Blown Away by Sushi at Kishimoto on Commercial Drive

Kishimoto has been around for little over 3 years and has been a favourite Eastside Japanese restaurant. Some in-laws were in town recently (they’re from sushi-wasteland Calgary 😛 ), so we finally had an excuse to go. Boy, are we glad we picked this place! It’s definitely the top sushi place in East Van, along with Sushi by Yuji and Shima-Ya.

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Kishimoto needs a new awning…badly.

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Some crowd-pleasing specials. So far looks like a typical menu that could be at any Japanese (or “japanese”) place in the city.

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“Best Sushi on the Drive!” We’ll see…

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By the time I post this review, you won’t have much time to check these guys out until they reopen on March 24.

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The brutal but entertaining wait list rules. Page 1/2.

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The Rules, page 2/2. For sushi this good, it’s worth enduring the rules. For a place this small and this busy, you sorta have to lay down these rules.

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More disclaimers.

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The bear makes it all better! Kawaii!

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Menu porn. I love the specials page. While the rest of the menu usually works towards pleasing the crowd, the specials are usually where the restaurant gets to put something out that’s seasonal, unique, and well…a little more special!

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Hot damn, Kobujime Nigiri — fish that’s been cured with kelp and sea salt for 24 hours, infusing it with umami. Also the Chef’s Assorted Nigiri. If the words “market price” scare you, then you can’t call yourself a food person 😉 I already know what I’m getting… I’m done, I don’t need to see the rest of the menu.

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Actually, there is some interesting stuff on the rest of the menu. We didn’t order these crème brûlées on the specials menu, but hopefully we come back to try these before they change them.

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Beer list is bog-standard.

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They carry some sakes from that sake-maker on Granville Island.

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Pressed sushi done aburi style.

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Their nigiri menu. These prices put them firmly into the upper mid-range category. I’m definitely a nigiri person, not a roll person, so you won’t be seeing many rolls in this post.

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They do hot stone bowls too. We ordered the unagi one.

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I love Japanese-style ice cream. Less sweet than regular ice cream and a great finish to a Japanese meal. Black sesame with kinako (roasted soybean) powder is definitely a favourite.

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Houjicha sounds like a great alternative to the ubiquitous green tea.

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Ok, ok, ok…we ordered one roll. A Dragon Roll. For Wicca.

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The restaurant is actually smaller than it might appear from the outside. The waiting area is cramped but I’m glad they were able to put in as many seats as they did. They were consistently at capacity the entire time we were there for Sunday lunch.

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Crispy Beet Salad with fried beets, organic greens and house dressing. Utterly amazing. Only three elements in this dish but they were all on-point. The only comparison I can make about the texture of the fried beets is maybe deep fried vermicelli…but then that still doesn’t adequately describe it. Crunchy, fine texture, looks a bit greasy but not off-putting when eaten.

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I’d order this again…

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…and again.

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Unagi Ishinabe (bbq eel on rice with sesame, seaweed and unagi sauce), on special that day for $12.

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The in-laws enjoyed it. I have no idea if the restaurant serves eel farmed in shitty conditions in China or not. If you’re eating unagi don in Vancouver for ~$10, it probably means you’re eating eel farmed in China. This bowl is $15 at regular price so I’m not sure…

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Assorted Tempura.

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That piece on top is okra. I didn’t try any so I can’t comment on the taste, but visually it looked light, crispy and not greasy.

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Dragon Roll (basically a Dynamite Roll with unagi and avocado on top). LOVE the presentation! The kids had fun eating the daikon flower with the soybean on top.

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I was surprised they go to the trouble of cutting a carrot butterfly during an ultra-busy lunch service.

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It’s a Dragon Roll. Nuff said.

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Kobujime Nigiri (Toro x 2). SO GOOD! You can really taste and smell the wakame/kelp. All that work curing the fish for 24 hours was worth it. I couldn’t imagine how this could get any better. If this isn’t the pinnacle of nigiri, then I might just pass out if I ever do experience “the pinnacle”.

The pieces are quite large. I think they’re right at the edge of sushi respectability…any larger and it’d be garish. That said, if you don’t eat the whole piece at once, you’re a sushi savage! 😛

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Kobujime Nigiri (one each of Salmon, Tai and Toro). The Calgarian was amazed. These kelp-cured nigiri all came pre-sauced.

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The crowning glory: Chef’s Assorted Nigiri (5pc). Today’s price was $22.15. All items came pre-sauced. No dipping required! — nor desired!

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Even comes with a deep fried spot prawn head!

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First piece: Spot Prawn. The body was raw but lightly torched. The head was deep fried with a light batter.

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Second piece: Bocconcini. For real. It’s mozzarella that was sauced and lightly torched. This is the first and only time I’ve had cheese in sushi where I thought it worked. The server said to start eating with this one. The chewy, cheesy texture was a delight.

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Third piece: Seared Toro with a garlic chip and green onions. The searing plus the toasty garlic flavour really elevated it. Reaching the heavens with this bite!

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Last two: Kelp-Cured Sockeye and Ahi Tuna. That wonderful kelp essence again, this time with sockeye salmon. A must-try for nigiri fiends. I almost wanted to order another piece of ahi tuna, just to enjoy the lean, subtle flavours again.

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Saved the head for last. Every part was edible. Look at all that head stuff! It was great to take turns biting the head and licking the lime.

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I was too dazed from the sushi to try any of the ice cream, so you only get pics today: Black Sesame Ice Cream with roasted black sesame, real vanilla bean and kinako powder.

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Houjicha Ice Cream (roasted Japanese tea).

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Yomogi Ice Cream.

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The damage.

Everyone was so happy that I chose this place. I was elated. Why hadn’t we tried this place before? My new favourite Eastside sushi place. Get the nigiri.

Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

ADDENDUM: Weird but coincidentally, fellow blogger Moyenchow of the Food: It Is More blog posted a review of Kishimoto where she ordered the same dishes that I did! Read it to get her take on things but also her thoughts about Kishimoto’s version of Miku’s Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi!

11 thoughts on “Blown Away by Sushi at Kishimoto on Commercial Drive”

    1. I’m pretty sure that’s the rule rather than the exception here 🙁 Real Japanese-raised eel commands a high price in Japan…higher than consumers here are willing to pay since we’re all addicted to cheap sushi. Same thing applies to cheap tiger prawns and basa…

  1. So glad you loved it. Do try the aburi next time. Very close to Miku quality for fewer $$. And if they have the yuzu ice cream, get it. So good. We always reserve but have never been for lunch.

  2. What is the Yomogi flavour? Can’t quite read the description on the menu photo. I’m happy to be seeing Houjicha at more places now… a very subtle but complex flavour that I love in ice cream 🙂

  3. If you love this place, the equivalent is yagoto sushi in kits. More traditional japanese but some very hard to find japanese traditional dishes. I put it in the same ranks as ajisai, but with a more homely feel. now that we’ve moved back to the drive…i will have to battle the kishimoto lines. but i’m happy to bus all the way back to yagoto just to pick up take out 😉

  4. definitely try if you’re in kits yagoto sushi – it’s like kishimoto minus the wait. no aburi sushi but they do have some neat traditional dishes you don’t typically find in japanese restaurants. i believe the chef is also from osaka…

  5. I like Yagoto for the interesting, more traditional menu but I stopped going because they seemed to be having issues with their rice consistency. Too hard for me.

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