Name: Okinawa Sushi
Where: Sudbury, ON
Affordability: All You Can Eat – $13-$15 for Lunch; $13-$22 for Dinner
Okinawa Sushi Japanese Restaurant in Sudbury District may be a hit with its young college clientele, but I give it a failed ‘E’ for effort.
Japanese-like, is what I’d term it, restaurants are popping up in the small town of Sudbury, I’m told, catering to its growing Asian community with the explosion of it’s young college clientele. Generally a mining town, coined as the Nickel Capital of the World, now attracting international business tourism, Sudbury is expanding its culinary horizons with the demands by offering international cuisine to it’s visitors. Of course, that is always exciting to any town especially to Sudbury’s humble size (3200km sq. with a population of approximately 160,000).
The decor is plain with attempts to create an Asian-insipired restaurant with picture frames of geishas and other cheap Asian art work on it’s walls. A lucky golden Maneki Neko greets you at the door with it’s waving paw as if to say hello and welcome to my restaurant. I was sat right away with the lone table left in the restaurant placed between the sushi prep area and the main dining area. There was no decor in the restaurant, like I said, so it felt like I was sitting in the middle of a hall. The tables were arranged in a cafeteria-like setting and because of it’s high ceilings, it felt like one big empty space and I was sitting alone in the middle of it so everyone can watch me. Certainly, this is not the place to be dining someone special or to enjoy a semi-private dinner. There was not one Shoji screen to separate any table. I did think to myself that it’s busy enough that its food must be good for the crowd to be this big and restaurant this busy on a Monday. Given, it’s a holiday Monday, but regardless. Too bad it wasn’t the case…
I ordered a few items from their sushi selection which arrived on this plate. The portions were really small that I am no longer thinking that it’s to my advantage. If you notice the sake (salmon), it appears as though it was cut thick and properly. Actually, it was not. It was so thinly filleted that it was almost see through. It only appeared thick because it wrapped the rice underneath it. And it didn’t even taste fresh! Fish used for sushi is usually flash-frozen after being caught and cleaned to minimize degrading, but this tasted as if it had been frozen, defrosted, frozen again, then defrosted again, then served. And every single fish on this plate tasted the same way.
Next on the chopping block, literally, is this sashimi plate. The sushi should have been fair warning to not even eat this, but there was a charge for not eating what you ordered. And I was just too afraid how much the charge was for that. Again, very tiny portions and just as “fresh” as the fish from the other plate. Nothing further can be said, positive or negative, well, maybe more negative, but after the freshness issues, I don’t think I need to keep dwelling on that.
I also ordered a Dragon Roll, which didn’t resemble one, from the Maki selection but that too, in it’s simplest form, was disappointing.
So, with all this disappointment of the raw dishes, I decided on filling up with something cooked. And who can go wrong with rice? They seem to offer a few rice dishes including fried ones and dishes with infused flavours; or at least read as such. I ordered, the BBQ Eel Rice and that’s exactly what I got. About two spoonful of steamed rice with “BBQ” eel on top drizzled with premixed BBQ sauce. Reading it off the menu sounded exciting and tasty, but what came was not. I guess I should have expected it, but I was really hoping for this dining experience to turn around.
Even with the Beef Teriyaki, the dishes failed to come together. With these cooked dishes, my expectations failed once more. And with that, I decided I could no longer subject my taste buds and stomach to any other on-slaught of this less than mediocre food.
I ordered ice cream to top off my dining. I figured, ice cream must be from a manufacturer and not made in this restaurant, so it can’t be that bad. I ordered green tea ice cream, which I usually enjoy after a good Japanese meal. What arrived was this neon green glob that tasted nowhere near green tea. Proper green tea ice cream usually tastes like green tea, which I sometimes equate to tasting like it’s fresh cut lawn. I know, you’d say “How is that supposed to be good?” But it is; it provides a perfect ending to the salty taste of the soy. But this green ice cream concoction had a flavour unidentifiable to that of a green tea, fresh cut lawn, leaves or anything. It was cold and that was about the only thing I can say positive about it.
Overall, this dining experience was a a flop from the very get-go. Maybe the staff at Holiday Inn was telling me something but did not want to say it directly when they said “None of us had been there.” Lessons learned I suppose. My only fear is that this restaurant will continue to operate with such disregard and disrespect to the Japanese cuisine and no one will know better. I hope the people of Sudbury will try Japanese food outside of their town and have an experience of what this wonderful cuisine has to offer. Maybe even learn to use chopsticks; the majority of people eating was using a fork to eat so clearly, much exposure to the culture is required. Maybe the other two Japanese restaurants in town offered better food, but I was just too afraid to find out.