Last Friday, I dropped by Shizen Ya on Broadway to get some takeout for myself and my notoriously hard-to-please mom. My mom had for some reason become impressed with brown rice, so I thought I'd try out some brown rice sushi on her.
At other sushi places, you can sometimes substitute regular sushi rice with brown rice for about 50¢. Brown rice is processed less but costs more. Hmm... At Shizen Ya, USDA certified organic brown rice is standard. The seafood used at Shizen Ya also bears the round Ocean Wise sustainable seafood logo.
On this trip, I got a Sakura Blossom Roll, a Spicy Tuna Cone, and a bit of their homemade Natto.
- Sakura Blossom Roll ($12.95; juicy fresh crab, spicy albacore tuna, cucumber, avocado, rolled with organic brown sushi rice, wrapped with wild sockeye salmon; creamy maple dressing)
- This is a larger sushi roll, about 2" in diameter, compared to the typical smaller ~1" diameter rolls that sell for $5-$7. The bright red salmon on the outside gives this a nice presentation, although the salmon didn't always go completely around the sushi.
- Not sure why they put down "spicy albacore tuna" because there was nothing spicy here at all. The maple dressing was creamy and gave some sweetness to it, but not so much as to overwhelm everything.
- Do NOT get this for takeout for someone else! In the take-out box, the creamy dressing eventually found its way to the bottom of each piece of sushi. You didn't lose all of it, but it does make an ugly mess if you look underneath. If the mushiness bothers you, you could very briefly sear the bottom of each piece on a non-stick skillet.
- Spicy Tuna Cone ($2.95; tuna, quinoa, avocado in a soy paper wrapper)
- The first thing that happened when I picked this up is that some quinoa promptly leaked/spilled out the bottom of the cone. You might want to pinch and/or fold up the very end before picking it up off the plate.
- I found this had too much avocado, in two large chunks, and that dominated the flavour of everything else. Nothing spicy here, either. If anything, the avocado gave it a blandness.
- It also looks a bit small, but at $2.95, how much do you want?
- Natto ($3.95)
- A long time ago, I had a "natto bomb" at Alpha Global Sushi & Bar, where the server advised me to basically drown the thing in soy sauce. It naturally tasted mostly like soy sauce. I'd also had natto ice cream at the now-closed Shiru-Bay Chopstick Cafe in Yaletown. I think it was on one of their Dine Out Vancouver offerings. Strangely, that tasted vaguely like coffee, probably because of the caramel and vanilla. So I wanted to try natto just on its own. Big mistake.
- The portion you get is about one measuring cup full for your $3.95. The Japanese typically have it with rice and dusted with sugar or drowned in soy sauce.
- Natto is supposed to be good for you, if you don't retch it out. When you scoop it up, it makes web-like strings because of the goo it's sitting in. Heck, that's probably the bacteria that's infesting the stuff. Legend has it that some boiled soybeans went bad and soldiers ate it anyway -- and liked it! When you put it in your mouth, you can confirm just how slimy it looks.
- They say it's an acquired taste. For me, it starts out initially bland, but has a slight bitter aftertaste. It's the slimy goo that gets me, more than the flavour -- so putting in soy sauce didn't help so much. The natto here doesn't smell very strong, but there's a slight stink to it too.
- In the end, we seared the natto in a skillet to see if that would help with the goo. Then we put in something sweet. I tried honey and it just mixed with the goo, making it even slimier. My mom tried some Kraft Poppy Seed Dressing and claimed to have good results.
- If you're in largish group of 6-8, you're pretty safe to try the natto as a novelty (just in case you actually like it) since no one will get more than a teaspoon to try. Otherwise, pass.