Korean-run Sushi Jin on Nelson near Granville opened up in November 2018 and has been buzzing lately because of a glowing profile/feature/article (I wouldn’t call it a review) in Pendulum Magazine and very complimentary Google reviews. I’m more receptive to Korean-run sushi places now that I’ve had a rewarding first visit to Sushi Bar Shu. Korean-run Japanese sushi doesn’t have to mean cheap and cheerful Sushi Garden-type places anymore — it can be more refined, scaled-back, and adhere more to traditional sushi-making principles.
*Sushi Jin has responded with comments on Instagram that further explain some things I mention in this review. Worthwhile to read and see that every detail is deliberate.
It’s a tiny place with approximately 16 seats. In an apparent change from when the Pendulum Magazine article was written, there aren’t “seats at the bar”, but two small tables in front of the bar. Sushi is made behind the bar and is brought out by the servers. As far as I know, food isn’t served from the bar directly, like in an omakase-type situation. This is different from Sushi Bar Shu where it’s ALL omakase at the bar. But even at the humble Shima-Ya, I can sit at the bar and enjoy the view, so in this sense not being able to sit at the bar facing the chef is a bit disappointing.
The menu displayed outside the restaurant. Heavy focus on nigiri, donburi, and sashimi. Cooked food is limited to baked cod, beef tataki, and kobachi (small bowls).
Dinner service only, seven days a week.
“Edomae Sushi” is basically classic nigiri sushi. No California rolls, no cream cheese, no avocado. This is stripped-down simplicity.
I went with their standard assorted nigiri selection. I assume the exact fish depends on what they receive that day/week, like most of the upper tier nigiri-focussed places in town (Sushi Bar Maumi, Tetsu Sushi Bar, Sushi by Yuji, etc).
A list of daily featured fish.
A very unique tea cup. Felt very light in the hand, I guess because it’s hollow-walled. I think people may have been accidentally overfilling their glasses because the server specifically mentioned that these glasses are smaller than they look, and to be careful while filling.
A light mugicha (roasted barley tea), I think.
Housemade pickled ginger.
A very light-tasting miso soup. Complimentary.
There’s a Johnny Rockets across the street.
Sushi Moriawase ($47.95). Comes with 12 pieces of nigiri and 4 pieces daily maki. I think because of the combined value of the nigiri on offer that day, the chef gave me 6 pieces of maki to compensate.
None of the pieces are pre-sauced. Soy sauce and ginger is served on the side, but no wasabi (which I thought was a bit strange).
Now, the individual pieces, according to my server:
Suzuki (Sea Bass).
The server said I actually had three pieces of suzuki in my platter, which was a bit disappointing as suzuki isn’t my favourite. I’ve been informed afterwards that my selection actually included kampachi and mikan buri, so not three pieces of suzuki after all. I apologize for the incorrect information.
Akami (Lean Bluefin Tuna).
Madai (Seabreem) with yuzu. My favourite piece today. That aromatic bit of yuzu made it much more interesting to eat. I’m not 100% sure this is madai though, so I might’ve misheard the server.
Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp) Botan Ebi.
Salmon. But it’s a special salmon, Ora King Salmon from New Zealand, which is marketed as “The Wagyu of Salmon”. They put up a little poster about it at the bar. The stripes of fat are indeed gorgeous.
Saba (Mackerel) with grated ginger and green onion.
Hokkigai (Surf Clam) gunkan.
Tamago (Egg). One of the more interesting tamagos I’ve had. A smooth custardy appearance with a barely visible whiter textured layer at the top, with a browned surface. Smack dab in the middle between soft and firm. The flavour was eggy and barely sweet.
Tuna roll with wasabi & green onion inside. Also one of the more interesting makis I’ve had. The fish is a combination of different cuts of tuna, from lean red to fatty white.
Elephant in the room: the rice. You will have noticed the brownish rice by now. I think it’s seasoned liberally with an aged red vinegar, perhaps a darker or older vinegar than other places use, giving it a brown rice appearance. The flavour of the rice skewed towards the vinegary side, leaving a noticeable acidic finish to all the sushi. Sweetness is very low. It’s not necessarily wrong…it’s the chef’s style. But it leaves a faint impression that all the fish is lightly, lightly pickled. Not quite to my taste.
The texture of the rice is a head-scratcher for me. While the nigiri were packed loosely (which is my preference), the sensation of the rice dispersing in my mouth and feeling the individual grains mingling with the fish never happened. It’s almost like the rice rolled over and died once inside my mouth (aside from the acidity). But visually the rice wasn’t mushy, so I’m not sure what’s up. But given the chef’s years of 10+ years experience, it must be a deliberate decision. It’s just not to my taste.
*I’ve been informed that the chef does not use any sugar in his shari.
Complimentary dessert of housemade chocolate cake with sour cream whipped with maple syrup. A slightly odd 180° finish to the meal.
The couple sitting next to me just came in from Toronto. Their friend raved about this place so they came in and got a table before the rush. Undoubtedly the fish here is of good quality, and you get good value for what you’re paying. Lots of people seem to be loving this place, even fellow bloggers/Instagrammers. They’re doing a cool/weird thing with their rice. But ultimately, I’ll have to say that it’s not to my taste.