Sunday, January 13, 2013

Yamagoya Sushi - Fernie, BC

Big Bang Bagels was an amazing way to start off a day of snowboarding and my companion and I were looking for a similar end to our powder-packed day. Fernie Alpine Resort had opened their remaining runs (with the exception of Polar Peak) and we had more than our share of fresh powder, snowboard runs. As mentioned in an earlier post, we had missed out on a much anticipated dinner at one of the top restaurants and only Japanese sushi restaurants in Fernie the previous evening, and we weren’t prepared to leave Fernie with the “what if” of Yamagoya hanging over our heads. After a little bit of thumb twiddling and time killing, we were at the front steps of Yamagoya at its opening time of 5PM on the dot. We entered the cozy little restaurant to find that quite a few customers were already seated (I guess the recommendation that you arrive right at opening time in order to get a seat was fair warning). The decor of the restaurant was simple: wooden tables and chairs in the main eating area with private bamboo-door booths tucked in one corner of the restaurant on a backdrop of black-painted walls and Japanese character-embroidered flags hanging over a black granite bar. The accent that caught my and my companion’s eye the most was the authentic-looking Samurai armour hanging on the main wall of the restaurant. It was a great touch and gave us an interesting starting point for our dinner conversation that night.
Sonomono Salad

Yamagoya Sushi offers a variety of interesting cold and hot plates with both traditional Japanese dishes as well as more fusion-type dishes such as Tuna Bomb – tuna tossed in spicy sauce and mixed with kimchi and cashews – and Salmon Tataki Sliders – salmon tataki wrapped in a sheet of daikon and topped with Ceviche salsa. As my companion and I are traditionally sushi-lovers, we decided to go with mainly sushi dishes. After perusing the menu, we opted for Sunomono salad, Kazan roll, Negitoro roll, Kryptonite roll, Tataki roll, and Unagi sushi.

I was new to the Sonomono salad – a traditional sweet and sour salad served with cucumber and select kelps – that my companion ordered, but it ended up being an excellent palate primer! The broth that it came in had a nice sour acidity that cut through the freshness and sweetness of the cucumber and large pieces of kelp. However, after we ate through the first few pieces of kelp layered on top of the salad, we realized the rest of the salad was mainly composed of sliced cucumber. This was a little disappointing, considering the kelp held its flavour better than the cucumber.

The sushi platter came out very quickly after our Sonomono salad was served. The first roll we tried was the Negitoro – a traditional Japanese roll with chopped tuna belly and green onion in a nori outside roll. Usually, when my companion and I dine-out for sushi, we almost always order Toro sushi – a thick slice of fatty, tuna salmon belly layered on rice and topped with green onion. The Negitoro was very similar in taste to our Toro dinner favourite; however, we found the roll lacking in actual Toro itself, providing only a hint of that tuna taste as opposed to the full, fatty, fish flavour that we were used to at dinner.

Sushi Platter (Left to Right, Top to Bottom): Negitoro roll, Kazaan roll, Tataki roll, Kryptonite roll. (Center): the forgotten roll
The next roll we tried was the Kryptonite roll – scallop, avocado, cucumber and wasabi mayo rolled in chives and topped with wasabi infused tobiko. This was easily our favourite rolls of the night as it provided little bites of explosive flavour. However, as I am a large wasabi fan, I found the wasabi infused tobiko a little lacking in wasabi flavour; however, the wasabi mayo added a great kick in terms of wasabi-power and actual fish flavour, which more than made up for the tobiko.

When my companion and I are undecided regarding what roll to order, we usually default to a spicy salmon/spicy tuna roll. At Yamagoya, we were offered an interesting alternative: the Kazan roll, composed of tuna, salmon, kimchi, and volcano hot sauce. The Kazan roll came with its own warning on the menu “Not to be taken lightly‼!” With a menu warning like that, in addition to our own personal “proceed at your own risk” warning from our server for the night, our curiousity  got the better of our judgement. When our roll came out, it looked fairly unthreatening sitting in the corner of the plate, and both of us tried a piece after a few seconds of hesitation. The Kazan started out with a nice, sweet-spicy flavour…which quickly escalated to an all-consuming fire-in-your-mouth burn. Unlike other spicy dishes I’ve had in the past (and I’ve had quite a few, considering the number of Thai and specialty wing restaurants I’ve visited), the spiciness of the Kazan roll lingers for quite a while in your mouth and it takes quite a bit of water and consumption of other sushi rolls to abate the spiciness. I could literally feel the skin in my cheeks and tongue peeling from the volcano hot sauce and to me, the Kazan roll will always stand out as one of the spiciest dishes I have ever tasted in my life. After just one piece of the Kazan roll, I was ready to call quits and my companion and I decided that he would eat the rest of the Kazan roll while I ate the rest of the Tataki roll (as it was his least favourite of the night).
Unagi Sushi

The last roll on our menu for the night was the Tataki roll – pepper-seared Albacore tuna rolled with daikon and topped with wasabi infused tobiko. The Tataki roll was one of the most flavourful sushi rolls I have ever tasted in my life and definitely one of my top two of the night. The flavour produced was mostly a sharp, peppery taste that was nicely balanced out by the saltiness of the tuna and tobiko. Now, I am definitely a pepper person and enjoyed the roll immensely;  my companion on the other hand, found the pepper overpowering and opted to end his meal with the deathly Kazan roll instead.

 Surprisingly, after an appetizer, five rolls, and an order of sushi, we were still a little hungry. We decided to end the meal with an order of mango ice cream. It was much better tasting than mango ice creams offered at other sushi restaurants and definitely helped to calm down the lingering burn from the Kazaan roll.

Yamagoya, being the only Japanese sushi restaurant in Fernie, definitely has an advantage in the books of a sushi-lover like me. It offers a variety of traditional and fusion-influenced dishes and definitely provides more uniquely flavourful sushi than most other sushi restaurants I’ve been to. Their sushi prices are fairly reasonable, especially in a resort town where we were expecting inflated prices, with our rolls ranging between $5-6 and sushi a little on the more expensive side ranging between $2.50-3.25/piece. However, they are little stingy on key elements in their dishes (their salad lacked kelp and I felt all of their rolls were a little short on fish) and the actual sushi rolls themselves are quite small, which left my companion and I ample room for dessert – something we hardly ever order while out for sushi. In addition, we ordered a few dishes that were entirely forgettable: you, reader, will notice there is one roll in the picture that I have not mentioned or named as I cannot remember the name or the taste of the roll at all! I would definitely return to Yamagoya if I were back in Fernie, but I probably wouldn’t bother extending my trip for Yamagoya a second time – especially not when there are more interesting sushi options back in Calgary.

Top Pick of the Night:  Kryptonite Roll


3.5/5 Erics'

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