Great sushi and amazing dessert platter at Octopus’ Garden

I’ve always been scared of going to Octopus’ Garden in Kits because I thought it was high-end and kind of expensive. But how times have changed. I remember back in the early/mid 90s going to Dario’s La Piazza and paying more than $60 for a meal for two, and thinking, “My god, we’ve hit this threshold…we won’t be doing this that often…” Turns out that nowadays, $60 for two (especially including drinks) is getting harder and harder to do! So with that in mind, places like Chambar and Octopus’ Garden really aren’t that expensive, depending on how you order. And the quality makes it worth it. We went here for Wicca’s birthday, but at times it felt like my birthday! 😀

It’s a small place that’s very famous.

I actually haven’t started appreciating bluefin as much as I do other fish.

It’s one of the rare Japanese restaurants with patio seating. And also semi-patio seating in this little counter-seating nook to the right of the entrance.

Many, many, many accolades. I don’t know when this place opened, but I remember hearing about it back in the 90s and even then it was already regarded as a great sushi place.

I like how they actually recommend that you “take a pic of this board” so you can read it when you’re at your table.

Some specials seemed to be exactly the same price as listed on their regular menu… 😛 One thing that jumped out at me is the “Bluefin Tuna Kama”. I believe it’s the collar, possibly grilled?

They really go with that octopus theme here.

Beer list is nothing to write home about.

I’ve seen the the uni shooter on Instagram. Who doesn’t think Instagram is a form of advertising that totally benefits restaurants?

When in doubt, get the nigiri set! Or the chirashi don 😉

Sada is the itamae/owner. I don’t think you can dine here and not be charmed by his charismatic (for a sushi chef) personality. He was very accepting of my photo-taking 😀

I don’t get enough kanmapchi/kampachi! I ordered a couple pieces of the “regular” cuz I like the slightly crunchy texture (unless I’m thinking of a different fish).

It’s trinkets galore at the counter.

Quail eggshell sculpture in progress on the counter. Sada’s head in the background 😛

I went classic Japanese lager mode with an Asahi. I think the rice gives it a really light profile. Someday I’ll have a really kickass dry saison in a sushi restaurant. Maybe even Brooklyn Brewing’s Sorachi Ace. Sigh.

Complimentary grape nuts.

The soy sauce is served in this little bottle. I don’t really like it…gets kinda drippy, leaving a ring on the counter.

“Sada’s Own” Nomu Uni Shooter ($7.50) and “Sada’s Own” Nomu Ebi Shooter ($8.50), which comes with the prawn head deep fried. The uni shooter was the “original” size. They also have “jumbo” and “super jumbo”.

Uni Shooter. Rice on the bottom, ground mountain yam (yamaimo), uni, quail egg, and marinated kombu on top (thanks Alex Tung!).

Ebi Shooter, which is the same as the uni shooter except substitute spot prawn for sea urchin roe.

You’re supposed to mix all the ingredients together then shoot it back. They were both good, but I’d much prefer to eat uni or ebi in it’s more pure form, say in a nigiri so that I can taste them in their full, natural glory. I probably won’t order these shooters again, but it was fun to try.

The deep fried prawn head was quite good. Everything got crispy/crunchy and it wasn’t hard to eat at all. I like how they splay the helmet away from the rest of the head before coating and deep frying it. It’s the first time I’ve seen this technique. I think the advantage is that the helmet gets fried on the inside too, resulting in a crispier shell.

Avocado Tempura ($8). The tempura at Octopus’ Garden is serviceable. I’ve had much lighter tempura at other places.

It tastes like how it sounds. It’s avocado. In a tempura batter. If you love avocado, you’ll love this. For us it was a little one-note.

Sada uses REAL wasabi here. You’d be surprised at how few places actually use fresh wasabi root.

Sada’s Nigiri Sampler ($28). Menu says eight pieces but I count nine (if you count the spot prawn head and body as one). It was all great but the standouts were the waru (butterfish/escolar) on the top right and the tamago:

Oh boy, that tamago was one of the best I’ve had ever. It’s definitely sweet, but the texture is so light and fresh-tasting. It practically dissolves in your mouth when you put it in. Everyone else’s tamago nigiri is like stale shoe leather comparision. They even torch the outside for extra awesomeness.

Wicca got the Gintoro (Braised Black Cod Belly) ($8 for 2pcs) because she doesn’t like raw fish. She loved it. Almost like a teriyaki pork belly, except it’s fish belly.

Tai Snapper Tempura ($12) from the appetizer specials board. Like the avocado tempura, the batter on this was a bit heavy, slightly saturated with oil. It’s ok but could be much better.

We liked the shiso leaf embedded inside. Flavour was good but tempura-frying technique could be better. That said, you should come to Octopus’ Garden for the sushi, not the tempura.

I got two more pieces of kampachi. I noticed that Sada does his rice a touch firmer than I’d prefer. But it’s packed delicately so it just falls apart appropriately when you chew. I like the ratio of rice to fish too.

Time for dessert! I’ve never seen a spoon like this before.

I saw this Special Dessert Platter ($18) on Mijune’s Instagram and knew right away that it would appeal to Wicca. The exact items change semi-weekly. This platter contained:

  • matcha macarons
  • creme brulee
  • passion fruit/chocolate/coconut cake
  • red bean paste (mizuyokan)
  • strawberry cheesecake
  • mochi with kinako (roasted soybean powder) and red bean
  • green tea tiramisu
  • black sesame ice cream

Great for $18, don’t you think? Octopus’ Garden has their own pastry chef, which is totally awesome and rarely seen in a Japanese restaurant.

The passion fruit cake was Wicca’s fave. There’s a layer of shredded coconut between the two layers of chocolate, and it tasted so good with the passionfruit above it.

This mochi with kinako and red bean is quite traditional, and tasted good for what it was.

Black sesame ice cream is my favourite of the Asiany ice cream flavours. Loved the crunchy bits underneath, even though we couldn’t tell what they were. Plenty of fist-pumping black sesame flavour.

This matcha tiramisu was great as well. Very light and airy in texture, with the green tea replacing the coffee element in regular tiramisu. Heavenly!

This was a straight-ahead cheesecake, albeit light in texture.

Matcha macarons were good too. Chewy and flavourful in the inside, with a crunchy shell.

The creme brulee was good, but it’s still just a creme brulee. The other desserts that incorporated Japanese flavours were much more exciting and delicious. On the whole, the dessert platter was delicious with a great variety, and made Wicca very, very happy!

Again with the octopus theme. Seems almost insulting to eat octopus gummies after the great food that preceded it, but it’s fun. I feel like it’s Sada’s personality coming through.

We left plenty full (and Wicca high on green tea and sugar) and the final total seems reasonable for a special birthday meal.

As good as Octopus’ Garden is, I’m happy to know that eastside sushi places like Kishimoto and Sushi by Yuji are just as good when comparing nigiri. It then becomes a question of slight differences in price, and the relationship (if you choose to pursue it) between you and the itamae. Yuji is very quiet and focused. The chefs at Kishimoto are content with working in the background. Sada is a great, convivial host, with regulars dropping in even just to say hi. That goofy couple’s table shaped like a boat is a riot. You have to see it.

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