Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sushi Garden - Edmonton, AB

Over the years, I've learned my metabolism no longer works as it once did. But sometimes the idea of unlimited sushi takes hold and won't let go. All you can eat usually has the reputation of eschewing quality for quantity, but every once in awhile the balance is just good enough to satisfy that craving without sacrificing too much taste. With the impressive selection of sushi and sashimi at Sumo Sumo's Sunday buffet, I was hoping to find a place closer and a tad cheaper that might offer the same. We had heard a few good things about Sushi Garden, so we decided to give it a try.
Sushi Garden
Sushi Garden is located in a rather industrial, nondescript location. I was quite surprised upon entering that the restaurant was full and several diners were waiting to be seated, which is usually a positive sign. We had made reservations beforehand so we were seated with no problems. You don't go to an all-you-can-eat joint for a fine dining experience, and decor and service certainly didn't seem to be major focuses at Sushi Garden.

Like other all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants, Sushi Garden has one main menu that offers both cold and hot items. Dinner is priced at $24.99 (+$2 on weekends and holidays, when BBQ eel, surf clam, and the special rock roll are offered in addition to the weekday menu) or $15.99 for lunch (with the same $2 weekend surcharge). Initial orders are usually overambitious, and we ordered a monstrous amount of our collective favorite salmon sashimi, with a few pieces of white tuna, red snapper, and mackerel thrown in. We also decided to sample a few rolls including the fire and ice (deep fried white tuna, hot pepper, and spicy mayo), red dragon roll (deep fried shrimp, avocado, cucumber, and tobiko topped with salmon), spider roll (deep fried soft shell crab), and the special rock roll (salmon, avocado, and cream cheese, deep fried). Though I personally avoid cooked items at buffets as I find them much too filling, our friend Eat Cook Dream seemed to have a particular craving that night as he seemed to have made it his mission to try as many of the cooked items as he could.

Top to Bottom: Spicy Tuna Sushi, Mackeral Sashimi
Snapper Sashimi, Tuna Sashimi, Salmon Sashimi
As soon as the giant platter of sashimi hit our table, I knew we would probably have some trouble finishing all our food. The salmon sashimi and mackerel was average, par for an all-you-can-eat joint. The tuna, however, was extremely fishy and somehow the red snapper tasted toxic. That is the only way I know how to describe the chemical, rank taste that I have never before experienced in fish - I really hope it was just an unlucky piece of fish rather than a regular occurrence. Nonetheless, Sumo Sumo's all-you-can-eat handily wins for its quality of sashimi.

Rock Roll
The rolls did not fare much better. The fire and ice roll had a very odd sour component to it that did not mix well with the spicy mayo. The red dragon and spider rolls were fairly average in taste, and the only one I enjoyed was the special rock roll as the amount of cream cheese was minimal enough to add flavor and texture without being overwhelming. The mango roll had a nice, fresh mango sauce and was light and sweet.

Left to Right: Spicy Tuna, Dynamite Roll, Spider Roll,
Fire and Ice Roll and Mango Roll
I only tried a few of the cooked items, but I thought the gyoza were quite tasty and even went for another order, and the eggplant tempura was a unique dish that was lightly fried to a perfect crisp. But the chicken katsu and ton katsu seemed to cause Eat Cook Dream a fair amount of distress, as he tried hard to push them onto the rest of us. The teriyaki items tasted as though the sauce came from a bottle, and the deep fried scallops were soaked in oil.
Pork Gyoza
Chicken Karage and Kethcup
All-you-can-eat isn't well known for service, but I do want to mention that we did not receive several of our items or received them far later in the meal when we had already re-ordered them thinking they were not coming. We also had difficulty tracking down our waitress when we wanted a new sheet to make a second order.

Overall, I thought Sushi Garden was fairly disappointing and reminded me why I usually stay away from all-you-can-eat. The sashimi in particular was a let down, and the rolls were nothing special. If you have an extremely large appetite, I can understand making the trip to capitalize on the fairly extensive menu, but for anyone else I would recommend either paying the extra few dollars for Sumo Sumo's Sunday buffet, or simply spending the money on a higher quality non-all-you-can-eat sushi meal.

Top Pick of the Night: Rock Roll

Rating: 2/5 Erics

Sushi Garden on Urbanspoon

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