Not too long ago Connie and I went for a little walk in the beautiful Confederation Park, and when we were done, we were up for sushi! (Big surprise, I know) Since it was a Sunday afternoon, there wasn’t much open, and so we decided to try a new place where we had never gone before.
I checked Banzai Sushi out on UrbanSpoon before we headed over there, and I have NO idea how the reviews are so high. We were completely disappointed with nearly every element of the experience, from the menu to the taste to the quality. Even the prices were higher than the UrbanSpoon menu showed. The only pleasant part of our afternoon was the quick, discreet, and efficient service. I really should have read more of the reviews, instead of looking mainly at the stars and the few comments at the top.
I did try to look up their website before heading there – but it relies on a (Macromedia/Adobe) Flash interface. Boo. I use an iPhone. You know the joke – iPhone doesn’t support Flash. I called instead to find out their hours – though I had to repeat myself several times because it seemed as though the staff person didn’t understand me fully.
We started off sharing a 6 piece order of gyoza. These were served with a sauce unlike what we were accustomed to. Rather than the clear dark sauce, it was a thick, opaque yellow-brown sauce that reminded me a lot of peanut sauce in colour and consistency. It didn’t taste like peanut sauce thankfully – I actually couldn’t really taste anything in it. Connie said it was good though… However the gyozas were terrible. Their one saving grace is that they were cheap – $2.xx for 6 of them – but still not worth getting in my opinion. Like the previous disappointing MomoYama visit – they were deep fried; hard and crunchy, with an oily flavour. The filling seemed unique, but unfortunately not tasty – or perhaps the terrible shell was so overwhelming that I couldn’t appreciate if the filling was tasty…?
While I’m on the hunt for the BEST gyoza in Calgary… I’ll put these at the bottom of the list as possibly the WORST gyoza I’ve ever had. They were impossible to cut with chopsticks, and I had to rip them in half by hand. Thank goodness we shared an order – 6 would have been far too many for one person in my opinion.
Banzai roll ($5.55)
Next up we split a Banzai roll – Avocado, Cucumber, Salmon, Tuna, and Tobiko. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t actually GOOD. It reminded me very much of the plain, bland, sitting-around-for-an-hour fast-food, pre-made sushi that I’ve usually passed by. (Versus the much more enjoyable take-out sushi for Co-op that I do enjoy.) The roll wasn’t especially well rolled (it fell apart a bit) but it was fine.
Spicy Tuna roll ($5.25)
Connie also ordered a Spicy Tuna roll for herself (and was generous in sharing one with me too!) and it was similar – the flavour entirely relied on the huge glob of spicy sauce smothering each little roll on top. While I’m not generally a huge fan of spicy rolls, I do far prefer when the spicy sauce is mixed in with the roll, so the flavour infuses the tuna it’s meant to flavour… rather than assaulting the roof of my mouth when I eat it. Another disappointment.
At this point we figured out that we were grateful for the generous amount of ginger offered on each plate – while normally a pleasant palate-cleanser before enjoying another flavour, we were using the ginger to get rid of an undesirable taste more than anything else….
Tuna sashimi ($11.95)
Next up we split an order of tuna sashimi. We were a bit confused when there were three pieces that were dark, then three pieces that were very light, and then several (6? 7?) that were a medium-colour. We presumed that it was a sampling of different cuts, and I personally was pleased, until I ate some of it.
The dark tuna had the texture of fish that had been frozen, defrosted, frozen again, and defrosted once again. It was grainy and rough. The flavour was also extremely ‘fishy’ – something that usually seems to note a lack of freshness.
The very light tuna was completely different, but really no better. The texture felt very fatty – almost oily in it’s texture. The taste was better, but not enough to get over the terrible texture. The medium-toned fish was very similar, just apparently folded on the plate a different way. It took drowning the fish in soy sauce to make it more manageable. Poor tuna…..
Salmon sashimi ($11.95)
Finally we split an order of salmon sashimi. This had far less fish on it than the tuna platter (despite the fact that the menu states they are sold by weight (4oz) but we weren’t too concerned. There was plenty of fish on the plate, and at this point we were not at all excited about the sashimi awaiting us.
The salmon was actually ok. The pieces were cut extremely thin (which was fine, considering our mood by this point) The texture was normal and the taste wasn’t too fishy. I find it difficult to be too positive however, considering how disappointed I had been with everything else up to that point. If I had just had the salmon sashimi, this post might be a lot more upbeat; it’s hard to say.
Atmosphere & service
When you head into Banzai, you head to a fast-food style counter where there are menus posted. There is no a la carte menu, (well, there is for nigiri sushi, but they only have three choices..) instead there are a dozen rolls, bento boxes, rice and noodle bowls, combos and party trays. There is a small cooler for drinks with limited choice. You place your order, are given a number, and then behind you is a counter with forks, spoons, glasses and ice to take yourself.
The service at the counter was quick, polite, and efficient.
There are a generous number of tables and booths – one behind the cutlery counter and the other to the right of the entrance. While we were in there, there were a few other tables filled, but the restaurant was not full by far. Oddly enough, the tables are too short for the benches at the booths – there is a significant gap at each end – so while the booths might seat 6 (skinny people!) the table is really only suitable for 4. How odd!
The table and booths all seemed clean, and there is additional chopsticks, soy sauce, etc at the tables. There were no dining plates though – only the serving plates and the soy sauce dishes. Odd. Although they had given us a number, and I had been expecting to go up to pick up our order – a server instead delivered it to our table, which I appreciated. She was discreet (didn’t interrupt our conversation) and prompt. I imagine this was largely due to the fact that the restaurant was fairly quiet while we were there – during a busier period I imagine your number would be called instead.
We determined that this is likely a place only to get rolls (or perhaps cooked items) rather than sushi or sashimi, and only then as a fair alternative to Edo of Japan sushi, though I wouldn’t ever bother having that either. Needless to say, I will not be returning to Banzai sushi, and don’t recommend it to anyone who either enjoys sushi or wants to enjoy sushi. The fact that Banzai is owned by the Japanese Village Alberta Group, is quite strange, because I’ve always had excellent quality at Japanese Village.
While the bill was low, the quality was lower, and the experience left a bad taste in our mouths (literally).