My love for sushi is inversely proportional to my disdain for writing about it. What is there left to say?
I don’t know how many sushi reviews I have done and I certainly have no clue how many sushi meals I have eaten, here and abroad.
We are spoiled for choice in the Lower Mainland. Nothing hammers this point home harder than travelling, finding yourself in a city in a landlocked U.S. state where the nearest edible fish-bearing body of water is 50 miles away and your local host is excited to take you to this amazing new restaurant that just opened that serves … sushi.
You remember I’m from Vancouver, right? You know, the city that rivals Tokyo, Sapporo, Santiago, Melbourne, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other coastal spots famed for world-class sushi?
You have to work hard to eat bad sushi here. Corners have to be unforgivably cut by a stonehearted, conscienceless restaurateur rubbing his hands together with maniacal zeal, to dole out a substandard piece of nigiri in Vancouver.
It happens, but it shouldn’t. Even I can make a mighty fine sashimi appetizer at home using prawns, scallops, tuna, and halibut cheek purchased from The Salmon Shop at Lonsdale Quay.
So when I try a new sushi place for a review, I feel undue pressure to unearth the one thing that makes the place radically different from all the rest, the golden nugget of insight that will make the review worth your read and help you when you next need a maki fix. But with almost every place now doing aburi (rectangular, lightly torched nigiri) and rolls set aflame for dramatic effect, instances of newness have decreased dramatically in recent years.
This week’s review considers Valley Sushi in the Lynn Valley Village, which is also home to the library, a barber, Canopy Health, the health-minded Nourish Market (where you can get water kefir on tap), Browns, Delany’s, and a franchise of the recently embattled Papa John’s Pizza.
Would I drive to Lynn Valley expressly for a meal at Valley Sushi when I am surrounded by nearly a dozen more local choices? No, probably not. Would I hesitate to grab a meal there in anticipation of one of the Live and Local concerts or cultural events hosted in the Village plaza throughout August? Not for a second.
I found Valley’s sushi to be fresh, tasty and their staff friendly and knowledgeable. Similarly, following a late weekend morning of riding on Fromme, this would be my go-to sushi lunch spot. Or after showing off the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge or Lynn Headwaters white waters to visitors – Valley Sushi would be a no-brainer cap to the afternoon.
I was tipped off about this place by a Lynn Valley local who calls this restaurant her top haunt; I understand that inclination fully as Lynn Valley is – with the exception of the always fun and satisfying Black Bear Pub or Tommy’s Café for tasty brunch and lunch – still inexplicably light on sound dining options.
Valley Sushi’s menu reads like most North Shore sushi menus today with its appetizer standards, sushi and sashimi combos, a few hot dishes, and a long list of specialty maki bearing wacky, locally specific names (the Go Go Canucks Roll, for instance, that I assume only ever gets close to being the best thing on the menu, but can never quite get there, or the Jalapeno Roll that features a spicy pepper stuffed with cream cheese, sort of like a popper tempered by rice and seaweed).
There are a few anomalies on the menu as well, like the definitively Korean beef specialty, bulgogi, or the historically Cantonese wonton soup.
I think that there are some hints in these anomalies about the inspiration for some of the bold tastes that permeate certain dishes at Valley Sushi (which I visited recently with my wife DJ), like the Spicy Agadashi Tofu, comprised of deep fried squares of tofu topped with a fiery reddish sauce with cabbage, bean sprouts, onions, and scallions.
This dish, packed with bright, heady flavours definitely felt like it had benefitted from international culinary influences.
Similarly, the Hot Night Roll, which I ordered on the suggestion of our server, came topped with golden brown, crispy shredded yam flakes, contained spicy tuna, prawn and yam tempura, and was seasoned with a deep, spicy-sweet sauce that suggested culinary traditions beyond Japan.
That said, an order of chirashi-don (seasoned rice topped with choice bits of sashimi) was as classic as it gets and came with a nice assortment of ultra-fresh fish that was pristinely cut into appropriately delicate, bite-sized morsels.
It was an exceedingly good value dish at just $13.
A plate of assorted nigiri was also nicely prepared, especially the tender and succulent unagi (barbecued eel) and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth toro (tuna belly).
A Spicy Yam Tempura roll was among the better vegetarian selections I have had on the North Shore and made excellent use of the piquant, orange-hued mayo that is most commonly used on dynamite rolls. Inari nigiri was moist and delicate, the thin wrap of bean curd skin formed into a perfect triangle around a pat of sticky, seasoned rice.
Gomaae, or cold steamed spinach with sesame dressing, was beautifully executed here, the brilliant green spinach still retaining a touch of crunch and benefitting from just a subtle dollop of fragrant sesame dressing.
A cone (temaki) of scallops chopped with masago (fish roe) was colourful and generously portioned.
Our sizeable meal was $63 before gratuity.
Valley Sushi, 125-1233 Lynn Valley Rd., North Vancouver. valleysushi.ca. 604-988-7868
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