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Before we get started on the actual restaurant, the food and the experience, I would just like to point out that Richmond’s Bone Sushi is located next to…ahem…an adult video store. No, seriously, I am not making this up. The jokes simply write themselves so I won’t make any and let you snicker quietly to yourselves. I’m not quite sure why the place is usually named and if the irony is lost on anyone. However, as an added bonus, if you sit at the window seats, you can play “stare at the people that just came out of the video store next door.” (like the lady below!) as added fun during your meal.
Bone Sushi is relatively new, opening sometime in the last couple months I believe. They’re located in a Richmond strip mall that most Richmond residents will know as the former location of Hon’s and for having a horrific parking lot with one-way lanes but no one seems to understand that concept. The outside is rather unimpressive with the name of the restaurant written thrice on the sign for emphasis. I walked past it one day and the menu caught my eye so I made note and came back another day.
The inside is much more interesting. The place is an explosion of colors, which is appropriate since sushi is a very vibrant and colorful style of food. They even have a large cutout of their fish bone logo hanging from the ceiling as well as fish prints on the walls and some neon fish bones stuck in random places. I like that they’re decorating according to their brand. I also like the blue and green tile wall which reminds me of the E. Honda stage in Street Fighter II. It’s not a large restaurant…there’s room for maybe 25 people inside. Personally, I was a little worried about the hot food since I didn’t see where the burners are but they’re behind that little alcove under the TV.
For me, there are three tiers of sushi (possibly four) in North America, which I will get to later but Bone Sushi sits squarely in the middle, falling between expensive/”authentic”/fine dining sushi and supermarket/all-you-can-eat/crap sushi. It’s sushi you can enjoy on a regular basis without shattering your bank account. It may not be in the upper echelon of Japanese food but is prepared with care by people that enjoy what they’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, I will sit all day at Sushi Dai telling them to shut up and take my money but day-to-day, I look for places like Bone Sushi for a good, affordable meal.
Mid-range sushi isn’t all created equal either. Walk into any old place that says sushi or teriyaki on the awning and you might be in for some really awful quasi-Japanese food full of terrible California rolls, not-so-fresh fish and spicy sauce on everything. The right way is just simple preparation with fresh ingredients. Which of the two is Bone Sushi?
The joint seems to be owned and operated by a family or a group of friends as I went twice and both times, the same people were there. They speak English, Cantonese and I didn’t want to try them in Japanese since I’d probably get it mostly wrong myself.
The menu has all the usual things you’d find on a sushi menu here in Vancouver with standard Japanese dishes like various maki rolls, nigiri, tempura, udon, etc. Looks like they have a monthly specials menu as well as a weekday $4.99 special on one of four fancy rolls like the Sunset roll, which is crab, salmon and avocado with…strawberries on top? Weird…but fresh fruit (like mango) really does work with many of the flavors in those rolls so I don’t know…maybe I’ll try it another day. More weirdly, Friday is not considered a weekday…although the website does consider weekdays to be Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The thing that caught my eye as I was walking by was this, the salmon scallop don. Honestly, the reason I usually don’t order chirashi dons at a lot of sushi places is that they’re full of crap that I don’t want and let’s be honest, a lot of places cheap you out with seriously skewed fish to rice ratios. This, on the other hand, had a couple of things going for it. One, it had just salmon, scallops and no filler. Two, even though the bowl is smaller than usual, at $5.95, that’s a pretty good deal.
For that $5.95, you get four slices of salmon sashimi and about an ice cream scoop of scallops. It’s actually not as small as the picture implies. I wasn’t starving but I was hungry but I was pretty full with this and a couple nigiri. The scallops are sweet and they’re quite fresh, same with the salmon. I noted that the sushi rice is actually quite good…my friends and I all thought the flavor was spot on with a sprinkle of soy sauce as well as the temperature. This makes a great light lunch or a snack…and if I think about it, at six bucks, one of the best values in Japanese food in the city.
I also got a couple of pieces of nigiri from the chalkboard above the kitchen. The toro ($1.75) isn’t a special…it’s the same price as the menu and the other piece is aburi (torched lightly) salmon ($1.50).
The toro is decently fatty with a nice rich flavor that swirls around in your mouth as you chew. The salmon was decent but not quite memorable. Again, fresh fish and at the right temperature.
From the left to right are salmon, egg, surf clam (hokkigai), cooked eel and mackerel (saba.) Everything tasted like it should…good ingredients except the saba. I thought it was slightly fishy and the texture was a little off somehow. The metal dishes are clever but most of us at the table thought they looked like they belonged more in the hospital or an episode of CSI than in a sushi restaurant. With all the color around, why go with something so stark and metallic? Each nigiri was $1 a piece except the eel which was $1.95.
The seafood udon ($6.95) is not found on their menu but rather as a picture in front of the sushi bar. While the noodles and broth were alright, the tempura was soggy (even before it hit the soup) and the cooked pieces of salmon didn’t have much flavor. I wouldn’t recommend this…there isn’t much in the bowl and what’s there isn’t up to par. And take the menus off the sushi bar…there’s enough of them at the table and it’s fun watching sushi assembly.
Of the things I didn’t try but took pictures of (TTIDTBTPO is a terrible acronym, dammit) were this Dragon roll ($7.95), which appears to be a dynamite roll with avocado on top.
I also didn’t try the gyoza. Gyoza is one of those things I seldom eat at Japanese restaurants not because I don’t like them but just because they’re way down there on the list of things I could order at a Japanese restaurant. They’re usually such an afterthought that only places that specialize in gyoza make good gyoza. I’d love to be proven wrong somewhere but these look like standard issue gyoza.
There are hiccups like there are with any new place. The first time I went, they forgot a roll until the end but quickly apologized and took it off the bill. Nothing annoys me more than a restaurant that wants to serve you a forgotten item after you asked for the check. Another time I stood at the door for awhile while the waitress made small talk with a family paying their bill. Not a big deal since they only have one waitress but looking up every so often would’ve prevented me from standing there like a doofus. However, the solitary waitress is cheerful, otherwise attentive and the rest of service is quick.
I actually quite enjoy Bone Sushi. While I’m not a fan of the rolls, which I find to be overpriced since they’re essentially California rolls topped with something for eight bucks, I loved the salmon scallop don and the nigiri is good value/ingredients. There are some things I don’t see anywhere else like salads with sashimi (or tuna tataki) tossed in for $5 each and that chalkboard has some interesting items on it which are hopefully updated on a regular basis. The menu is small but since it’s a small place and I’m pretty sure it’s mostly cooked by one guy, that’s no surprise. It’s not the most exciting place around but it’s a nice spot for lunch and I’ll definitely be eating more of their sushi bowls. I’d love to see more combinations (negitoro don? Maybe something wackier? Get creative!) at the same size/price.