Mar. 16, 2011 - Issue #804 : P.S. I love You
Kabuki Sushi part of the growing foodie hot spot north of Whyte
The small, dark room is dominated by a large artificial sakura tree, its delicate pink flowers accentuated by strands of twinkling lights. Japanese pop music plays quietly in the background. A smiling maneki neko beckons from a counter framing the open kitchen. Popular in Japan since the Edo period, these ceramic cats are thought to symbolize good fortune and attract customers. Tonight, neko is exercising her influence, for the room is packed and tinged with fresh notes of seafood and sake.
An affable waitress presents a complimentary mug of steaming sen-cha tea, which is replenished throughout the evening. The menu treads familiar Nipponian territory: teriyaki, tempura, udon noodle soup and multiple incarnations of maki, sushi and sashimi. Enjoying the delicately astringent and smoky tea, I peruse the menu and select a small cross-section of dishes.
Blazing unagi roll ($15.95) is a core of surimi and cucumber enveloped by nori and rice, then topped with unagi—eel—and surrounded by a miniature moat of sake-fueled flames. The roll itself is rather fragile—the rice fails to hold its shape. In contrast, the flame-kissed unagi is a decadent paradox of crisp skin and unctuous flesh, the clear victor of this dish.
Magic tuna ($9.50) is proclaimed a house specialty, a deep-fried roll of nori, rice, tuna and avocado. The avocado is supple, coaxed by the substantial, residual heat. Peppery green onions compete with plum-hued tuna for flavour domination, while a crisp tempura crust provides textural contrast. Magic tuna succeeds on multiple levels.
The rice and nori exterior of the Edmonton roll ($6.95) conceals tempura prawns, robust tuna and mild crab. Again, the rice lacks prerequisite stickiness. The trio of prawn, tuna and crab is clearly fresh, but lacks both the synergy of the tuna's protein and veg and the prominence of the unagi's crisp-tender dichotomy.
Finale to this parade of fish and rice is the Yam Tempura Roll ($5.95). Here, julienned and deep-fried sticks of yam are encased in an oversized rice-nori roll. The delicate yam is somewhat overpowered by its tempura shell. Texture is this roll's best attribute; it's delightfully crisp and amenable to dregs of soya sauce and wasabi.
Punctuated equilibrium has indeed changed a hallmark block of 109 Street. This change, irrespective of cause, is difficult, for it forces a reconfiguration of expectations and perception. Some products of this evolutionary change, like the flame-kissed unagi, are stronger than others, like the disconnected rice. And yet, I imagine a return to the dappled shade of the sakura tree to bear witness to Kabuki's evolutionary refinement. V
Mon – Wed (11:30 am – 9:30 pm); Thu – Sat (11:30 am – 10:30 pm); Sun (3 pm – 9:30 pm)
Kabuki Sushi & Grill
8724 - 109 St
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