217 Rideau Street, Ottawa – Website
Date of Visit: January, 2016
Once upon a time, Ken’s Japanese Restaurant occupied this Rideau Street location and it was also and ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ type establishment. I am not sure if Sushi Village is just a re-make of Ken’s but, if so, they must be doing fairly well as there is another Sushi Village out in Orleans as well. I was disappointed when I saw that Ken’s had closed as I rather liked it, but this new place turned out to be pretty good as well…
One improvement over the previous establishment is that the new restaurant is much cleaner and more nicely appointed then the predecessor. Seating is mainly in booths (which I prefer less than plain old tables and chairs) but the place is nicely laid out and has a long sushi bar running down one side.
Sushi Village is primarily an all-you-can-eat place which is a great way of ordering if you are a table of more than three or four, but very difficult for fewer (or one, as in my case). I was handed the standard (AYCE) menu and when I tried to explain what I wanted a great deal of confusion ensued. I was passed off to two more servers before one had a moment of revelation and announced that that the restaurant does, in fact, have an ‘a la carte’ style menu, which she then duly produced.
Beyond the menu confusion, I found that the service in Sushi Village was bit disorganized overall, even though the severs were all friendly and polite. I had three or four people tending to me but nonce seemed to communicate with each other so that I kept being asked if I was ready to select my next dish within seconds of placing and order. I was also brought items I hadn’t selected but, to be fair, once I did place an order, it tended to arrive pretty quickly.
Har Gow – These are Chinese delicacy, of course, but I was curious to see how a Japanese restaurant might handle them. When they arrived, they struck me as being quite pretty, but rather unusually formed and I suspected they may be machine made rather than hand-formed. That impression was not diminished by the quality of the wrapper (which was too thick and doughy) but the filling of well-seasoned chunks of shrimp, was very nice. These would never pass muster in a top-end dim-sum place but I still enjoyed them enough to rate them at a 3 out of 5.
Siu Mai – Again, these are a Chinese specialty but, as it happened, the best Siu Mai I have ever had were also at Japanese restaurant. These particular ones had a very sloppy appearance, and the wrapper was a bit dry in places, but the pork filling was excellent. I enjoyed nicely textured blend of coarse chop and fine mince, and the seasoning had lovely notes of ginger. I gave these a 4 out of 5.
Enoki Beef Rolls – Unfortunately, these were very mediocre. The beef was a bit dry and they were clearly pan-fried, where grilling might have added some nice flavor. The Teriyaki sauce (a bait of a misnomer if you are not actually grilling) was all but tasteless and really needed something to add some tang. I could only rate this at a 2 out of 5.
Shrimp Tempura – I was prepared to be disappointed by this selection, but it turned out to be pretty good. At first, it looked like the shrimp were coated in a very coarsely crumbed panko, but it proved to be a very delicate batter that fried to a curious lacy, snowflake texture. The oil was clearly just a little old but, after so many tempura disappointments, this effort was nicely executed and I gave it a 4 out of 5.
The service at Sushi Village was a bit confused and disorganized, but not so much that it spoiled my meal, by any means. Plating was not the best, I have to say but, to be fair, the place is organized towards producing large platters and not small plates for the Kaiseki or higher-end Izakaya experience. The food was decent and reasonably priced and I’d like to go back and see what they do best. Rating: 3 out of 5.