The Sushi Lunch Special Series – Shrimp Tempura & Spicy BBQ Butter Fish Rolls at Sakae Sushi on Mount Pleasant!

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It must be the week of new foodie districts on the blog!  Earlier in the week we paid our very first visit to Fresh on Crawford, yesterday and the day before we explored a tiny part of Ossington Ave. and Ossington Village with an amazing Cuabn lunch at Delux, and today, we’re doing sushi for lunch on Mount Pleasant Road!  Aside from my cupcake post on Lollicakes last Hallowe’en, I haven’t featured any yummies from the neighbourhood since.  There are some fabulous cafes, sweet shops, gourmet food purveyors, and classic Italian restaurants in the area and while you wouldn’t automatically associate sushi with Mount Pleasant, I have found a great spot, one with a terrific sushi roll lunch special and a classic appetizer at a great price: Sakae Sushi!

Located at 643A on Mount Pleasant Rd., Sakae Sushi is an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner with a separate, non AYCE menu.  I actually found out about Sakae Sushi just by walking by and grabbing a take-out menu from the front entrance during a nice walk several months ago.  I pored over the menu, realized they had a fab sushi roll lunch special 7 days a week, and had an epiphany about something very important and useful.  I realized that with all the sushi take-out menus I had I could actually start price comparing and cross-referencing items from different sushi spots in the city.       

We know many of them serve some of the same types of rolls and similar dishes, but how many of us truly know where the best bargain is between them all?  I don’t think any of do because it’s virtually impossible to know the price points at every single sushi spot in town.  But I know my method would at least narrow things down a little bit.  And that’s how I came to the conclusion that, in addition to a great sushi roll lunch special, Sakae Sushi has one of the most reasonably priced classic appetizers around.  It may not be the most inexpensive, but it’s definitely one of them.  Which appetizer am I referring to?  Why, the classic shrimp tempura of course!

Shrimp tempura, one of the simplest and most beloved sushi appetizers around, is oddly enough, not as readily available as one might think.  Now obviously we’re not taking into account AYCE menus, we’re talking straight lunch, dinner, and a la carte menus.  I LOVE shrimp tempura like nobody’s business, but so many places serve it along with tempura vegetables and not on their own and I always wished that I could order the shrimp by itself without the vegetable component just because I prefer my vegetables non-tempurafied.

Once I started cross-referencing items between menus, I discovered that there were a handful of places that served the appetizer on it own.  YES!  Now, all I had to do was figure out which one offered the best deal.  Guess who came out on top?  Sakae Sushi, with 5 giant, crunchy, delicious shrimp tempura for $6.50!  Other places priced theirs for $8, some places didn’t offer as many pieces for the same price point, and so on.  Their shrimp tempura is fantastic.  They’re big, they’re perfectly fried (not greasy), and the shrimp is so soft and delicious.  They come with a dish of ponzu sauce, but in all honesty, the sauce isn’t even necessary because they taste fab on their own.

Sakae Sushi also offers a number of lunch specials including grilled meat bento boxes and my favourite, sushi roll combos!  One of the reasons why I like their sushi roll lunch special is because I get to mix and match and choose which rolls I want.  For $7.50, the lunch special includes a miso soup, a salad, and your choice of two kinds of sushi rolls from a list of 13 with 6 of each kind.  Sure, there are places that offer sushi roll lunch specials for $6.50 or $6.99, but like I said, the roll sets aren’t predetermined and the sizes of the rolls here are big and very reasonable.  As well, their sushi roll selection is great in my opinion because they offer vegetarian options, you aren’t limited to california rolls in every single combo (my biggest pet peeve), and there are some rolls you can’t really get anywhere else.

I chose a tofu and avocado roll and – wait for this – a SPICY BBQ BUTTER FISH ROLL!  I was SO excited to see this when I looked through their take-out menu in the beginning just because butter fish rolls aren’t something you find at many places and certainly not spicy BBQ varieties!  I was really happy with the size of the rolls (one roll makes a veeery decent mouthful) and my rolls were delicious.  The avocado was creamy, the tofu was savoury with a bit of sweet mixed in and the texture was wonderful as it resembled bean curd sheets. 

The spicy BBQ butter fish rolls were A-MAZING!  The butter fish wasn’t in its raw sashimi form but instead, grilled and incredibly flaky and meaty and delicious.  Exactly like a grilled salmon fillet, but butter fish.  The rolls were stuffed with flaky grilled fish, tempura bits, and sweet and savoury BBQ sauce in between it all.  It had a little bit of kick, but for those of you who have a low tolerance for heat, no worries, it’s not light-my-mouth-and-butt on fire spicy.  Lots of flavour and texture without the fire!  This is a top notch roll and definitely one of the more unique ones in the city when it comes to lunch special offerings.

Ever since Haru Zushi by Yonge & Davisville left my heart broken when they packed up, I haven’t been able to find another sushi spot that let me mix and match rolls the way their menu allowed me to do – until now.  Sakae Sushi is a lovely spot in a lovely neighbourhood and I’m going to be really happy going back for more.  Especially for that awesome shrimp tempura. 

*****

Sakae Sushi is located at 643A Mount Pleasant Rd. at the corner of Hillsdale Ave. East on the east side of Mount Pleasant, south of Eglinton Ave. East.  They are open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner and offer AYCE for both.  They are open from 11:30am-10pm from Monday to Friday and from 12 noon-10pm on weekends.  They provide take-out and delivery, and you can view their official website HERE.

The Sushi Lunch Special Series – Dynamite & Avocado Rolls, and Rice & Noodle Sets Galore at Sushi One

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Lunch just keeps getting better and better.  With Toronto Lunchtime Office Markets to look forward to and an infinite number of sushi bar lunch specials to tick off the list one by one, lunch is at its finest.  I’ve always loved looking through sushi bar menus (100 items?!  That should keep me occupied for awhile!), but ever since I started the Sushi Lunch Special series last month with Sushi Sky, I’ve been paying extra, careful attention to menus with the best lunch special variety and deals.  I’ve even spent some afternoons in the last month just browsing take-out menus and doing online searches with The Food Network on tv in the background.  Obsessed?  I prefer to call it enthusiasism. 

Over the past few weeks I’ve come across a handful of new sushi places (new to me, not new to the city) in North York and west Eglinton that I’m so excited to eventually try, thanks to the nice weather and my walking shoes that took me around different neighbourhoods in town.  But I have to hand it to the online community for introducing me to unchartered territories and by online community, I mean the e-mails that flood my inbox every single day.  Let it be known that I subscribe to almost every single collective buying site: Groupon, Living Social, Dealfind, Team Buy, you name it, I’ve probably subscribed to it.  Regardless of whether or not I’m interested in anything I receive in my inbox, it’s an amazing resource.  I know there are mixed feelings and opinions concerning the politics of doing business this way, but at the very least, these sites have really helped me get to know businesses I never would have been aware of otherwise.          

Each time I see something I might be interested in revisiting in the future, I tuck the e-mail away in a special folder to review at a later date.  Thanks to Dealfind, Sushi One caught my eye as a prospective place to check out.  Thus, lunch at Sushi One has been a long time coming.  A REALLY long time.  Since LAST MARCH long time.  I was shocked out of my pants when I went back to give the e-mail I had saved a quick once-over and saw the date of the e-mail: March 24, 2011.  Good god.  I know I take my sweet time getting to certain spots (it’s a big city!), but this is embarrassing.  Oh well.  I least I have a delicious sushi lunch to show you all now.

Sushi One, located on Yonge Street in North York just north of Sheppard Ave., is a fabulous sushi lunch spot.  Not only are their lunch special prices enticing, their selection is to die for.  We’re talking 10 sushi roll combinations, 12 Japanese rice and noodle options, and 6 special lunch combos.  That’s 28 items alone and that’s not even scratching the surface of their regular dine-in menu.  I thought Sushi Sky‘s lunch special deals couldn’t be beat but I was wrong.  While I still stand by the lunch meal set I had (soup, salad, 12 rolls, and 2 salmon sashimi cakes) at Sushi Sky as being in the Top 5 best and The Sushi Shop as my absolute favourite spot for rolls, Sushi One’s selection and prices are out of this world (21 items ring in at only $6.50) and I would have to come here at least another 6 times just to try all the ones I’m in love with.  My hit list includes the curry mushroom rice, curry tofu rice, mushroom udon in soup, the maki lunch bento, the salmon lover lunch, and the mushroom udon with sushi lunch.  What I have for you all today: the simple, yet delicious, dynamite and avocado roll lunch special set.

Sushi One has 10 different roll combinations as part of their lunch special menu and what makes these sets so appealing is the price combined with amount of rolls.  With the exception of one item, all rice, noodle, and roll meal sets in the lunch special menu are priced at $6.50.  Half of Sushi Sky’s lunch menu comes in at $6.99 and Sushi on Bloor has theirs at the same price point, so $6.50 is ridiculously reasonable in the context of sushi.  Furthermore, their roll sets come with 14 rolls as opposed to 12, which is the amount many and most places offer.  The rolls at Sushi One aren’t the largest, mind you, (that award goes to Sushi on Bloor’s lunch rolls) but they’re delicious and of good quality so that’s what I take away from it. 

Almost all their lunch specials include soup and salad (a few of the larger sets come with one or the other as opposed to both) and while I know salad is probably nothing to get to excited about, I love the salad that comes with sushi lunch specials.  They’re always so fresh and crunchy and made with the yummiest mix of Thousand Island dressing and vinegar at most places.  I know, I go out for sushi and I get excited about the salad!  It’s a highlight worth mentioning though!

In terms of the rolls, the great thing about Sushi One’s rolls is that they aren’t overloaded with sushi rice.  It’s a necessary component, yes, but it’s a turn-off when you’re given rolls that are disproportionately made with rice as opposed to filling.  It’s the filling that you are primarily paying for and when you’re stiffed in that manner, it just doesn’t sit well.  Their rolls were drizzled with a sweet sauce that gave the rolls a mix of sweet and savoury flavour and all the rolls were incredibly soft.  It’s a great sushi spot and one of the best for lunch for more than one person because you can totally go crazy and mix and match for the purposes of sharing without blowing up your wallet.  I am beyond excited to go back and inhale a bowl of curry mushroom rice or mushroom udon in the near future! 

*****

Sushi One is located at 4924 Yonge Street in North York on the west side of Yonge, north of Elmhurst Ave., in between North York Centre and Sheppard subway stations.  From Monday-Friday they are open at 11am and at 12 noon on weekends.  Their lunch specials are served from 11am-4pm.  You can view their website and menu here.

Salmon Cakes and My Bento Box Brother – Sushi Sky and Quite Possibly, the Best Lunch Special in Town

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Who knew a simple lunch special of salmon, avocado, and white tuna sushi rolls could breathe new life into my love of sushi?  Much like the cupcake funk and rut I was in wallowing in over the holidays, I wanted to approach my sushi story-telling from a different angle, a different standpoint.  Even after my giddiness over Ginza’s menu changes, I still felt like I needed a little more “umph” to really get my inspiration fired up again.  After over a year of posting about some of my favourite sushi bars, rolls, and dishes, I was totally reinspired this past weekend and it feels great! 

My lunch at Sushi Sky started off like any other sushi lunch.  At least, I thought it would be like every other sushi lunch – but it wasn’t.  In hindsight, everything about this meal was different from what I was accustomed to (albeit unintentionally) and that’s part of the reason why it ended up being so great.  For starters, I was with my family.  Let it be known that aside from all-you-can-eat sushi places, I never go out for sit-down sushi with my entire family.  Ever.  With my mum and brother, occasionally, yes, but not with my dad in tow.  Long story short, he’s not a fan of sushi rolls so my family and I just haven’t bothered going that route.  Second, I almost always dive for the book menu and start paging through it vigorously, excitedly scoping out the different types of rolls, sets, and appetizers.  This time though, I flipped through the menu half-heartedly, almost as if there was something else seeking my attention.  And there was: Sushi Sky’s lunch specials menu.

I know, I know.  The lunch specials menu at sushi restaurants often have the best deals, price-wise, so it’s odd how I don’t lunge for those menus first, yes?  Well, I have a confession to make.  Many lunch special menus have a combination of teriyaki meat items, teriyaki bento boxes, cucumber rolls, and california rolls with a few other dishes here and there and truth be told, I have avoided many lunch special menus because of that.  I dislike teriyaki, cucumber rolls, and california rolls.  I KNOW.  There are things Deb actually doesn’t like!  You can all collectively gasp now.  I’m aware that I gush on and on about the things I love on Ate by Ate, giving the impression that I simply love everything and have no dislikes.  I may embrace many foods and I may be open to trying many things I haven’t tried before, but in all honesty, these are three things I just don’t touch.

How, then, did Sushi Sky’s lunch special menu capture my attention?  It captivated me with the help of my family, that’s how.  Everyone was gazing so intently at the double-sided menu that I became curious and thought, “what is all the fuss about?”  So I looked and almost gasped when I realized what I had been missing out on during my first visit last month.  Split into two pricing categories ($4.99 specials and $6.99 specials), there were the standard teriyaki items and california rolls, yes, but it was the other menu options that had completely bypassed me the previous time.

Yummies from my first visit!

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