Sunday, July 24, 2011

As Constant As the Northern Star

My animosity towards the all-you-can-eat sushi place in this town is dwindling. This means one of two things: that my own pre-judgments and pretentious assumptions denied my stomach the chance of really getting to know these eating places and limiting my own experience to a few terrible experiences in previous ‘hasheries.’ Today, I wasn’t pleasantly surprised, but certainly tempered against the bias that accompanies my own opinions of sushi in a place that is so far away from the ocean and fresh fish. But what does that mean anyway?

It may be a moot point even discussing Sushi Star, a restaurant that’s been around for a substantial time, and a restaurant I’ve given only the slightest of nods, having heard mixed reviews about it throughout the years. However, dear readers, I like to believe we’ve developed a good amount of rapport between the lot of us and that what I do have to say about the place has some merit.

To say I had a hankering for sushi today would be an untruth. In fact, I can’t claim to be a die hard fan, though I certainly can say I enjoy it, but not as much as the body builders who frequent the all-you-can-eat stops at least 3 times a week to keep their weight up. Today’s venture was a kind of earnest admission in order to see if the all-you-can-eat sushi place is a place even worth going to anymore, or if it’s gone the way of the great portion-givers of the West’s glorified consumer past; I speak of fast food joints, Chinese buffets, pancake houses.

So what can I say about Sushi Star that hasn’t already been said about an all-you-can-eat sushi spot? Believe me or not, there is some interesting personality accompanying Sushi Star’s food. Some peerless exceptions that make you consider the micro cultures that exist around the locales of restaurants. I normally don’t pay any mind to restaurants catering to the palettes of customers thereby changing their menus for profit because I glamorously consider it a kind of selling out, but this is stupid. Because while it could very well be perceived this way, it is exactly that dynamic that allows the all-you-can-eat to stay separate from others and in business.

Yes, there are tables with bamboo appliqués, contemporary paper lanterns hanging off the ceilings, neko fukus, pervasive dinnerware with calligraphic eggplants and Japanese characters of ‘delicious’ printed on them (purchased from the supermarket up the block), roasted rice tea, beige booths and uniformed wait staff, which are all too familiar. And on the other end of that familiar, maybe clichéd, spectrum there are the darker dining rooms in the city full of red, black and fancy wood, but these are nothing more than the Chinese whispers of sushi reviews from the past which are cause for nothing more than snap judgments for every all-you-can-eat sushi place.

Sushi Star has rare oddities, like deep fried milk for dessert, pork bone soup (sans the bones and pork, sadly), sushi rolls stuffed with nothing more than avocado and pineapple (surprisingly refreshing), plum wine (inexpensive plum wine), a selection of kind of real ramen noodles- or lo mein- or lao mian- or pulled noodles- on the menu; even purple yams. I didn’t think I’d ever find such individuality in any all-you-can-eat menu; there was even grilled saury. Never mind the misspellings on the thing, at least it was manageable. I wasn’t bombarded with infinite options like I usually am at other all-you-can-eat spots. And have no fear of being left out if you go for lunch, what’s kept exclusively to the dinner menu is comfortably small. There are only four kinds of raw fish offered (but all kinds of sushi) which I actually appreciate and interpreted as taking seriously the food offered.

Sushi Star really is its own world. It has wait staff that devotedly beckon to every whim and happily write down what you want, rather than giving a slip. I’ve commented on my displeasure at this choice of service in the past, but the wait staff had an exceptional charm.

The food wasn’t matchless, but it did offer up some great distinction: mackerel sushi with dollops of pureed ginger for example on rather thin and well balanced fingers of sticky rice (no wasabi underneath though). What really impressed my company and I was the temperature of the raw fish, never cold, but tempered to the climate of the room. Usually, we as eaters assume cold raw fish means it’s fresh, but in reality a fish pulled out of the ocean never comes from some underwater fridge. Some rolls could have used a little more rice, as the layers were so thin the nori peered through, and our curry chicken was a muddy sauce of salt. But for every yin, there’s a yang; our shredded crab pizza had a thinner base than other places and was easy to put in our mouths, the sauce of red peppers and spicy mayonnaise lending itself perfectly to the charred flavor of rice deep fried in a bread crumb coating. The deep fried scallops were a little leathery, but pea sized and easy to pop into our mouths. Dumplings were peppery but with a refreshing vinegar tang, and our seaweed salad not sweet at all like most places, but rather savory, though sometimes sinewy. The food ebbed and flowed between us. And though it wasn’t perfect, Sushi Star just has too many good qualities to disqualify altogether.


Sushi Star

450 King St. E., Kitchener, ON N2G 2L6
519 584 2341

Mon-thur 11:30-10:30
Fri-Sat 11:30-11:00
Sunday 12:00 – 10:30
Lunch Mon-Thurs 12.99 Fri-Sun 13.99
Dinner 19.99 20.99

All methods of payment accepted


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