My guestimation is that Shima-Yahas been around
since 1999 April 5, 2007, around the same time as the London Drugs complex opened up at Victoria Drive and 41st. Small, Japanese-run places like this are getting rare these days, with the disappearance of neighbourhood family-run joints like Vanya, Takarabune, and Aotoya (Blue Door). Shama-Ya is still around, still run by the adorable Japanese couple. It’s a small 20-seater place that I’ve eaten at or gotten takeout from occasionally since they opened. Good, old-school, rustic sushi at a fair price. A definite cut above your non-Japanese-run sushi place. I figured I should write a bit about it before the owners inevitably retire. (I keep on thinking it’s going to happen soon, but the owners persevere with the help of their daughter! Enjoy this place while it’s still around!)
Shima-Ya is to the right of London Drugs. You’d probably miss this place if you weren’t looking for it. The family here works hard but you’ll still need a bit of patience with your meal.
This place attracts a cross-section of locals. I’ve witnessed Chinese, Caucasian, and actual Japanese people dining here. I still take it as a loose barometer of quality when Japanese people dine at Japanese restaurants 😉 This place also attracts the discerning Instagram crowd.
Only open for four hours in the evening, Wednesday to Sunday.
Map not to scale 😉
They’ve had to revise their menu with updated prices many times over the years. The takeout menu I have at home says “v.17.07” (probably July 2017) and back then the “Omakase Chefs Choice” was $33. Now it’s $37. I’m totally fine with owners needing to make price adjustments to keep the operation viable. As long as they maintain quality, which these people have.
The menu here is mostly sushi with just a few cooked dishes like unagi don, oyako don, and chicken udon. There are usually a few seasonal specials pinned up on the wall for things like grilled fish heads or soup made from fish parts, and maybe a couple desserts.
It’s a tiny, humble, old school-type place with kawaii touches like this.
Miso soup which came with my assorted nigiri set. Standard.
Omakase Chefs Choice Nigiri Sushi ($33) comes with 10 pieces of nigiri and a miso soup (as shown above). I usually get this, a selection of the day’s fish as chosen by the chef, served all at once on a plate. They do get in some fish from Japan, but not at the level that other places like Sushi Bar Maumi or Tetsu Sushi Bar do. This place is more like a diner-level of coziness and execution.
In contrast to my previous two sushi meals, the nigiri here are much bigger, a literal mouthful with a large quantity of rice and equally large piece of topping. If you want bang for your buck but still appreciate quality, this place is for you.
Rice is packed on the medium-firm side here but not distractingly so. Seasoning is subtle and balanced.
Their infamous double-stacked Uni (Sea Urchin). Generous and adequate-tasting but I did get that slightly bitter metallic finish which might be indicative of the use of alum in the processing and preserving of this sea urchin. We are out of our local uni season, so this kind of uni may be this restaurant’s only choice without going the super expensive route of sourcing Japanese uni that can cost $10-20 for a single piece.
Botan-Ebi with Ikura (Sweet Shrimp with Salmon Roe). If you’ve ever eaten local BC spot prawns raw, this is similar.
Hotate (Scallop). Clean and sweet.
Aji (Horse Mackerel) with grated ginger and green onion.
I’m 85% sure they make their own Tamago (Egg Omelette) here. Lovely striations. Sweet but not too sweet, generally soft with a bit of firmer textures in there, which gives a rustic impression. Not as light, soft, airy, and delicate as Marutama’s famous dashimaki tamago but it does the job.
Kampachi (Amebrjack). One of the fattier pieces of kampachi I’ve had.
It’s been ages since I’ve had a fatty albacore tuna Toro (Tuna Belly). It’s that over-the-top melty fatty gloriousness that doesn’t have a lot of complexity but does have richness. The knifework here was less about precision and more about…unabashed happiness?
Hamachi (Yellowtail). Standard hamachi. For those who like a bit more character than plain tuna.
Madai (Sea Bream) with a dab of yuzu kosho. In that category of mild white fish. Should definitely be eaten before the fattier, richer pieces.
Ebi (Cooked Black Tiger Prawn).
I left Shima-Ya happily stuffed. Those pieces are definitely on the big side! If you’re in the area, check it out before it inevitably disappears.