I Heart Sushi Shop: The Smoky Salmon & Avocado Hand Roll and Cream Cheese & Sun-Dried Tomato Rolls

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When I eat at sushi places, it’s kind of like playing a mental game of Where’s Waldo.  I’ll scan the menu, mentally discard the options that I don’t care for (those who clearly don’t look like Waldo), take mental notes of the ones I might be interested in and remind myself to go back to them to reconsider (the areas that are really busy and confusing that need greater attention a bit later if I don’t find Waldo after the first go-around), and the kinds that make me squeal with excitement and convince me via words and/or pictures that I NEED to try this.  Cue the sushi radar alarm: Ding-ding-ding, meep-meep-meep, Waldo has been spotted!  No further searching necessary 😀  That is certainly what happened my first time eating at Sushi Shop; my sushi radar was on overload!  So many rolls that encompassed my two sushi weaknesses all rolled into one: salmon and cream cheese!  I love trying different things at sushi places, but those are the two things I can never resist.

I love cream cheese so much, and I’m also a sucker for things like pesto and sundried-tomato, so the Akanasu rolls (a set of 6) with creamy, tangy light cream cheese, sundried-tomato, and sesame seeds, were a total no-brainer for me.  It’s like this sushi bar and I were meant to be!  And all the Sumomaki rolls (sets of 5 large rolls) are also offered as hand roll varieties so I salivated a la Homer Simpson style at the description of the Smoky: fresh salmon sashimi, thick slices of avocado, orange masago (fish roe), spicy light mayo and sauce, and a huge truckload dumping of crunchy tempura, all wrapped up in sushi rice and seaweed.  Hand rolls are fun because 1) who doesn’t like food you can eat with your hands?? and 2) it’s like a sushi taco or burrito, woohoo!  Every mouthful is pure deliciousness.

Oh gosh, this meal had “Deb” written all over it ❤  Salmon and avocado are pretty basic staples in a lot of sushi and of course, freshness always plays a role in how good it is (frozen salmon?  no, thanks.  Lukewarm salmon?  I’ll pass on that too, ew) but what really makes this fantastic (besides the freshness of those two things) is the crunchy tempura and spicy sauce.  It is texture like you wouldn’t believe.  You have the smoothness of the salmon, the buttery meltiness of the avocado, and then the crunch from the tempura that just explodes and melts in your mouth.  Imagine the crunchiness of amazing onion rings.  It’s like that only in my opinion, even ten times better than that!  And don’t even get me started on how lip smackin’ my cream cheese and sundried tomato rolls were!  Sushi Shop is my absolute favourite and I’ll be hard pressed to find one that rivals the quality, freshness, and uniqueness that it offers.  But that’s fine by me.  Mental games of Where’s Waldo sushi-style are amusing 😀

*****

The Sushi Shop is located at the intersection of Yonge and Carlton St. (3 Carlton St.), with 2 other take-out locations serving the downtown core, one being in the GO train station concourse and the other near Maple Leaf Square at 25 York St (closed Saturday and Sunday).  According to Google map, there is also a location on Bloor St. E at 175 Bloor St.E (Saturday and Sunday closed as well).

Scrapbook materials used: purple, bubblegum pink, pale pink, and emerald green cardstock (Recollections); white paper; patterned alphabet stickers (K&Company); silver alphabet stickers (Sticko); magenta, pink, and purple adhesive gems; flower paper punch; medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); black Sharpie felt tip marker.

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Check the Clock: It’s Sushi Time! Deb’s Favourite Spicy Tuna Rolls and Green Tea Cheesecake

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If you can believe it, the very first time I went to a sushi restaurant or bar was only 2 and a half years ago.  You’d think with all the layouts I post each week and how much I yammer on about rolls that I had been eating sushi for over a decade.  But nope, Sushi Time on Queen St. West was the first sushi place I had ever been to and I’ve been back about 4 times since because I had so much fun that very first time.  I know, what a monster I’ve become within that time period!  😀  However, that’s not to say that I had never eaten sushi before then.  I had been to a number of AYCE (all you can eat) places that served sushi with my family prior to that night, but there’s just so much variation between eateries that you’re bound to be introduced to new things every time you go, and it’s just a different feeling going out for a night on the town and going to a place you’d never been to before.

Going to Sushi Time was uber fun because it was a place of many “firsts” for me: the first time I had sushi pizza: crispy breaded sushi rice with thick slices of salmon sashimi draped over, chopped green onions, and a nice drizzling of mayo sauce!  And my favourite “firsts” from Sushi Time: amazingly yummy spicy tuna rolls and GREEN TEA CHEESECAKE!!!  *skips around the room with glee*  I’ve had spicy tuna many ways and I have to say that Sushi Time’s is my favourite and oh my goodness, the green tea cheesecake. 

Although a lot of sushi restaurants serve some desserts, I find that the dessert selection is rather limited and a sweet tooth like myself needs some sugar!  And Sushi Time delivers.  Some places serve ice cream in flavours like mango, vanilla, green tea, and red bean, others also offer mango pudding, tempura ice cream, or deep fried banana with ice cream.  And don’t get me wrong, I looooove ice cream.  But out of all the places I’ve been to thus far, Sushi Time is the only place that has green tea cheesecake (if someone can prove me wrong, please do, haha!)  and it is so fantastically delicious.  

Most of the time, I avoid ordering the same things when I go back to place; I just enjoy trying out different things off a menu.  But the cheesecake?  I can’t resist it.  I gotta have this sweet morsel of yumminess every time I go and each time is just as great as the last.  It’s a mesh of rich tangy cheesecake with a hint of herbalness and a well-rounded taste of powdery matcha all rolled into one.  It makes my heart melt ❤

And since we’re on the topic of firsts, here’s another one: the top layout, with the picture of the sushi pizza and the picture of me eating said green tea cheesecake, is the very first food scrapbook layout I ever did.  Yup! 😀  I’ve done countless holiday themed pages, friendship ones, art ones, and even a prom book before that.  But the layout you see at the top is my first foodie one and for that reason, very special and sentimental to me ❤

*****

Sushi Time is located at 325 Queen St. West, in between University and Spadina Ave.  Situated east of Spadina, it’s just past McCaul St. on the south side of Queen.

Scrapbooking materials used: pale celery green, sky blue, and powder blue cardstock (DCVW); red, burgundy, and gray textured construction paper; cream cardstock with silver rosebud embossing (Curry’s Art Store Ltd.); red alphabet stickers (Recollections); silver alphabet stickers (Sticko); sushi stickers (Jolee’s), adhesive gems; 5-petal flower paper punch (ek success).

The Irresistible Haru Zushi Rolls

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The 12 roll, totally awesome lunch special from Haru Zushi!  From 11am to 3pm, one of the numerous lunch specials includes choosing 2 sets of 6 rolls (12 rolls)  for $6.75, or 3 kinds (18 rolls) for $9.75.  The very first post I did for my blog was for Haru Zushi and I have plenty more to share from the last time.  This time around we have 6 tuna rolls and 6 Easter rolls: crab meat, cucumber, and smoked salmon.  I’m usually indifferent about crab meat in my sushi, but smoked salmon hits the spot *cue salivating*. 

I’m all over salmon sashimi like mud on a pig, but with smoked salmon, there’s just something about that bold, salty, savouriness that heightens any kind of plain rice, pasta, or bread.  With these rolls, you get the freshness from the cucumber, the meatiness from the crab, and the punching flavour from the smoked salmon.  Awesomeness! 😀

From the set lunch list that you choose your rolls from, Ive tried the Philadelphia, the Alaska, the Boston, the Easter, the spicy white tuna, the regular tuna, and the spicy salmon and my ultimate weakness is the Alaska, good old fashioned salmon and avocado.  I know this one is a staple among all sushi restaurants, but Haru Zushi makes theirs hyperventiliatingly good!  I am telling you, heaven in your mouth.  There will be many more pictures and posts to come on this great place, ranked #2 in my personal favourites 😀

 

Scrapbooking materials used: string of adhesive pearls (Recollections); cappuccino, mint green, bubblegum pink, and powder pink cardstock (Recollections); adhesive gems; one-hole punch.

The Dizzying Array of Choices at Sushi on Bloor! Salmon Crunch & Spicy Tuna Crunch Rolls

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I am not joking with my post title.  Other than Queen Street West, if sushi restaurants and bars were people, Bloor Street West would have to be one of the most densely populated!  Walking westbound from Spadina to Bathurst, you literally pass by a different sushi establishment every four shops.  I kid you not.  And yes, if you are wondering, I have already been to several *whistles innocently*.  Surprise, surprise.  Given how many sushi places are in this area though, it’s going to take me quite some time to make my rounds, especially considering how large many of the menus are these places!  What I have for you today is some food porn from Sushi on Bloor (how appropriately named!), located at 515 Bloor St. W. (west of Spadina, east of Bathurst).

Now, with so many sushi places in the city to nosh at, it can get dizzying and you start wondering what sets each place apart from the rest.  Thus far I’ve posted about Haru Zushi and The Sushi Shop, as well as some thoughts on some decent maki rolls from T&T supermarket, Promenade Mall location.  Besides freshness and great customer service, Haru Zushi sells itself with terrific prices and variety for lunch specials, and The Sushi Shop impresses with their creativity and interpretation of ingredients for their rolls.

Sushi on Bloor is fab for several things in particular.  First, the sheer number of menu items on the menu would send anyone into a tizzy.  There are nearly 150 menu items!  Aside from their daily lunch specials which include maki combinations and bento boxes, their menu is broken down into maki rolls, vegetarian maki, nigiri and handrolls a la carte, sashimi combos, soup and salads, appetizers, teriyaki meat dishes, tempura and rice meals, noodles and udon bowls, and bento boxes among others.  In addition, the prices are very reasonable for a sushi bar and restaurant.  Many items hover around the $5-$8 price range which makes it easy to mix and match and is an ideal place for either lunch or dinner.  Or both!

Just a word of warning though: Sushi on Bloor is open for business 7 days a week at 12 noon, as opposed to Haru Zushi which opens at 11am and The Sushi Shop which opens at 10-11am depending on the location.  On weekdays during the busy lunch rush, you better be there at 12 sharp.  12:15 if you’re pushing it.  This place isn’t very big and it gets PACKED!  There are literally line-ups out the door and hungry sushi lovers even claim their place in line a little before 12 noon to make sure they have a lunch spot.

Everyone has different meal preferences when it comes to sushi restaurants.  My best friend prefers bento boxes whereas I stick to maki rolls, hand rolls, and appetizers.  My brother, my mum, and my boyfriend all enjoy teriyaki while I steer clear and would much rather nosh on a bowl of udon noodles.  My favourite things about Sushi on Bloor have to be their avocado and dynamite roll (rolls with tempura shrimp) lunch special ($5.99 for soup, salad, and 12 giant rolls, 6 of each), their maki roll selection (I could eat my way through their maki menu every single day because they’re just that delicious), and their hand rolls.

 

The rolls are BIG!  The size of rolls at Sushi on Bloor are always consistently on the larger size which, in my opinion, is a great thing.  The last thing you want to feel is disappointed.  The kind of disappointed you feel when you finish your meal and you wonder what the heck you’ve eaten because you can’t feel it in your tummy.  However you may feel about the sushi and the food, everyone can agree that the sizes of the rolls don’t disappoint.

Their hand rolls are also on the larger side and their salmon hand roll is fantastic.  The roll is the size of small burrito (I like to think of hand rolls as sushi tacos) and the salmon sashimi is sliced nice and thick and absolutely scrumptious.  I really enjoy the salmon at Sushi on Bloor because it has this wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth buttery texture and it’s served at the right temperature.  Some places make the mistake of either serving it lukewarm or freezing cold and neither of these qualities make the salmon taste good.  

Thus far, I have tried these rolls from Sushi on Bloor:

  1. Avocado and tempura shrimp rolls daily lunch combo (12 rolls, 6 of each)
  2. Casa Loma Roll (unagi/eel, avocado, tobiko/fish roe, and cream cheese – 8 rolls)
  3. Spicy Tuna Roll (6 rolls)
  4. Crunchy Roll (pictured; salmon, avocado, tobiko, tempura bits, mayo – 8 rolls)
  5. Spicy Tuna Crunchy Roll (pictured; tuna, avocado, tobiko, tempura bits, mayo – 8 rolls)
  6. Tuna Salad Roll (tuna and ginger wrapped with cucumber with dollops of mayo – 4 rolls)

My favourites?  Both types of Crunchy Roll, salmon and tuna, hands down.  Not only am I in love with the way the salmon and tuna melt in your mouth with the avocado, but the tempura bits make these rolls outstanding!  My next favourite would have to be the Casa Loma roll because the savouriness of the unagi just melts into the creamy, tangy cream cheese and anything and everything with cream cheese floats my boats.  My only misgiving about the Casa Loma roll is just a desire for more cream cheese!  Call it personal preference, call it a cream cheese obsession, I would love to have more of it in the roll!  I thoroughly enjoy it though and I’m really looking forward to trying other rolls!  The selection of rolls and appetizers alone will keep me occupied here for many meals to come. 

*****

Sushi on Bloor is located at 515 Bloor Street West between Spadina Ave. and Bathurst Street on the south side of Bloor.  Sushi on Bloor is closer to Bathurst Street, just west of Howland Ave.  They are open 7 days a week at 12pm and they also offer take-out.

The Sushi Shop – Building a Relationship in an Absolute Gem

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Have you ever been to a place and automatically, the moment you stepped inside, you felt as though you happened upon an absolute gem?  This is how I felt when Richard and I first stumbled upon The Sushi Shop on one of our treks to Allan Gardens during this past September.  Located right at the intersection of Yonge and Carlton St. (the eastbound neighbour to College St.), I literally did a double take when we passed by the window of the shop where posters of colourful sushi rolls met my gaze with cute names like Miami, Inferno, and Vancouver.  Call me a sucker for downright good advertising, but right then and there, I knew this place was the place to be and one I felt utterly compelled to check out.  And check out I did!  With an adorable blue fishy logo and fresh green and purple decor, this sushi spot delivers the most amazing maki rolls you could ever imagine sinking your teeth into.  Yes, that’s right, Deb has a favourite.  Y’all know I’ve been to a number of sushi places over the years and this place, my friends, is my numero uno.  There are only 3 words to describe how delicious their rolls are: OH.MY.GOD.

If you are crazy for rolls the way I am, I am telling you, THIS is your hot spot.  The menu boasts over 30 kinds of maki combinations, along with nigiri sushi, rice paper spring rolls, fuji bowls, and other appetizers like shrimp tempura and edamame beans.  Looking at the placemat sized menu was dizzying and exciting at the same time.  If you’re eating out with me, probably frustrating as well as I am quite possibly the most indecisive person on the face of the earth.  I whimper when I can’t decide on what I want because I want everything (cue frantic flipping of menu pages and whiplash head movements back and forth).  True story. 

Not only are they unique in specializing in maki, but they’re also all sorts of special in how they serve their portions.  We’re accustomed to seeing servings of rolls in denominations of 6 or 8 and although they have many to choose from in those two amounts, they have a HUGE selection of what is referred to as sumomaki: 5 extra large rolls in mouthwatering combinations such as snow crab, smoky salmon, and sun-dried tomato pesto, just to name a few.  You can think of sumomaki as 10 regular-sized rolls as each sumomaki roll is equivalent to two.  These are honking amazing.  My heart almost leapt in my throat when my eyes fell on the Fusion sumomaki roll: rolls with grilled salmon, basil pesto rice sprinkled with sesame seeds, cream cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, and snow pea sprouts (cue Deb breathing into a paper bag).  You don’t understand.  I love basil pesto.  And I love cream cheese.  If you will recall from my list of 7 Secrets, I will eat cream cheese by the spoonful.  So to find sushi that encompasses BOTH?  Well, it certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out!  Green tea is complimentary with your meal.

I cannot sing enough praises about The Sushi Shop.  The quality of ingredients and artistry is just second to none.  You instinctively know when you taste and eat something that it is truly above and beyond.  Richard and I have been back a number of times and each time has been fantastic.  Not one time have we ever been disappointed and not just with the food, but with the service.  Remember how I said at the beginning of the post, that this place was a gem?  I was referring not just to the food, but to the people who work here.  The guys who make the sushi and run the shop are so very nice and they truly appreciate their customers.  They take the utmost care in delivering quality to your plate and with every ding of the bell at the front entrance and exit, you know that people who come here are happy and they have been great to us.

Having worked in the retail and service industry for 4 years, I know the trials and tribulations that come along with the territory.  Respect is reciprocal.  It is neither owed nor granted automatically.  And it warms my heart knowing that the appreciation for food and good service, as well as hard work, are at the top here.  After paying for my meal, one of the sushi chefs looked at me and asked if I spoke Cantonese.  I responded yes.  He then proceded to converse with me in Cantonese, talking about living and working in Toronto and I shyly spoke to him, telling him how much I enjoyed the food.  He struck up a conversation with Richard (in English, mind you) and it was a great moment.  A moment where you knew a common ground had been laid, and a relationship and rapport had been built.  I loved their food and they were grateful for my patronage.  Each time I go, I thank them and they wave goodbye and thank me in Cantonese as I walk out the door.  I smile and think, “nah, with food this good, the pleasure is all mine”.

*****

The Sushi Shop is located at the intersection of Yonge and Carlton St. (3 Carlton St.), with 2 other take-out locations serving the downtown core, one being in the GO train station concourse and the other near Maple Leaf Square at 25 York St (closed Saturday and Sunday).  According to Google map, there is also a location on Bloor St. E at 175 Bloor St.E (Saturday and Sunday closed as well).

I Bite My Thumb at You – The Undoing of a Sushi Snob

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I admit it: I’m a sushi snob.  I enjoy eating at sit-down places with nice atmosphere and cute plates and beautiful presentations of food (dude, how else do you explain my snap happiness??).  I love the excitement of going to an old-favourite and being  comforted by the people around me and the familiar menu, as well as new places I’ve never stepped foot in for that rush of anticipation just as your plate is set down before you.  And cucumber rolls?  Please, I am not paying whatever I’m paying to eat the least adventurous maki roll on the face of this earth.  However, when something tastes really good, it doesn’t matter where you’re eating it.  I can sit in a cave and be happy with the food that I love.  Point is, we all have our preferences for where we like to eat, what type of environment we like to eat in, and certain places and circumstances we swear  we won’t ever succumb ourselves to.  

Ask anyone: I’m very “meh” when it comes to sushi served in supermarkets and/or mall food courts.  Often, the rice is either too hard, too cold, or the ingredients inside are being buried alive by rice to the point where you might as well consider your meal a starch compenent to your day and nothing more.  But, but…the scrapbook pages show sushi from MAC Sushi and T&T!  That’s right, your sushi queen over here has been knocked down a peg and quite content about that, actually.  When you find something yummy, you hold on to it for dear life and what’s yummy are these rolls right here.  I’m spoiled because I have 3 T&T supermarkets that are fairly accessible to me and let me tell you from experience, if you want a lovely selection of sushi, GO TO THE T&T PROMENADE MALL LOCATION! (in Thornhill, intersection of Bathurst St. and Centre St.).  Don’t go too early though as they won’t be ready with everything; show up around noon-ish and you’ll be good to go. 

Remember how I said I love the way sushi places have different interpretations of their maki?  And how I’ve had tuna (spicy and non-spicy) about 6 different ways?  This is one of them.  T&T serves their spicy tuna in a set of 8 with chunks of tabago and green onions/scallions sprinkled on top.  It’s delicious and you’ll notice a difference in the rice as well as the tuna as the tobiko and spicy sauce is mixed in the tuna, rather than bring sprinkled or drizzled on top, for example.  And lordy, don’t get me started on how much I love the sunrise rolls.  Salmon sashimi makes me wiggle with delight and the sunrise roll consists of 6 salmon sashimi rolls (or roses as they’re sometimes referred to) with crab meat salad inside, as well as slivers of avocado and tabago on  top.  Like my scrapbook says, it is heaven in your mouth as the soft sashimi just melts in it.

And finally, we have the ever attractive Rainbow roll from MAC Sushi, Scarborough Town Centre location.  I thank the ceiling windows in the food court for allowing for at least half decent photos!  Avocado, cucumber, and crab meat (think California roll) surrounded by a cozy blanket of avocado and salmon sashimi.  Not too shabby at all, especially when you go closer to the evening rush when everything is marked down half price 😀 

Really, that’s part of the fun of exploring food: learning what works for you and what doesn’t, and growing as a person because of it.  Opening yourself up to things you wouldn’t normally eat, or to things you think you hate but end up loving at another time can honestly introduce you to some of the greatest eats of your life.

       

Welcome to Ate by Ate! First stop: Haru Zushi

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Hi everyone, welcome to Ate by Ate!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally go live with this blog.  After thinking about it for months, I finally hunkered down and got my tooshie to work and here we are, launching with the first post! 😀  Feel free to roam around the pages up top.  I babble about food and scrapbooking and all that good stuff, so enjoy!  First stop: Haru Zushi.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love sushi.  No no, I don’t just love it, I daydream about it.  It’s the type of food I can never get bored with and it excites me finding new places I haven’t yet tried with new maki combinations, hand rolls, gyoza dumplings…oh, would you look at that, my stomach just rumbled.  Go figure.

you can tell I love adhesive gems, yes?

 Anyway, Haru Zushi (located at 1920 Yonge St. in Toronto, just outside Davisville subway station) is one of my FAVOURITE sushi places, definitely in my top 3.  And that’s saying a lot because I’ve been to many!  I first discovered this gem when I was with Richard, exploring the Davisville area back in April.  And I have been back MANY times.  The sushi chef (or see-foo, if I’m referring to him in Chinese) and the lovely waitress who works the 12 o’clock noon shift know me and ask me how I am as soon as I sit down at my favourite spot by the window (better for photos!).  It warms my heart ❤ 

What you see up top here is an 8×8 layout using purple and cream Recollections cardstock, ‘Purple Daze’ patterned paper, sushi stickers by Sticko, and adhesive gems up the wazoo (do ask if you’re curious about brands!).  The page features 2 kinds of maki rolls: spicy white tuna (up top and on the right) and the Boston roll (cucumber, lettuce, shrimp, and mayo).  I want to stick my face in them right now.  What I love about different sushi places is how they interpret their ingredients and rolls.  I’ve had spicy tuna 6 different ways and this is just one of them and by golly is it ever good. 

I love Haru Zushi not just because the food is fresh and delicious and beautifully presented, but also because of how affordable they are.  On weekdays during the lunch time period (which I believe is from 11-3 for them) they have fantastic specials and my favourite is the combo you see here: 12 rolls (2 kinds, your choice from a very decent sized list, of 6 each), and a miso soup and green tea for $6.75.  Any sushi lunch under $10 is fan-freakin’-tastic in my opinion!  What else seals the deal?  The fact that they open at 11am (for ravenous people like me) and their location in up/midtown Toronto means no elbowing people for a table at noon the same way you would on Bloor, for example.

Let it be known that you’ll be seeing many more pages and photos from this place because it’s damn good 😀

Boston Roll

Spicy white tuna