My friends and I were invited to go try Sushi Gen, a recently opened sushi restaurant that is apparently becoming very famous for their seared nigiri sushi. This restaurant is almost hidden right beside Red Robin on the corner of Cameron st just off North Rd in Coquitlam/Burnaby. The restaurant is owned and operated by the Lee family. They are a friendly and welcoming Korean family where the father, Mr. Lee, is the head chef and creates all the dishes, his wife runs the front of house operations, and their son, Andrew, is the General Manager.
The space in the restaurant is quite large, with a very big kitchen to match. There is plenty of regular small dining tables, but only 4 private, traditional Japanese dining rooms. Some of the items on their menu are very unique in that they are inspired by some signature Korean dishes. We got to sample a very wide variety of their dishes during our visit at Sushi Gen.
We started with a complimentary fried prawn and mayo appetizer. This was a fresh prawn, covered in mayo and wrapped with a wonton wrapper, then deep fried. This was a nice little sample dish with a really rich and creamy texture on the inside.
Their miso soup, also being complimentary, was quite standard from most aspects of it. They added fried tofu puffs though instead of the plain tofu which is more commonly used in this. The only concern I had with this soup was that it was just lukewarm when we received it, so the soup tasted much saltier than it normally would have.
The Creamy Prawn was the first dish that we actually ordered. They were very nicely fried with a crispy batter on top and the prawn was very fresh with a good crunchy bite to it. There was one type of mayo sauce and a spicy and savoury sauce as well. The prawns were very good overall but the salad on the side added little to the dish and could have been removed. Also, as a recommendation for next time, if the prawns were butterflied, the presentation would have been much nicer and the flavour would penetrate into the prawn more.
Now for the signature item on their menu. Their seared fish is truly one of the best that I have ever experienced. The Toro (Tuna Belly) is the fattiest part of the tuna and has the smoothest texture and flavour. Most times when you order this piece of fish, it comes seared but very very oily at the same time. This piece of taro was very delicate and you can tell it was treated with the upmost of care. The tuna was soft and smooth when you first bite into it, then there is just a light sear that doesn’t overpower the natural fish taste. The fish is complemented by a sweet onion relish on top made with sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and small sweet onions. I also tried the seared scallop. This was a very large scallop split down the middle and cooked to perfection. Scallops already taste so great on their own but with this nice sear, and a spicy mayo to accompany this, it was simply irresistible.
Sushi Gen’s Short rib teriyaki is one of their Korean inspired dishes. They use nice L.A. cuts of beef shortrib, which are marinated days in advance to give the maximum flavour and the softest texture. The beef was cooked perfectly and it went really well with the sprouts and veggies on the plate as well.
The Captain Crunch Roll, a now very popular roll of similar variations in many sushi restaurants in North America, is made very well here and was my personal favourite dish of this visit. It is made with double prawn tempura, avocado, cucumber and crabmeat, topped with what I believe was fried taro shavings and what they call 3 special sauces. It is a really well balanced roll with lots of flavour and a really good texture from the topping. This is a really safe dish if you don’t like many sushi items and you want something safe to start with.
The Red Dragon Roll, has the same filling as the Crunch Roll, but instead this roll is topped with chopped spicy sashimi, avo, tobiko, crunch crumbles, green onions, and what they call 2 special sauces (one is like a spicy mayo and the other is like a sweet ponzu soy sauce). This roll had many good components, but it may have been one too many as the roll became very salty and almost drowning in sauce with all of the toppings.
The Kamikaze roll, made of spicy chopped scallop, avocado, cucumbers and topped with chopped spicy tuna, tobiko, green onion, and 4 special sauces. I think they had a good idea with this roll, but they put too many components into this roll and the flavours needed to be a little more refined. There was far too much sauce on this roll as well and the idea of using chopped tuna to garnish chopped scallop was a little too overwhelming with flavour. Simplicity can go a long way.
The last item we had the pleasure to taste was the fresh oyster nigiri. This was our first time having an oyster in this form. The oysters were very large and fresh, but it was slightly overpowering to eat because the rice on the bottom soaked in much of the oysters juices and made for a slightly unpleasant aftertaste. I think this could be improved vastly by using a small size oyster. But overall was a very good concept.
Our entire dining experience here was very pleasant, the staff were very friendly and attentive to our needs. There are so many sushi restaurants in the lower mainland these days and it is very tough to compete as a new establishment when the industry is so diluted with so many options for diners to choose from. I think Sushi Gen has set itself apart as a welcoming family-owned operation with excellent service. I think they have a great concept to combine some ingredients and cooking methods from Korean dishes to their Japanese dishes. The two most important factors that determine a good sushi restaurant and set it apart from the others is, the freshness of the ingredients, and the uniqueness of the dishes. I think that as long as they can refine some of their more complex dishes, they will be very successful in the years to come.
Quality – 4 of 5 – ingredients are fresh but some of the cooking methods would improve the quality
Ingenuity – 3.5 of 5 – they have the right concept but need to refine flavour profiles
Atmosphere – 4 of 5 – typical but nothing that stands out
Service – 5 of 5 – excellent service
Value – 3.5 of 5 – some of their rolls are a little overpriced
Overall – 4 of 5