of the city's finest Japanese restaurants. The quality is high and the choices are varied. More is served here than just sushi, but it's in the realm of raw fish that Hidekazu Tojo and his staff excel. For a real treat, sit at the Omakase ("Trust Me") Bar and put yourself into the staff's hands for a unique experience.

KIBUNE SUSHI, 1508 Yew St.; 604-731-4482: Just a few steps away from Kitsilano Beach, this intimate place has been a favourite of mine since it opened in 1982. The service is friendly and the place always seems full of regulars who are pleased to accept suggestions as to what's freshest that particular day. If they have soft-shell crab on the menu, grab it. It's not officially served sushi-style, but it's fried so lightly and delicately it might as well be raw.

HONJIN SUSHI, 138 Davie St.; 604-688-8808: This bustling place in the heart of the city's Yaletown district has a vibe not unlike your local pub.

But instead of chicken wings and burgers, they turn out superb sushi, including a series of multi-layered all-fish creations like their Sunshine Roll and Yaletown Roll, both real winners.

TOSHI'S, 181 E. 16th Ave.; 604-874-5173: Despite its location in a slightly funkier part of town, there's always a line outside patiently waiting to sample the delights of this small but choice eatery, including a very special house roll with avocado on the outside and a grilled salmon skin roll that seems to be the very gustatory essence of life in British Columbia.

YOSHI JAPANESE RESTAURANT, 689 Denman St., 604-738-8226: One of the city's most elegant Japanese dining spots, the view of Stanley Park gives Yoshi a certain upscale, dramatic flair.

But, in addition to a widely-ranging menu, it also features the classic "Kaiseki" dinner, with nine carefully thought-out courses that reflect the geography, time of year, and bounty of the seas. Yes, there is life beyond the California Roll!

OCTOPUS' GARDEN, 1995 Cornwall Ave., 604-734-8971: Once upon a time, Kitsilano was Ground Zero for the hippie life in Vancouver. Its property values have largely changed that, but some of the old ideology still lives on, especially in restaurants like this, where a fine hand with seafood is combined with a gift for period humour, such as in the establishment's name or its mango/yellowfin roll, known, of course, as "The Yellow Submarine."




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