Patience Rewarded at Sushi by Yuji

Sushi by Yuji on Kingsway near Nanaimo (not to be confused with Yuji’s From Japan on Alma & 4th, where La Ghianda used to be) has been open since Spring 2013. The chef/owner used to work at Shiro on Cambie in their heyday, and I’m glad to see Sushi by Yuji still in business after more than a year. This is one of just a few places that I’d consider eating sushi at in the eastside, along with Shima-ya on Victoria Drive.

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Sushi by Yuji is on Kingsway near Nanaimo, right beside La Casa Latin Cuisine and Bakery (who carry Guatemalan-style tamales, if you’re into that sort of thing — I tried some once and it was homey, comforting yet bland-ish and benefited from lots of hot sauce).

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I’d consider Sushi by Yuji to be a somewhat higher-end sushi place, especially for this part of town. Expect to pay around $30-40 to get full. They specialize in sushi and only have a few cooked items like takoyaki (!) and some rice bowls. Their strength is definitely sushi. Fresh and prepared with skill. You get what you pay for here.

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I love getting this morokyu appetizer. I’d never seen this before coming to Sushi by Yuji.

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Assorted pickles sounds nice too.

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A deluxe assorted sashimi platter is a total splurge item. You aren’t gonna get full on it without some rice to bulk it up, but it sure is delicious. The most interesting item is the engawa, that’s described as “edge of halibut” (also known as “halibut fin”). I haven’t been to any other sushi places in recent memory that have this.

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*NOT CURRENT* I took this pic last year.

They also have a daily specials board. During this most recent visit, seasonal uni was on for $4 a piece. Yuji sometimes posts his most special special special fish on his Facebook page.

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Morokyu, brown rice miso served on cucumber. Sweet, tangy miso on cool, crunchy cucumber. It may not seem like much but I can’t get enough of this appetizer.

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Assorted tsukemono. This Serious Eats article will totally help you with identifying Japanese pickles. Although the leafy green one of the right isn’t listed in the article, it’s actually a pickled mustard green, which to me is more Chinese than Japanese, but it tastes great anyways.

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Scallop nigiri and a couple uni nigiri. The uni was the best you could hope for! Fresh and clean-tasting, with no funk or iodine.

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Wicca frankly doesn’t enjoy raw fish as much as I do, so she got a BC Roll. They put an interesting sauce on top, which could’ve been mayo and sriracha. She loved it. Which is great cuz if given a choice of which foods to indulge in, sushi would be dead last on her list.

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Deluxe Assorted Sashimi. My first reaction when getting a sashimi platter is, “is that it?” Happens every time. But absolutely no complaints about the quality and freshness. I love that they only use wild sockeye salmon. There’s a reason why you hardly ever see farmed atlantic salmon at the better sushi places around town.

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Engawa is the white triangular piece between the mackerel and scallops.

The most interesting fish was the engawa (“edge of halibut”). It’s got a slightly crunchy texture and the full-on flavour of halibut. You can read a bit more about it in this Thrillist article Salmon Sucks: Sushi Chefs Reveal the Most Over and Underrated Fish. You gotta try it.

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Yuji still uses what appears to be a blend of typical horseradish (fake wasabi) and real fresh grated wasabi. I think using only real wasabi would cost way too much, but at least here you get a taste of the real stuff. Real wasabi is actually more gentle, subtle and sweeter than the more typical coloured horseradish powder stuff.

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Couple pieces of kohada (gizzard shad). Actually no gizzards involved. Brother-in-law ate this, but from what I can remember from previous times, kohada is a bit like a mini-saba.

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Takoyaki. Not great but not terrible. A bit denser than other places.

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My Deluxe Chirashi Don. It’s my go-to for when I’m feeling indecisive or too tired to pick out an à la carte selection of nigiri for myself. A great mix of different tastes and textures, especially with the bursty ikura 😉

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Wicca’s brother finished off with a couple pieces of toro (I think) and a Negi Shiso Saba roll. It’s one of my favourite rolls at Sushi by Yuji. Shiso leaf in sushi is just awesome. Hit of bright citrus and mint really works with the mackerel. I love how Sushi by Yuji doesn’t do any of those garish, over-the-top, Vegas-on-a-plate monster sushi rolls drowned in mayo. The sushi here is properly-sized with a good balance of rice to topping. This isn’t a place to go when you’re in a rush. Yuji is the only person making the sushi here, so when it’s busy you’ll just have to wait a bit. But it’s totally worth it. Also, Yuji’s english is pretty rough. Even now I only understand every 5th word that he says. The staff are fresh-off-the-boat Japanese, so keep things simple. But your patience and understanding will be rewarded. The best stuff always takes a little bit of effort, right?

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They have a small selection of beer and sake now! I didn’t partake this time, but good to know in the future. I would probably drink Asahi Black over anything else.

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