Friday, December 28, 2012

168 Sushi Asian Buffet - Ottawa, ON

One of the best things about being back home for the holidays is the holiday feasts! Among the roast turkey, stuffing, and mashed potato dinner, a tradition among my Ottawa friends and I is hitting up one of the numerous all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi restaurants in Ottawa. Of the various cities I have visited and resided in, Ottawa has one of the most vibrant and popular AYCE sushi cultures and 168 Sushi Asian Buffet is one of my favourite AYCE restaurants in town. Located at 1651 Merivale Road, 168 Sushi is conveniently nestled in the bustling neighborhood of Old Nepean and Meadowlands. Although not the hippest neighbourhood in the city, this beautifully chic restaurant – which features large, spacious booths and modern, vibrant decor – is easily accessible from all corners of Ottawa.

Personal Plate of Ginger and Wasabi
168 Sushi Asian Buffet has one main menu which features cold items including: sushi, maki rolls, hand rolls, etc. as well as hot items including: tempura, teriyaki, noodle bowls, dim sum, etc. Lunch is priced at $14.95 and features a limited (though still numerous and varied) AYCE menu; dinner is priced at $22.95 and features additional items including AYCE sashimi and special rolls including the Snow Roll, Ottawa Roll, and Gym Roll among many others. Like all AYCE sushi restaurants, the menu is quick and easy to order from; however, unlike other established AYCE sushi restaurants, 168 Sushi also offers a number of non-alcoholic beverages with unlimited refills!

Our party was seated quickly and we all received our personal plate of ginger and wasabi in a timely fashion. We started off our meal with some shrimp and yam tempura, fried squid calamari, and fried scallop. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of tempura and honestly, the tempura at 168 Sushi isn’t much different from other AYCE sushi restaurants in Ottawa. The tempura was fresh, hot, and had a nice tempura-batter crunch to it. However, compared to tempura at some of the more upscale sushi restaurants I’ve tried, 168 Sushi’s tempura batter does leave a bit more of an oily residue and the tempura dipping sauce is less than mediocre. The calamari and scallop were tender, moist, and cooked perfectly; however, the batter they used for the calamari and scallop were much too similar and left me yearning for the thin, flaky calamari batter I had tasted at other restaurants.

Left to Right: yam tempura and shrimp tempura, squid calamari and fried scallop

Next, we all ordered a round of seaweed salad. 168 Sushi is one of the few AYCE restaurants that does not restrict seaweed salad to its dinner menu and it is usually a favourite of mine. However, during this visit, my personal seaweed salad was soggy, limp, and tasted much too fishy for my liking. Other complaints from around the table included a strong “wasabi” taste mixed in, which can only speak to the inconsistency during preparation of the seaweed salad. Maybe for my next visit the chefs will prepare the light and fresh-tasting salad that has become a staple of my AYCE sushi experiences at 168 Sushi.

To keep the ball rolling, we ordered some rolls to share for the table: rainbow roll, salmon roll, spider roll, white tuna roll, and crispy roll. The rolls came out fairly quickly and we all let our appetites take over. The fish to rice ratio of 168 Sushi is usually fairly good and this time did not disappoint! The fish inside the rolls were fresh tasting and hit the spot for me instantly! However, the fish on top of the rainbow roll fell short of expectations – the pieces were thin, flimsy and were not nearly as fresh as the pieces inside.

Left to Right: (1) Seaweed Salad; (2) Spider Roll, Rainbow Roll, Salmon Roll

As my companion and I arrived a little later than the rest of the party, we decided to order a few extra dishes to top up our appetites. Following the rolls, we each ordered a salmon avocado hand roll. Both the seaweed and avocado were fresh and tasty! However, the piece of salmon inside was just a little too small for the amount of avocado and my hand roll ended up tasting more like an avocado roll than anything with fish in it.

As we waited for our sushi order, my companion decided to order two noodle bowls – hot and sour and seafood udon – while I ordered steak teriyaki, Kalbi short ribs, and miso soup. Although the seafood udon looked pleasing to the eye, as my companion dug through his soup, he quickly realized that the soup consisted more of boiled vegetables than of either seafood or udon. However, he did end up ordering another order of hot and sour soup, so there were no complaints there. As for myself, the steak teriyaki and Kalbi was cooked quite nicely to medium rare and was not tough, chewy, or dry as tends to be at other AYCE sushi restaurants. However, the sauce for the steak teriyaki was a tad too thick and I ended up enjoying the Kalbi short ribs much more. The miso soup tasted like every other miso soup I had ordered before, but was quite enjoyable and filled the void between my hand rolls and sushi.

Left to Right: salmon and avocado hand roll and seafood udon

Finally, our sushi order arrived: salmon rose, spicy salmon, spicy tuna, salmon sushi, and tuna sushi. The salmon rose featured two pieces of fresh salmon wrapped around a small ball of rice and topped by a dab of mayonnaise. It tasted as good as it looked – the fish was fresh, just the right amount of fattiness, and was highlighted by the little dab of mayonnaise. The spicy salmon and spicy tuna were very similar in taste: the spicy mayonnaise used to coat the salmon and tuna was explosive! It really hit the spot if you were looking for that fiery kick and it was a good thing I had unlimited iced tea refills. However, after eating each piece, I felt the spicy mayonnaise overpowered the salmon and tuna; I would not have minded a less explosive taste to allow the salmon and tuna taste to shine through a bit more. The salmon used for the sushi, like the salmon rose, was excellent! Perfect freshness and perfect fattiness. The tuna sushi, on the other hand, was dry and a little tasteless in comparison to its pink counterpart.

Left to Right: salmon sushi, white tuna sushi, salmon rose, spicy tuna sushi, spicy salmon sushi
An AYCE sushi meal is never complete without dessert! We ordered a fried banana (a traditional Vietnamese dessert) to share and our own personal bowls of ice cream. I ordered my usual – one scoop mango and one scoop green tea ice cream. The fried banana was surprisingly good! – the batter they used was light and much less oily than I had expected while the syrup added just the right amount of sweetness without overpowering the banana taste. The mango and green tea ice cream rounded out the meal perfectly as well and left me fully satiated and satisfied.

Green Tea and Mango Ice Cream
Compared to other more upscale sushi restaurants I have been to (and I have been to a lot), 168 Sushi Asian Buffet features sushi which ranges from average to above average in taste, uniqueness, and presentation. However, compared to other AYCE sushi restaurants, 168 Sushi offers excellent fish to rice ratio, fresher ingredients, a wider selection of items, and much friendlier service. And for a lunch price of only $14.95 (including unlimited drinks!) I don’t think I could ask for a better meal. I will definitely be back – maybe even before my short holiday break is over!

Top Pick of the Day: Salmon Rose


3.5/5 Erics

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