The sushi scene in Halifax is like that old Motown song “Too Many Fish in the Sea.” Not that you’ll ever hear a true sushi fan complain—how could there ever be too much to choose from? Still, making the choice, deciding which sushi spot will provide your daily bento box, is becoming more complicated in the SuperCity.
Doraku leapt on the scene with a creative menu, a cozy bar and several private rooms to choose from. The Brenton Street restaurant also serves some of the most generous portions of sashimi around. Maki Maki has some things on the menu that others don’t, like pan-fried tofu and smoked salmon salad. Hamachi House has the only floating sushi bar in the city (yes, it’s now working).I Love Sushi has a huge menu and perhaps the largest number of combinations to choose from, while the Sushi House on Quinpool Road has a damn fine spicy tuna roll. Momoya is one of the oldest sushi restaurants in the city. Owner Sandy Chee says she and her husband have lots of loyal customers because of their friendly service. Minato, before it closed, had great everything. The chef from Minato jumped ship to open Shige, just around the corner on Spring Garden Road. And while we’re on the topic of love, loss and betrayal in the sushi soap opera, Hamachi House lost one of its chefs last year. Tommy, who was recruited from Toronto, bailed out and opened up I Love Sushi.
Sushi soap aside, let’s talk about the winner. What does Dharma have that the others don’t? Friendly, efficient service? Cheap and delectable lunch specials? Generous portions? Famous California roll? Owner Yamamoto thinks it’s all these things but he doesn’t like to compare his restaurant to any others. “I don’t care what the other sushi restaurants are doing, I just want to concentrate on my restaurant,” says Yamamoto. “I care about having good quality everything—service and food—then it’s up to the customer to decide.”
And customers have. Yamamoto’s doing things right. He takes pride that his chefs are all Japanese food chefs, not just sushi chefs. And he’s had plenty of practice. Dharma’s been in business since 1995. (Before he bought it, the place was called Momotaro. Momotaro’s former owner went on to open Doraku. But that’s more sushi soap opera, isn’t it?) —Jillian Brown