One of the things I love most about Vancouver is how easy it is to get around on foot. The last time we rented a car we hardly used it, so the cost of renting plus paying for underground parking just wasn’t worth it for us anymore, especially with the SkyTrain connecting the airport to the downtown area (which is where we tend to do most of our eating and visiting anyway). Except, of course, there’s always a place or two that are a bit of a hike to get to, and Sushi Bar Ajisai is one of them. If you’ve been reading this blog enough, you will know that we have a huge love for sushi, and for Sushi Bar Ajisai in particular.
We had a central goal in mind during this particular visit: Walk as much as possible to burn off all the delicious food calories. Our life in Calgary is quite sedentary, as we both have office jobs and the ups and downs of winter weather have made it hard to be out consistently. But we counter that by working out 6 days a week and eating a balanced diet. In Vancouver? There is no such thing as a balanced diet when visiting Vancouver, so it means walking around as much as possible is important to keep our figures from expanding too much.
By Google Maps calculation, it would take us roughly an hour and some change to walk from Granville Market (where we started) to sushi nirvana. A walk of this magnitude for a couple of relatively fit 30-somethings is no big deal. Not even the perpetual drizzle of rain couldn’t dampen our spirits. But I made the fatal (and let’s be honest, completely stupid) mistake of wearing a brand new pair of boots on that trip which I had not had any time to break in. I was unusually optimistic about them in the beginning because I tend to have pretty good luck when it comes to new shoes, but these boots were making me wish that I had chewable morphine to dull the pain of the giant blisters that had formed on both of my heels. Oh, the horror! Even the blister-specific band-aids that I’d purchased the evening before were not helping, as each step I took were more agonizing than the next. To try to minimize (hah) the pain of my heels, I had started to overcompensate by manipulating my natural step, which in turn started to caused pain to my outer toes and the balls of my feet. Great. Both my feet were wrecked and we’d just started the trek to Ajisai.
But I trudged on. I refused to give up. Our walk was taking us through quite a lovely neighbourhood of beautifully large houses and it was eerily calming to be away from the usual noises and crowds of downtown Vancouver. Even the cloudy skies and trickling rain couldn’t dampen the beauty. Nearing the end of our walk, I said to Mark, “only this sushi place is worth suffering like this for.”
We eventually made it, about an hour and fifteen minutes later. Not too bad considering near the tail end, I was a hobbling mess. Mark went ahead to secure us a table while I hobbled my sorry self to the nearest drug store to purchase some pain killers and more band-aids. As soon as I entered Ajisai and plopped myself down at our table did I feel relief. What great timing, too – we had managed to snag the last available table. My suffering had paid off.
It was so good to see some food at last, which came out lightning quick despite the place being full. We started off with a seaweed salad called Wakame Sunomono. The vinegar-based dressing was punchy and really awoke our taste buds. We both remarked how refreshing this was and we’ll definitely order it again the next time we visit.
Next we got the Assorted Sashimi off the lunch special menu, which is basically the same thing as the regular menu except we each got a miso soup included. As always, the sashimi was fresh and top quality. The salmon literally melted in my mouth.
Of course, no sushi meal is complete without pressed sushi. This time we went with the Saba Battera (mackerel) and this was every bit as delicious and perfectly presented as we remember from the first time we had it. The mackerel was lightly seared and not overpowering. The toppings, which are still a mystery to me except the garlic chips, rounded out the flavours beautifully. But the key to its perfection is the rice, which is always seasoned just right and at the optimum stickiness so it doesn’t fall apart when you pick it up nor is it so sticky that the texture is too mushy. I once heard the key to great sushi is the rice and I couldn’t agree more.
Definitely worth suffering in pain for and still the same quality as we remember from last time. As much as I wished I could just sit there and not have to walk again, proper restaurant etiquette dictates that once you have finished, you should wrap up quickly so the people waiting in line can take your table. We did just that, but took the bus back to downtown, where I hobbled to the nearest mall and promptly purchased a pair of comfortable sneakers to wear for the rest of the trip. Mark my words: Never again will I wear new boots on a walking trip. Never. Again.
Ajisai Sushi Bar
2081 W 42nd Avenue
Phone: (604) 266-1428