Vancouver’s North Shore has always had an intriguing culinary scene. Some neighborhoods have some of the highest income levels in Canada, but there is a lack of diversity in the fine dining scene. When it comes to sushi, there have always been decent everyday sushi restaurants, and some “higher end” ones like Hamaei in Westview, but no real omakase, Michelin worthy restaurants, until now. Sushi Mahana is a new omakase only sushi restaurant which aims to bring the experience to the North Shore. How successful is it? Lets find out. When I went for dinner, I was told we were only the 4th night of opening. The experience starts just like any other great omakase experience – a feeling that you are entering a temple of gastronomy. A special place.
After checking in, you will be seated in a waiting area while the chef finishes his prep. I caught a glimpse of the dining room and sushi counter where we would be dining.
The decor was Japanese minimalistic with some modern touches. I liked the table setting and noticed the fish stored in traditional Japanese wooden boxes as opposed to the glass refrigerated display cases at lesser places.
The service starts with a non-alcoholic welcome drink which they called a “Japanese Champagne”. It was nice a refreshing without being overly sweet (I don’t know if the place serves alcohol or has a liquor license yet as we were not offered any spirit list and I was also not drinking so I did not ask).
You will also be given a menu for the evening and a brochure with the story of the restaurant (how they rely on local fishermen for fish not brought in from Japan etc).
The meal started with a squash soup which was nice. It had very delicate flavors and was a nice way to start the meal.
As explained in the menu, the dinner is served in courses resembling a play or movie with excitement building to the climax and then ending.
Everything in the first part was delicious except the mackerel, but I am not a fan of mackerel in the first place. One thing is that every piece of nigiri will have little garnishes and sauces added which might be off putting to some purists who just want the fish and rice. However, I found that none of the garnishes overpowered the fish/rice and many complemented or enhanced the flavors. Other details to note: they were proud to tell us of the homemade ginger being served and I could see the chef’s passion with each serving and explanation.
The crescendo. This part started with seasonal vegetables. I was completely surprised in a good way at the beauty with which this was presented.
I enjoyed the second part of the dinner a bit less than the first. I was not a fan of the 2nd mackerel or the clam. The cod presentation was interesting.
The culmination. This part of the meal is where most would consider the “stars” of sushi are – blue fin tuna, uni etc. It started with mushrooms.
When I initially saw the menu, I didnt quite get the lotus root, but now I know that it was served after the fattiest tuna as a palate cleanser and it worked quite well. The tuna was pretty good though not the best I’ve had. This was one part I wished that the chef skipped the garnishes. For example, the akami had 2 Japanese peppercorns added to them. I was worried they would overpower the tuna but they didn’t. However, I would of still liked just the pure taste of the tuna and rice. Same with the chu toro. It had a fried garlic on it and I would of liked my favorite cut as “pure” as possible. For the last part of this section, the chef gave us a surprise. I think a few people were surprised to not see uni on the menu, but the chef brought it out as a surpise!
Penultimate – for the last savory portion, it started with a tofu salad.
This dish I did not understand. There were fried veggies in the dish but I could not find the tofu.
For the maki roll, I saw the chef include various loose ends and he mentioned this was to prevent waste. Brilliant move and delicious.
The miso was delicious with lots of umami.
The tamago was a bit disappointing. I like mine cut thick and more dashi flavor.
The dessert was good and not overly sweet.
Overall, I was impressed by the experience. The chef and his one assistant executed flawlessly in terms of service. Everything was preped well and there were no gaps in the service. On the other side of the counter, service was ok, but I had to ask for tea and empty glasses and plates were not cleared right away. These are minor details I am sure they will work out. On the food side, there was some misses, but overall, this was a very enjoyable and good meal. I would go back though not as often as my favorite sushi restaurant in Vancouver, and possibly the world, Tetsu, and also Okeya. For the North Shore though, its definitely #1.