Premium Choice: A Sushi Lunch at Tetsu Sushi Bar on Denman

My previous sushi meal at Sushi Bar Shu ignited the sushi fire within me so I went to another favourite, Tetsu Sushi Bar in the west end. Incredible indulgent lunch for $54 and a very different experience from a full-on, served one piece at a time omakase meal. I lunched solo, and I loved having this personal, scaled-down yet still incredible experience. A must-do for local high-end sushi lovers.

Lunch is only served Friday to Sunday, 12:00pm–2:30pm. I was a nerd and got there a few minutes before they opened but a Chinese-Canadian family of four lined up right behind me! After we were seated, the restaurant filled up with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Caucasian customers. There’s only around 15 seats in the entire place.

Their ever-changing menu of fish, mostly from Japan. I usually get the “Premium Choise 7 pc” sushi set for $54. Prices have gone up since they opened a couple years ago but I still think it’s worth it.

The magic section of the menu is the middle part where they list what special fish they have for sushi and sashimi. I believe the prices listed are for *1* piece of nigiri.

I added on one piece of their famous Umaki (BBQ eel wrapped in tamago) for $4.

Tea.

Umaki ($4), unagi wrapped in tamago. It was my first bite of food for the day, and it tasted a bit sweeter than previous times. Or maybe because I haven’t had it in a while…it bordered on too sweet. But still good flavour and texture otherwise.

An amuse-bouche from one of the chefs.

Braised Gobo (Burdock Root) with a purée made from green onion, onion, and seaweed. Very tender gobo with no fibrousness.

Disclaimer: your sushi set might look very different because their fish selection changes daily!

Premium Choice 7 Piece Sushi Set ($54). I try to eat starting from mildest fish to richest (generally in the order in which they describe the nigiri to you when they serve it). This meal went by pretty quickly, but I savoured every freaking bite. Yes, I used my hands to eat this.

Notes about rice: in contrast to my Sushi Bar Shu visit, the shari (rice) here is packed gently so that it disperses instantly in your mouth when you bite, causing a wonderful commingling of discrete grains of rice and topping in your mouth. I gotta say, I prefer it this way if I had to choose. It especially highlights and elevates the fish and the experience as opposed to chewing through a more solidly-packed hunk of rice.

They’ve also started seasoning their rice with akazu (red vinegar) for the past couple months after much experimenting to get the balance just right. This aged red vinegar adds a deeper flavour to the rice, complementing and highlighting the fish but not overpowering it.

Amadai (Tilefish).

The size of the nigiri here is comparable to Sushi Bar Shu but Tetsu puts more of a “tail” on the fish that drapes way past the end of the rice. Like all higher-end nigiri-focussed places, everything is pre-sauced.

Shima-Aji (Striped Jack).

Aji (Horse Mackerel).

Sawara (Japanese Spanish Mackerel). Sense a theme? These late winter/early spring months are a great time to be eating mackerel and other oily, fatty fish. This piece was lightly torched on the outside and tasted wonderful. It hit me right there, and I could feel the meal reaching an apex in flavour and intensity.

Ikura (Salmon Roe). Firm briny pops of flavour.

18-Day Aged Bluefin Kama Toro (Tuna Collar). This piece was such a treat. I’m so glad Tetsu Sushi Bar are still aging some fish. It really does work wonders and makes exquisite ingredients even better. The tuna takes on such a meaty flavour, almost like you’re eating red meat. I think the word “umami” gets thrown around too much these days. Have a piece of cheap tuna nigiri somewhere else, then compare it to this piece, then you’ll see *real* umami!

Hokkaido Uni (Sea Urchin). A little bite of creamy goodness that melted on the tongue, providing a very happy ending to the meal. They actually gave me a little treat to go with this uni that was served separately:

 

The rough side.

A square of nori (seaweed) on the side for the uni. It was served separately in order to keep it crisp until I was ready to eat it. They explained that this premium nori is the same nori that Jiro uses! Yes, Jiro Dreams of Sushi Jiro!

The smooth, shiny side.

I took the seaweed and used it to pick up the uni nigiri and popped it into my mouth. Flood of smooth, rich uni coating my tongue, intermingled with well-seasoned grains of rice, and crisp, tasty seaweed. I realize this isn’t for everyone, and many won’t see the point. I think of it as a cheap versus expensive suit. You probably won’t be able to tell with a quick glance, but if you slow down to appreciate it, it might speak directly to your soul.

Bonus piece: cherrywood-smoked young Nodoguro (Black Throat Seaperch). I could really smell the aroma as I ate. A very special finish.

Seven bites of perfection (technically 10 if you count the umaki and extra couple things I got). $60 isn’t too much to pay for that feeling of elation as I left the restaurant. Still one of my favourite restaurants.

 

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