Despite pleasant past visits to Shikiji, a recent visit makes me hesitant to return again.
A few days ago, Connie and I got together for sushi, and she was interested in re-visiting a place we’ve been together and separately a few times before; Shikiji in Crescent Heights. The first challenge was getting across the downtown core during rush hour. (Why do they call it rush hour when it starts at 3:30pm and runs until 7?) The second challenge would seemingly be getting a table! When we arrived, the place seemed packed, though we were seated at a TINY table for two quickly. My elbow was in a room-divider screen, and my purse was snuggling up to a fake plant. I credit their dexterous staff that neither of us were bumped into by passers by as we dined.
I’ve never seen it so busy in Shikiji – which is usually a good sign of a great place that has become a local favorite, especially with three other sushi restaurants within a 2 block radius. Unfortunately, we were in the mood to chat and catch up, and the noise volume and general rushed and busy mood within the restaurant wasn’t conducive. If I had realized then that Wa’s (which I’ve heard so many good things about) was just up the street, I might have suggested we head onwards before our water arrived.
As an aside, we also planned to talk about how to set up Connie’s WordPress iPhone ap, so that she could start posting here too, but intense discussion was better left to another time. With that being said, she promises to join me here soon!
The seeming increase in popularity really seems to have had a detrimental effect to this small, cozy, well-decorated restaurant. We waited a fair amount of time to be asked for our drink order, and a bit too long in my opinion for that order (water…) to be filled. The menu had a number of irksome ‘rules’ – no bill splitting for large groups, no substitutions, etc which speaks to me of an establishment that might be growing in volume faster than they can easily accommodate. Our orders came out when they were ready (which admittedly, I do prefer, rather than all coming out together) though it meant that Connie’s two plates came out before mine did – and we almost had a mix-up when I presumed that her house special roll was actually my rainbow roll. Of course, had we been sharing the rolls, this would have been a null point.
As I mentioned, I ordered a rainbow roll, only because I was interested in trying a roll, and none of the others appealed to me that evening. When it came, I was largely disappointed. The roll was… TINY; not much bigger than a food-court-style cucumber roll. Graceful layers of salmon and tuna, draped over a generous rice roll filled with delicious morsels were substituted for tiny chunks placed upon a small inside-out roll, almost like an after-thought. The flavor overall was unmemorable, the tiny pieces of sushi just popped in my mouth and were consumed without fanfare. The prawn was more like those tiny shrimp you find in deli-case seafood salad, and there was only a tiny piece of avocado on every third piece of sushi. (Which means that in a roll of 8, I only had three tiny pieces of avocado.) This was a 5$ roll spread out on a large plate to make it appear worth the $12 they charge – but all the large plate did was exaggerate how small and disappointing this roll was.
One neat thing – they used multiple colours of tobiko as well – including the green wasabi-flavored tobiko. I wonder if this is a ‘new thing’, or if after the lovely experience of it at Acme Food Co – that I just started to notice it?
Next up, one of my favorites – the special scallop battleship style sushi. This normally contains chopped scallop (giving the chef the opportunity to use smaller scallops not suitable for nigiri-style scallop sushi) mayonnaise, and tobiko (flying fish roe) layered over rice and wrapped in nori (seaweed). Unfortunately, mine came out ORANGE (which should have been a tell-tale sign) and incredibly spicy. (Mostly because I was expecting the mellow flavor I’m accustomed to.) It appears that the chef confused the filling for their spicy scallop roll with the filling for my special scallop battleship – which should not have been spicy. (I’ve tried a spicy scallop sushi before, and was very unhappy with it, so it’s not the kind of thing I’ll be ordering again anywhere.) It took some time for the waitress to return to our table, but she easily took the two pieces of incorrect sushi, and returned within a reasonable time frame with what I had actually ordered.
So, while waiting for the new scallop, I had two pieces of Ikura (salmon roe) battleship-style sushi. These were on the small side, but the roe itself was good – firm and nicely coloured. When the new scallop pieces came I found them similar – a bit on the small side but good all the same.
In all of the sushi rolls, the rice was well flavored, but I found that the fish/filling sometimes lacked flavor. I also found the nori (seaweed) very chewy, as though the rice was too hot when the rolls were assembled (?). We often stay and have a dessert, but the atmosphere felt crowded and rushed, so instead we headed elsewhere to conclude our evening out.
Do you like going to Shikiji? If you’re a regular – would you say that the packed house we experienced is the new normal, or an unexpected occurrence for this restaurant? Let us know in the comments below.
Shikiji Japanese Noodles & Sushi
1608 Centre Street North
Calgary, AB T2E 2R9