It doesn’t matter if I’ve had sushi just last week or last meal, I’m always up for more. On my last trip to Calgary, I had noticed that my favorite all you can eat spot from my gluttonous past, Sushi Kai, was no longer there. In its place was Red Ember (609 14 Street NW), which has been getting a lot of love on Urbanspoon lately. So I guess I had pretty high expectations going in.
My first impression of Red Ember was that the décor wasn’t markedly different from Sushi Kai, which isn’t a bad thing as the restaurant has an intimate, modern feel to it. We were cheerfully greeted and quickly seated. Looking at the menu, I noticed that the prices of special rolls and entrees were on average ~$2-$3 higher than the menu I’d seen online on Red Ember’s Facebook page, which I found surprising considering the restaurant has been open less than a year.
My companion decided on the chirashi, while I settled for individual pieces of salmon, mackerel, and white tuna. We also ordered two special rolls to share (the rainbow roll and the Flames roll).
A little after we ordered, our waitress brought over a complimentary appetizer, which changes regularly. It happened to be tempura salmon that night, which was nicely seasoned and quite tasty. As there were only three other tables seated, we were expecting the rest of our food to come out rather quickly; however, we ended up waiting almost half an hour. Was the food worth the wait? Maybe it was due to all the favorable reviews I’d read, but I was expecting a lot more. My companion mentioned that the chirashi was much smaller than he’d expected, and for $16.95 I wouldn’t consider it great value. My sushi and sashimi were generously sized, and tasted decently fresh. The rolls, though beautifully plated, tasted quite average and were actually smaller than I’d expected “special” rolls to be. When we’d first placed our order, it had sounded like a lot of food, but we easily finished it off.
All in all, the service was really friendly and the ambiance of the restaurant was quite nice, but the food, though beautifully plated, was only average in taste and value. I was definitely disappointed that prices had gone up so noticeably in such a short time, and without being updated on the restaurant’s website, which is a pet peeve of mine. For $60 between two people, I’d expected a lot more. Perhaps I simply hadn’t ordered the right things, but based on this visit, I can’t say I’d make a special trip to come here again.