Sushi Kimura had food blogs and critics buzzing this spring. Chef Itsuroku Kimura moved from L.A. — where he owned and ran four restaurants — to retire in Vancouver for the better air quality. But he got bored of playing golf so he opened Sushi Kimura in a very unlikely spot in East Van.
The cool and relaxing restaurant reflects Kimura’s love of jazz music, which plays in the background. “Sushi that swings” boasts the website. Kimura shows his passion and creativity best through omakase.
I love omakase, which comes from the Japanese for “entrust.” You basically trust the chef to present a creative selection of dishes. It’s not for picky eaters or people in a rush.
Sushi Kimura has the best omakase deal in Vancouver. Where most restaurants start the price points at $60 or $100, Kimura offers the multi-course meal starting at $30 per person. The more you pay, the better quality ingredients get included in your meal. Reservations are recommended especially if your group has special requests (ie, allergies or aversions).
We visited Sushi Kimura for a delicious seven-course lunch in April with Gigi, Kevin and two babies. (Yes, I know that was several months ago.) We decided to splurge on a $40 omakase and told the chef we were pretty adventurous and had no dietary restrictions.
Omakase usually starts with the lightest dish, so our first taste was a salad of arugula and spinach sprinkled with crispy millet (like Rice Krispies), Parmesan, and a light olive oil vinaigrette.
A very creative assortment of palate teasers came next. I tried the most intriguing one first. A shot glass held a raw oyster with sake and mirin, and a raw quail egg on top. Oh my god, it was good. The briny oyster, the potent alcohol, and the egg sliding down all at once made me feel like a samurai warrior.
In contrast, a second oyster on the half-shell was simply drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce for a daintier taste.
A round of ankimo or monkfish liver pate was topped with a spoonful of berry jam. An interesting combination I’ve never seen before but I felt the sweet jam took away from the creamy Japanese “foie gras.” Monkfish by the way is an ugly mofo.
Rounding out the plate were a salted smelt, a piece of conch (also known as sea snail) rolled in sesame, pickled lotus root and steamed kabocha squash. They didn’t leave much of an impression individually, but presented with the oysters and ankimo, the textures, flavours and colours played well together.
Our third dish was a beautiful surprise of live sea urchin. Chef told us with a grin that the uni was usually reserved for more expensive omakase but because it was fresh that day he wanted to include it in our meal.
You don’t mess with fresh sea urchin (OK, actually their gonads. GONADS!) so the only accessory to this was some olive oil, salt and pepper and a spoon. I enjoyed that the black spiky shell was part of the presentation. This uni is textbook awesome: slightly sweet with a tinge of ocean air; creamy like a just-set pudding; bright orange like the middle of Prairie sunset.
I was still reveling in uni happiness when the sashimi plate arrived: two thick pieces of dark pink bonito tuna, some red snapper, salmon and saba (mackarel). Like others have commented, Sushi Kimura doesn’t excel at perfectly cut sashimi but seriously, as long as it’s fresh and tasty and not six-inches thick, I’m never going to turn down decent fish.
Turning to heavier dishes, spaghetti with crunchy battered soft-shelled crab arrived with a very light tomato sauce. Then a steamed lobster tail with steamed broccoli, cauliflower, snap pea and a wedge of what was either papaya or cantaloupe. Both were tasty and I appreciated the showcasing of its main ingredients but neither held the same wow factor as the earlier starters.
After a bit of a wait, butternut squash soup with garlic toast was served. It was a decent, homemade soup but somewhat odd in that it would not have been out of place in a French or Italian restaurant.
A plate of nigiri ended the main dishes with admiringly different fish than the sashimi: albacore white tuna, toro, Atlantic salmon, and shrimp.
Dessert was green tea ice cream all around our table.
The servers didn’t always explain what was on the plates so the chef was more than happy to call over from behind the sushi counter to tell us. It would be pretty entertaining to sit at the bar for an entire omakase to chat with him.
You can order single items off Sushi Kimura’s regular menu but for a special experience, it’s definitely worth it to try their well-priced omakase.
Sushi Kimura, 3883 Rupert St., Vancouver, (604) 569-2198. Closed Monday and most major holidays. Open Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-10 p.m., Sunday 12:30-3:30 p.m., 6-9:30 p.m.
Room for strollers: No.
High chairs: One high chair, two boosters.
Change table: No.