Toyama Sushi

Don't confuse Toyama with the similarly-named Tomoya near Metrotown. This sushi spot is right on Seymour in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. The place was quite a bit larger than I had imagined, and it filled up quickly as the lunch crowd came in. Most of the customers were here for all-you-can-eat, and our table was one of the few ordering a la carte (because we had a deal voucher). Just by observing the demeanour of the staff, I could tell the restaurant was Chinese-operated. This assumption was quickly confirmed when I heard the waiters chatting amongst themselves in fluent Cantonese. I felt like I was in a HK style cafe, especially when they kept rushing us to order as if expecting us to finish our meal quickly and get out of there as soon as possible.

I was hoping the food would be good to make up for the service, but the quality was very disappointing. Since there were only 2 of us with a $30 voucher, I thought we could splurge a bit by ordering some nigiri sushi. We had hamachi (left) and red tuna (right) at $2.25 apiece. I realize that authentic nigiri is supposed to be small, but these were even smaller than usual. I probably wouldn't complain if the fish were incredibly fresh and delicious, but they were average at best. The hamachi was alright, but the red tuna was definitely way below par. There was no sweetness and no flavour, just a bland piece of mushy meat on top of a loose chunk of sour and slightly dry rice.

We tried a few maki sushi rolls including (from top to bottom): spicy tuna ($3.75), gomae ($3.50), and the house roll (1/2 order: $6.50). I really don't know what to say about them. The ingredients were not fresh and the flavours just didn't blend together. The spicy tuna was drenched in so much hot sauce that it could have been any type of fish and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. I wouldn't be surprised if the tuna had been sitting in sauce for a week because the texture was extremely mushy and almost decomposed. The gomae was simply bland spinach with very little sesame sauce. The house roll was a combination of not-very-fresh salmon, tasteless imitation crab, avocado and tamago sloppily wrapped into a roll. Each piece was a different size and the end pieces were about to fall apart.

We shared a bowl of miso ramen with chicken ($7.50) which was probably the better part of the meal simply because it was nice and hot, and not because it tasted good. This was also the first time I found a pan-fried egg instead of a boiled egg in a bowl of Japanese ramen. I shouldn't be too surprised though, since boiling an egg to perfection (with solid whites and a semi-solid yolk) takes way more time and effort than frying one, and speed is everything in a HK style food establishment. The kitchen staff didn't bother to serve the breaded chicken separately, so the skin was all soggy and mushy from the soup. But it was probably soggy and mushy to begin with anyway.

From my sushi-eating experience, all-you-can-eat restaurants almost never produce decent sushi. I guess I should have seen it coming, but still I expected the food to be better than food court standards. I'd rather go to hole-in-the-wall establishments with decent fare and reasonable prices like Jumbo Sushi. I suppose all-you-can-eat lunch for $11.95 is an attractive deal, but frankly I wouldn't come back again even if it were $5.

Toyama Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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