adventures in the far east β€” of canada!

“The best sushi on either coast”

In accent, calgary, culture, food, st. john's on June 13, 2009 at 2:08 am

…enthused one sushi lover on a world travel website, honed in on St. John’s and restaurants. Besides a mini-restaurant review, I’d like to take a moment to observe something about Newfoundland culture.

As it turns out, there are only 2 sushi places in St. John’s; I thought the place could afford to be a little dumpy, a little sucky, and still enjoy a lot of customers due to this fact. Actually, that and the other place is known for really fine dining–like well over $100 for 2 people kinda fine. So, it caters to a very different audience and experience. Out of 197 restaurants listed in the city, Basho is ranked #6; the other place we ate at, Sun Sushi, caters to your average person ranks barely behind at #9! A good sign, but I still thought–maybe it’s only so high because of such a lack of competition?

I was very glad to be wrong. Not only is it a nice restaurant, the food was outstanding. Best sushi I’ve had in a while, bar none. And how awesome is this–as soon as you sit down, they give you a free, good-sized bowl of miso soup! That surprised us–we thought, “We didn’t order any!” and then–“Are they going to sneak that onto the bill?” And they did this for any sized group.

There’s no way to describe the pure awesome of the sushi, other than to say I will be dreaming of the “palm spring roll,” the “baked tilapia roll” (they had a number of baked rolls–and indeed, they were hot from an oven and had cooked fish. I hate warm sushi–it’s bad preparation–but their baked rolls were soft treats), their sushi pizza, and the seaweed salad. Holy crap, especially the palm spring, it was 8 Rolls of Heaven with Transcendance Topping. AND THE DESSERT. Some people may know one of my favourite places in Calgary was Towa Sushi, and it had the best dessert this side of the universe–tempura ice cream. Yeah, yeah, sounds nasty, but pretty much everyone who’ve tried it loves it. I’ve never found anything to beat it…but Sun Sushi had tempura BANANA ice cream (Jenny, you must have just projectile vomited on your screen…). It was perfection cubed–very delicately done, and the new king of the land.

Anyway, enough of the edibles, which was fit for gods. I’ve been noticing small things here that confirm to me St. John’s is classier than a lot of people may give it credit for. I was never disappointed to get the internship–how could I be anything but excited–but several people I told kinda just dismissed it, suggesting “Boring!” or “What could be possibly there?” or “That backward little place?” or something.

It’s a small thing, but Duckworth Street (I adore that name, by the way), where the restaurant was located…was also where Basho was on, the burn-a-hole-in-your-pocket-but-thrill-you other Japanese restaurant. I just noticed it. I looked at more restaurants…we were across from “A Taste of Thai.” The NUMBER ONE restaurant in St. John’s is an Indian place–also on Duckworth! A pleasant surprise, not because it is so ethnic, but because I assumed it had to be a seafood place. Even such an innocent assumption is wrong.

I’m sure you’ve kinda clued into it as well: Duckworth Street is like Calgary’s Kensington, or 17th, or Steven Ave. There were yoga and art places as well; it’s the city’s awesome street. Sun Sushi was full up, and everyone there seemed quite pleased with their food, and ate with chopsticks. Why is that significant?

It’s because, as a city of a little over 100,000, it seems ahead of the curve. I still distinctly remember growing up in Calgary–a city far in excess of 100,000 even when I was in elementary school–where there was still this phase of change. At school, kids and adults alike were just abuzz over sushi–how strange it was, how gross raw fish was, and utensils beyond a fork and spoon were rare. Nowadays of course, it’s such a commonly enjoyed food, there no more ick factor, and chopstick wielding is so normal. Well, St. John’s-ers seem pretty cultured then, more embracing of differences than cow-town likely when it had a comparable population. Don’t forget an Indian joint is their favourite place to dine.

No one I’ve met thus far has had an accent. WAIT–one. A guy who worked in the gift shop at Signal Hill, inside Cabot Tower, the little fortress top. I didn’t look at their wares long, but he was cheerily and jauntily speaking to a customer in a lilt that sounded close to Irish. I don’t recall overhearing what he said, but I DID understand him. Karen, my benefactress, tells me it’s mostly that in the Newfie accent–if indeed it can be found.

And to conclude…guess I was wrong about being touristy. Today was mostly grocery shopping, renting a car–normal stuff. I now have a good base to continue on. Later today (well–it’s 1:53 am right now, but it’s tomorrow to my friends and family), it will truly be tourist day. We will visit a famed geological site, pay a day visit to the Basilica of St. John’s (we took a few pics when we passed it at night), maybe take in The Rooms*, and take a small road trip on “the Irish loop” outside of St. John’s.

*Another cultural high point–we drove by it, and the structure immediately caught our attention–“What’s that??” We looked it up at home, and it’s a mega-house gallery, museum, and archive for the city. It looks lovely with so much glass, and so contemporary… (make sure you click, and then click again below):

Stay tuned!

  1. Unfortunately, I can’t see the pictures ):

    But things sound absolutely increadible so far! Which is awesome. Glad to hear you’re settling in and getting established, as well as enjoying yourself at the same time. Miss you already of course, ha ha, but so glad I could see you before you left.

    Look forward to hearing more!


  2. Luckily I can see the pictures πŸ™‚ and they are COOL!! The best sushi???Oh…I am so JEALOUS………..

  3. Jenny wasn’t the only one to projectile vomit onto the screen…. honestly…. tempura banana-flavoured ice cream……

    Glad to hear that you’re having a great time on The Rock! I must say that I am quite blown away that it’s not just what the stereotypes chalk it up to be… then again, that’s what stereotypes do, eh?

    On a different note, I was made aware of your site earlier today when I was at a BSG PARTY!!! Indeed…

    AND on a related note: I FINALLY FOUND AMBROSIA!!! (Or at least a reasonable facsimile: GREEN APPLE BOONE’S!!!)

  4. I love it when stereotypes are wrong!

    It wasn’t banana-flavoured (both of you: they’re good for you)! That’d be tacky. πŸ™‚ It was a delicately tempura-ed banana, still sweet but crispy, scooped over with ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was arranged prettily, and tasted like what I would imagine ambrosia would. πŸ˜‰

    I’m glad to hear bsg went through!!

  5. You what bananas also are? GROSS. ‘Nuff said…. if Ambrosia actually tasted like bananas, I would be one sad, sad, sad BSG character… that, or I would become friends with Chief and the deck crew ASAP.

    Btw, Queen Starwing is back in town! She just emailed us earlier this morning letting us know of the good news!

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