I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
Points went to Sushi Hut for presentation and authenticity. Unlike the other Sushi places in town, this one didn’t phone it in. However, they didn’t offer bar seats, unusual since it had a sizeable counter. This place dripped of Japanese novelties, from lanterns to fans to hanging scrolls. If you weren’t aware that it offered sushi, it reminds you several times, being stenciled, painted, or illuminated somewhere in this cozy little restaurant. Burgundy walls were met halfway down by the bizarre choice of metal siding, which carried to every corner and the counter. Above sported the modern look of exposed jet black pipes. That wagging cat that was given to me as a gift was everywhere. Behind the busy sushi chef, dozens if not hundreds of different serving trays can be seen, including massive sushi boats which I doubt can even fit on any of the ten tables in this tiny place. No, I’m not criticizing the size—on the contrary, I can appreciate little places; they can often have the best food if their owners take pride in their presentation.
The waitress, decked in an ethnically-expected Japanese coat greeted me and recommended a table. The menu advertised its website and a shockingly diminutive selection of sushi. This was half the size of So Good’s, not counting the Chinese food offered. The other surprise was the lack of any decent combos. Correction, they did have combos, which began at $12 and ran up to $20, though nigiri was only offered at the $19 mark. With that you got eight nigiri and one dynamite roll. Although noticeably pricey compared to every other sushi place in town, I decided my hankering for raw fish demanded such an expense.
What happened next surprised me. I ordered this aforementioned combo, only for the sushi chef to call out “F” loudly to the waitress upon hearing my selection. The lady then turned the menu over and pointed to the bento box selection (A through H). I wasn’t sure why they were pushing that. It was 2$ cheaper; did they not have enough fish? There was a picture of the combo, so I knew it wasn’t too much food. I realized I could either enforce my decision with someone that I knew wasn’t totally understanding me, or I could just settle with their decision. At least I got miso soup.
The large segmented plate which finally arrived offered salad with ginger dressing, five pieces of tempura, two dumplings, three nigiri, and four sashimi. The ginger dressing was watery—a pale inferior example of the greatest salad I ever had. The dressing also had far too much onion, making it bitter. The rest of the box was not as disappointing. The nigiri was cut to proper size (maybe a bit on the small side), and the nigiri was tender. The tempura was both chewy and crunchy. The gyoza tasted homemade. This was high praise and I on taste alone, I could see Sushi Hut becoming a favored location.
Then why did it cost $17.
By noon, the place was nearly packed, so they must be doing something right. I think I would have preferred the combo—that looked like a decent amount of food, even if Suzuran offered the same for less. There was a sizeable amount of tempura, but I really had my hearts set on combinations of rice and fish. This marked one of the better sushi meals I’ve had in some time, easily beating Wasabi and Sendo, and perhaps edging out So Good by a narrow margin. The issue was value—I just felt something was missing from a $17 dollar bento box, especially since it wasn’t my initial selection. Why did they push the bento on me? My only guess was that Sushi Hut probably made more money off it over the larger combo. The salad costs next to nothing and the tempura was probably emerging from the backroom in baskets. I may also be some oddball, since clearly the bento was the dish of choice here. I’m usually one that likes being recommended a dish; but it’s another to have it practically forced on me. I could have said no, but I’m not one wanting to be difficult. All I’m saying is that I had a hankering for some raw fish and this experience did not satiate that desire. Not only that, I was still hungry. The final bill came to 21.78 ($25 with tip), realizing that the tea I’d ordered which I had only sipped had cost me $2.50. And it wasn’t even very good.
Two weeks ago, the chef at Suzuran, a man I made a point of befriending years ago, invited me to his home to enjoy what I had missed in years. It reminded me of how little touches in presentation and quality can make the difference between an exceptional sushi restaurant and a passing one. I glanced around at the packed capacity of Sushi Hut and felt the urge to tell them that sushi in Prince George was lacking, that there once was a time when we boasted the best in the world.
Recently, Liam Neeson praised a certain sushi restaurant in Smithers while being interviewed on The Daily Show. He had been filming The Grey and declared unequivocally that the best sushi restaurant he’d been to was located in this small town of 5,000 people. I made a similar claim of Suzuran years back. I had only restaurants in Prince George, Vancouver, Guangzhou and Hong King as my sampling. You can imagine Neeson’s claim carried a bit more weight. Looks like I have an extensive road trip waiting for me.
892 Central Street East Prince George, BC