Omakase That Needs Your Appreciation at Sushi Bar Shu in Marpole

Are you looking for that interactive omakase experience? One where you can actually chat with the chef? Sushi Bar Shu (website, Instagram) has it. But a few caveats:

  • If places like Sushi Bar Maumi, Tetsu Sushi Bar, Sushi by Yuji, Matsuzushi (Port Moody), Octopus’ Garden, etc appeal to you, then you’ll appreciate this omakase-only experience. If you need tempura, noodles, rolls, or are price-sensitive, DO NOT COME HERE.
  • Sushi Bar Shu is run by an all-Korean staff. I was sorta skeptical that a Korean chef would be experienced and dedicated enough to provide an omakase experience that was respectful to the Japanese omakase experience, but I came away completely convinced that the chef/owner Kevin Shin is serious. Keep in mind that this place is not Korean sushi (which is its own legitimate thing). This is real-deal Japanese (Edomae) sushi.
  • Because the staff are Korean, you will need to be accomodating to the Korean accent. They are all fluent in English, but you do need some sensitivity in this matter. I could understand about 80% of what the staff said, and that’s coming from having a few Korean friends and family members. If you’re keen on the details of everything you’re eating, you will be rewarded by conversing with the chef, but I felt to be polite I had to let some details slide, lest I ask the same question again and again 😛
  • The experience and style are different from any other omakase place in town. To me this is a huge plus. This restaurant is about exploring their way of doing omakase. You can actually chat with the chefs here. Other places (while great in their own right) aren’t always conducive to chatting.
  • Reservations HIGHLY recommended. For all intents and purposes, they only have nine seats at the bar.
  • They opened in December 2018, and the chef seems intent on improving and tweaking the restaurant and the food. So what I experienced probably will change over time.
  • There is NO liquor license. Yet. Only beverage available is tea.
  • The nigiri here is on the smaller side. It’s about quality over quantity. If you want quantity, I suggest going to Samurai.

Huge thanks to @chengsophia and @thedallah for posting about this place.

Sushi Bar Shu is on the real south Granville St. area in Marpole. Granville & W. 64th to be exact, across the street from what used to be Doolami and on the same block as Y&Y Dessert (mango & durian!), Mr. Mustache Bubble Tea, and Bubble Bear Cafe.

There’s a LittleFreeLibrary mounted on the exterior!

Meh.

Hours. Dinner-only, closed Mondays.

I had serious reservations about writing about this place because it would not be good if they were overloaded too soon. But the quality and experience deserve to be recognized.

At the entrance.

Right side of the bar.

Waiting area and a tripod for some reason.

A Rational combi-steamer and some knives. The oven was cooking a cheesecake when we (the foodie power couple @he.eats_she.eats and I) got there. I think they also use it to cook some of the appetizers (which you’ll see later). It might’ve been because of the oven, but I felt that the room was a bit too warm on this sunny yet cool spring evening.

Are you ready for the menu?

Option 1: Omakase Sushi for $68. Comes with miso soup, 12 pieces of nigiri, and a handroll to finish.

Option 2: Omakase Sushi Course for $98. Comes with an appetizer platter, sashimi tasting course, miso soup, 12 pieces of nigiri, a handroll, and dessert. We all went for this option. You (we) deserve it!

Details.

The setup you’ll see during your omakase. Everything is served one at a time. Wasabi and ginger (not pictured…yet) on the serving plate.

Bottomless tea is refilled often.

The owner/chef Kevin. He’s from Toronto and has been cooking for 17 years, although not always doing sushi the entire time. He’s specialized in udon in the past, and has done izakaya food before specializing in sushi. From my casual observations, he has very assured and deliberate hands. On this night he had another chef working for him as well as an assistant and a server.

As I mentioned above, there are only nine seats at the bar. There are tables in this space but they aren’t generally used because of the nature of omakase service.

Dinner is on! Amuse bouche of eggplant stewed in soy sauce.

Bit of grated ginger on top. Good opener.

Sashami tasting course. Madai (sea bream) brushed with sauce. The skin has been cooked, as per the technique where they lay a cloth on the skin and pour hot water over it before slicing.

Everything is pre-sauced, as per the omakase style.

I won’t go into extreme detail about every piece, but rest assured everything tasted very good and was served at the appropriate temperature. The chef sources his fish from Osaka Central Fish Market and also another fish market in Japan that sounded like he was saying “tourist” but I couldn’t quite make it out. I think he mentioned that he spent months investigating local sources but for this type of sushi it was very difficult.

Akami (lean tuna). I’m not sure if the wasabi here is the real thing or not. Forgive me for missing this important detail.

Post-saucing. I assume if they’re designating cuts (akami, chutoro, etc), that this is bluefin tuna. You’ll have to make up your own mind whether you should be consuming it. Once you get a taste for lean akami, it’s hard to stop…

Aji (horse mackerel) from Japan, with ginger on top.

Appetizer platter. Unfortunately, I ate the middle one before I remembered to take a photo! Here’s the appetizers in detail, in the order in which it’s supposed to be eaten:

Photo by @he.eats_she.eats. Thanks for saving my ass!

Welk with Daikon served with mustard. I love welk (sea snail). Punchy mustard.

Black cod. Great stuff, as most black cod dishes are.

Some sort of squid with ikura on top, sitting in a gently, gently vinegared mozuku seaweed, which resembles noodles:

Ate like a sophisticated tako sunomono with a much gentler acidity and smoother flavour. That seaweed is a craziness that I look forward to trying again, if it’s possible.

A tightly-wound warm towel served with the miso soup.

Miso soup with mushrooms and some other unidentified floaty bits. The chef explained that he uses a thicker-cut bonito flake which imparts more smokiness to the soup.

Photo by @he.eats_she.eats. Thanks for saving my ass again!

Nigiri course begins! Mejina (opal eye fish) topped with salt derived from seaweed and sudachi (a Japanese citrus). Texture is firm, flesh has a bit of sweetness. I was very impressed that he bothered to source and use sudachi!

The ginger (in the background) is one of the least sweet gari I’ve had. While not made in-house, it was chosen for its use of sugar rather than aspartame (look it up!). Even with sugar, the ginger doesn’t taste sweet at all, becoming an even more neutral palate cleanser.

The nigiri size here is on the smaller side, for sure. I’m completely happy with this because it’s easier to eat in one go, and I’m always about quality over quantity.

The shari is packed on the tighter end of the spectrum, so it’s not the barely held together etherealness that is Sushi Bar Maumi, but it’s still good but different. The rice is seasoned in such a way that it takes on a very slight brownish cast. It’s almost subliminally seasoned because you can’t taste any overt sweetness or vinegar. Rice grain texture was neither firm nor soft. Right in the middle.

Tai (sea bream).

Flounder with yuzu. Love the yuzu on this!

Isaki (chicken grunt) with green onion (underneath the fish). Texturally very interesting.

Kevin torching the next nigiri.

Chidai (crimson sea breem), torched skin. The chef said that this fish is often roasted in Japanese cuisine.

Hamachi with shiso.

Ikura with more of that wonderful yuzu zest. Extra wing of seaweed for crisp nori goodness.

Bafun uni. Sweet. Melts on the tongue. Served noticeably colder than the other nigiri. Almost pornographic in oral experience.

Chu toro (medium fatty tuna) but from the part of the tuna that was almost mostly otoro (fatty tuna). Excellent residual fat on the tongue. Heavenly.

Hirame (golden eye snapper), torched skin, with yuzu. Could also have been called kinmedai

Shime saba (cured mackerel) with a transparent film of white kelp (kelp braised in multigrain vinegar) and sesame seeds. I think the mackerel was lightly pickled in junmai vinegar. Almost like a malt vinegar taste.

3.5 Hour Tamago with nagaimo (Chinese yam), dashi, and sake. The serving of tamago usually means we’re near the end of the omakase. Sadface. In my meagre experience of this kind of omakase, I’m not sure if this tamago measures up to the best, but I’d say this piece was good but not revelatory.

Chopped tuna hand roll with fresh ground sesame to finish off the meal before dessert. The sesame seeds were ground fresh from a cool little handheld grinder. The chef insisted we eat immediately without waiting for maximum nori crispness! I’ve only experienced a handroll conclusion once before at a stand-up sushi bar in Toronto. A magnificent ending!

Bonus piece: while we waited for dessert, the chef served us a bonus piece of Sayuri (needle fish) with ginger on top. Score!

Dessert of cheesecake. A bit dense for me, but I’m generally not a dessert fan.

The experience as a whole was completely worth it. A once-in-a-while meal for sure, but if you’re ready for it, I think you’ll enjoy it. We did.


Postscript: the chef was contemplating adding A5(!!) Wagyu to the menu and had a piece of it there that looked like 90% glorious white fat with flecks of pink meat. Ermahgerd.

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