Sushi Park is the new kid on the block. So new and innocent, in fact, that the staff had forgotten to turn on their open sign until we walked in a good half hour after they were supposed to. Simple rookie mistake. I wonder how many people came by in that time to check out the restaurant but drove away thinking they were closed. We were going to do that, but the allure of a sushi lunch and not really having a plan B compelled us to get our lazy butts out of the car and try to open their door. And by some miracle, it did!
A small 9-table restaurant, Sushi Park recently opened in mid-June in what some people may consider as St. Albert's downtown. Apparently the owners hail from Vancouver and so it's a welcome addition in these suburbs considering Vancouver's renowned sushi restaurant industry. Also as a note for the authenticity police, we couldn't help but notice the sushi chef and waitress talking in Korean. Not that it should be of any relevance; I'm a huge believer in that as long it tastes good, it shouldn't matter who's making your food.
Although the walls are bright neon orange, the space still has a warm, inviting vibe thanks to the dark tables and chairs, wood paneling and the large bar occupying the right hand side of the restaurant. Small pieces of Japanese artwork and a large Japanese mural also adorn the walls. On our visit, there was also a handwritten sign on the back wall signifying that they haven't received their liquor license yet, so hold tight if you're looking to get some liquid sustenance along with your sushi.
The menu is about 5 pages long in clear duotang folders, consisting of appetizers, donburi (rice bowls) and hot plates, sashimi and nigiri, basic rolls and combos, as well as a page of specialty rolls. I found the little illustrations adorable, and it could prove helpful for those who might need a small visual. One other unique aspect of the menu is that there were no bento boxes! Strange considering that bentos are such a huge selling item in Japanese restaurants.
After we placed our order with the waitress, she came out and dropped off three bowls of miso soup ($2.50 each) as well as a plate of green salad ($4.50) with their signature house dressing. On the house, she said, which was basically music to my ears. Who doesn't love free food?
The miso soup was typical miso soup with small pieces of tofu and green onion. The house dressing on the salad was also your typical Japanese ginger dressing but with a strong taste of onion, which makes me think that the dressing really is made in house rather than from a bottle.
Our order of prawn tempura, 6 pcs ($10.00) was the first to arrive and strangely, it also came with a lone tempura asparagus. Perhaps for colour and presentation? Whatever the reason, I was really impressed with the batter! The tempura was hot and fresh and the batter was light and crispy.
The assorted sashimi ($17.00) was chef's choice and was supposed to come with 10 pieces, but they gave us 12, which was really considerate of them since we were a party of 3. There was 4 varieties of fish: salmon, tuna, tai (red snapper), and tako (octopus). They were all pretty fresh and thickly cut.
The unagi don ($15.00) was a bit on the small side but the unagi was delicious! Lightly torched and glazed with eel sauce, the unagi was tender and flavourful. It sat on a bed of rice with 2 small pieces of tamago (egg) on the side.
The sushi was next to arrive, starting with the salmon toro nigiri ($2.75 each). The salmon belly is lightly torched and topped with eel sauce and spicy mayo. We initially only made 1 order but the waitress kindly told us that 2 of them were on the house. Once again, I can't say anything nicer about the service there. Top notch.
We also ordered two specialty rolls, the first being the Boston Roll ($15.00). The base is a dynamite roll (combination of imitation crab meat and prawn tempura), topped with grilled salmon and drizzled with eel sauce and spicy mayo. It tasted very similar to the salmon toro nigiri since it was basically the same ingredients on top of a sushi roll. The only words I can use to describe it is really creamy and soft.
I feel as if I've outgrown my love for california rolls and cream cheese in sushi, so unfortunately the only saving grace of this roll was the chopped scallops. I can see other people enjoying this though.
Overall, Sushi Park left a good first impression. The service was great and really considerate. I'd recommend sticking to the more authentic Japanese dishes though and maybe limiting the amount of specialty rolls you order, unless spicy mayo and eel sauce runs in your veins.