Monday, February 28, 2011

Choo Choo Train

Sushi House
304 Caribou Street

After a tough day of carving the slopes (by carving, I mean tumbling violently down the hill) at Louise, my friends and I headed over to the Sushi House in Banff for some food before driving back home. Located just off the main drag that is known as Banff Avenue (The Vegas Strip of Banff), Sushi House Banff is a little fast food style Japanese restaurant. Patrons sit around a bar where the sushi chefs (itamae) prepare various types of sushi and hot food items. These are then placed on a moving train that travel around said bar to be snagged up by hungry diners. Not exactly my style (bad experiences) but I figured I'd give it a try. You can also order specific items that the chef is not making at the moment. Prices are based on the colour of the plate. 

Right off the bat, I grabbed a plate of tuna sushi. I was hungry. Bad idea. The dish came with a lid. This should have been my first hint to stay away. The tuna was a little crusty on the edges. : S Not a good thing.

Lesson one on fast food sushi: Always wait for the fresh stuff. No matter how hungry you are. If you didn't personally see the item in question being placed onto the train (or boat), it is safe to assume that it has been sitting there for three hours. Three hour old sushi is not good sushi. 

Having learnt my lesson, I waited for some fresh salmon nigiri. My favorite fish. Much better. The meat was fairly firm. Not too mushy. Things are looking up. I'm pretty sure I had two of these.

Fresh plates of dynamite rolls were placed on the train shortly after. The tempura prawns were super crispy with hardly any rice wrapped around the nori. Perfect! Don't want to fill up too quickly on rice!

Next up, I had some masago. This dish basically consisted of fish eggs on rice with a strip of nori wrapped around. This is to prevent all the tasty fish eggs from falling out. That and it taste good.

This was followed by a short lull in our feasting as we waited for fresh plates to be placed on the train. It was at this time that I noticed there was a feature board on the wall. At the bottom corner it said baby octopus! I took a glance at the kitchen staff and it was almost as if we made a mental connection because the guy immediately placed a single plate of baby octopus on the train. Since we sat at the opposite end of the bar, I watched nervously as the dish made its way around. As it approached me, I quickly grabbed the plate, fist pumped like a champ and devoured the crispy battered baby octopus. They looked so cute. And tasted even better with a hint of lemon juice. So good. Om nom nom nom! 

Another lull as the sushi chefs prepared dish after dish of California rolls or something. I finally decide to flag down the hostess (Read: Hazel finally flagged down the hostess for me) and put in an order of scallops, octopus of the non baby variety (I would have been all over that if there had been) and hamachi/yellowtail, my new love. And literally EVERYONE was staring at me like I was gonna bring the house down with my crazy insane cool taste in sushi. They were probably all tripping cause they wanted more California rolls. Quit drinking the Hatorade. The itamae promptly busted out the goods and prepared 2 slices of each for me. The meat was pretty fresh and I thoroughly enjoyed every last piece. He then promptly returned the remaining slabs of fish and tentacles to storage. I guess it's not a local favorite. Shame. Y'all should try it. Won't regret it. Probably change your life. 

And then I was done.

The scores:

Atmosphere: 6 out of 10. Small little place. Felt a little cramped when people were walking past to get in and out. 
Food: 7.5 out of 10. Fish was decently fresh. Not too shabby for a fast food type place.
Presentation: 6.5 out of 10. Average presentation. Rolls were decently made. The ball of rice under the nigiri did not crumble when you try to pick it up. Seriously, it's annoying as hell when that happens. Especially when it just falls into the soya sauce. 
Price: 8 out of 10. Decently priced. I think I mostly got the blue plates which was the more expensive stuff. But 4.95 or whatever for two piece is not too bad. Especially hamachi.
Service: 0 out of 10! They didn't take my plates away! Just kidding! 8 out of 10. Special orders were prepared almost as soon as they are ordered. Though not always what I wanted, the train was always full (which was pretty impressive since it was pretty busy while we were there) and my tea was consistently topped up.
Overall: 7 out of 10. I may have to adjust my attitude towards fast food styled sushi. 

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