From North shore news
There are only so many ways to describe edamame, yam rolls and salmon sashimi; and most of our corner sushi joints are quite ably dishing up the same workmanlike menu items again and again, and yet again.
When I received an email from a reader about a new sushi place in Lower Lonsdale, I filed it for future use . . . if I was desperate. But when the emails kept coming, I began to reconsider. One reader told me that the business began as Saru Sushi on East Second, built up a following and then moved into a bigger space and new identity on the corner of the same street this spring. Another supporter told me that even the fussiest of her dining friends agrees it is the best sushi on the North Shore.
It was time to try it. If it was the same old sushi story then I'd look at it as a writing exercise, and challenge myself to find new ways to describe familiar dishes.
I corralled the raw fish aficionados in my own family and headed down the hill The restaurant is pretty and polished, with elegant wood and stonework, hanging pendant lights over the bar and a clean and well-organized display case for the fish -- already a nice change from the cafeteria-like environment of most fast food Japanese joints. I was warned by my informants that the place fills up fast, but it was still early on a Friday evening and we were able to score a corner table with no trouble at all. We ordered a Sapporo, a bottle of draft sake and an apple juice, unfolded the menu and dove in. To my delight, we found plenty of new and less familiar dishes to choose from.
Starters include, of course, edamame, gyoza and tempura. But there is also shiitake crab, with baby shrimp and marinated mushrooms; panko-breaded prawns with cocktail sauce; crispy chicken bites with sesame chili and crushed peanuts; and takoyaki, or octopus balls. Of course we ordered them: the fluffy egg dumplings of chopped octopi arrived still sizzling hot and topped with dried bonito flakes, green onion, sesame seeds and mayo. Each sphere offered a percussion of complementary flavours.
Although agedashi tofu is a regular dish for us, Bella does it three ways: drizzled with a concentrated traditional sauce, layered with a sweet mango salsa, and dusted with chili spice.
From the daily specials we ordered "Hawaiian local styled poke sashimi," a heap of glistening tuna, marinated in sesame and soy and served in a martini glass with daikon radish, fanned cucumber and shiso leaf.
An order of tuna tataki was a perfect counterpoint, because in this case, the sliced fish is lightly seared and arranged in a shallow pool of citrusy ponzu sauce, scattered with sprouts and radish.
From the lengthy list of (mostly unfamiliar) rolls, we ordered the Crunchy Go-go roll, a fat cylinder of sticky rice, two tempura prawns, yam, avocado and chili mayo; and the vegetarian Soy Bean Paper roll, a mosaic of veggies like asparagus, Japanese pickle, beets, yam, avocado, spinach and mushroom wrapped with rice in soy bean paper.
The presentation of each dish is exceptional; it's obvious that thought is given to dishware and garnish, and not simply added as an afterthought. Our service was prompt, friendly and helpful. This isn't corner-store sushi and it's priced accordingly; actually, given the quality, I think it's a deal. Our dinner was just the right amount of food, and rang up at $90.72, including HST.
We'll be back. It's clear that we've only just skimmed the surface of what's here, and I'll have to sample much more before I decide what my favourites are. See you there.
Bella Sushi is at 152 Lonsdale Ave., North Vancouver. Call 604-987-8633, for more information.