I’ve been going to Sushi Garden for years
My one biggest gripe about Edmonton is the lack of Japanese food. It’s a shame, because it so happens to be my favourite type of cuisine. Why? I don’t really know – leave me alone >.>. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What’re you talking about? There’s lot of Japanese food all over Edmonton!”, which may be true, but at the same time it’s not. For most people, Japanese food refers to sushi, but there’s other Japanese type foods out there like Teppenyaki (Food cooked on an Iron griddle, the closest thing we have to it is Japanese Village, and they’re not very good) and ramen (Japanese noodles), which we only have two of! Two!! Compare that to the endless amount of Vietnamese Pho/Noodle houses we have, the ratio is probably 100 million to one. But even when it comes to sushi, Edmonton is lacking when compared to bigger cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and even Calgary where sushi is everywhere, and more importantly, AYCE (All you can eat) sushi is everywhere, and affordable. But for the longest time, all Edmonton had in terms of AYCE Sushi was Zen, which is overpriced and gives you far too much rice per piece, and Sapporo Sushi, which gave me food poisoning and put me in bed for a week once.
So when my friend first showed be Sushi Garden way back in 2012, I was elated but skeptical. For one, the place is located where an old Lee Garden’s is located, and it’s always been dead in that area, not to mention with it being paired with the motel gave it a less than welcoming feel. The entire look of the place gave off a sad vacation kind of feel… plus, it seemed like the owners didn’t really care to think of a proper name, and simply replaced the “Lee” in Lee Gardens with “Sushi.” So as glad as I was to see another AYCE sushi place in Edmonton, I decided to keep my expectations low. It was probably a good idea, because I ended up being very happy with my first experience at Sushi Garden and it’s been my go-to AYCE Sushi place in Edmonton ever since. But that was back in 2012… and now it’s 2015. How much have the times changed?
I think they’ve changed a decent amount. For one, they’ve gotten greedier. The price for AYCE at Sushi Garden jumped from $24.95 to $27.95 over the years, and it’s an additional $2 if you eat on the weekend, as this “unlocks” three or four additional items for you to feast on, which means that a meal at Sushi Garden on the weekend will run you $29.95 before GST and tips! That price in my opinion is ridiculous, because you can easily get AYCE Sushi in Vancouver and Toronto for $18 a person, for dinner, on the weekends. Even in Calgary it’s only just slightly above $20! But hey, isn’t it worth it to shell out $30 for all you can eat sushi in Edmonton? Well…
The interior for one isn’t impressive but it’s not depressing. Though the times haven’t been kind of the place, and the owners haven’t bothered with trying to keep the place maintained. Walls are beginning to crack and fall apart, the chairs which were once black are now fading and wearing to show blue metal underneath, the men’s bathroom has had a Canada Dry Ginger-ale box covering the out-of-order urinal for years now, leaving the toilet to be covered in urine from various people with questionable aim. Then there’s the floors, which are so covered in oil and grease that it’s a year-round skating rink, and I’m not exaggerating that. It’s so dirty that I question if they ever mop it at all, if they do, then I simply question their cleaning techniques in general and wonder if the tables and food is sanitary. But alas, I don’t really care anymore because I’m used to it, and I only come to stuff my face and get fat.
Sushi Garden does offer a decent variety of items, both cooked and uncooked, but they are missing a lot of items as well when compared to a lot of other AYCE sushi places. Their variety of sushi sticks to only the cheaper items and can feel lacking depending on what your fancy is, though their cooked food offers a lot more selection, it can still sometimes feel limiting. They do have a pretty decent selection of maki rolls though. Also on the upside, they offer a 30 piece limit of Sashimi per person, which is 10 pieces more than any other AYCE in town, and I’ve only ever hit my limit once. Even then, they didn’t really keep track, and gave us more. Why don’t they keep track? Well, it’s because ordering food at Sushi Garden is a game. If you order say 30 pieces of Sashimi, you’re likely to only get 15 to 20 pieces. But if you order 30 pieces of Nigiri sushi, you’re most likely going to get 25 to 30 pieces. Why? Because Sashimi is more expensive. So this is what Sushi Garden does, if you order a “large” amount of items, they will give you less than what you ordered, because they’re hoping that you won’t notice or can’t tell, as long as it’s a big amount. But because they do this, they themselves cannot keep track of how much fish they serve you. That’s why you shouldn’t try to cheat your customers! They do this on a lot of items, including the Chicken Yakitori that I love, Shrimp Skewers, or even smaller things like Tonkatsu and Salmon wrapped Asaparagus. So recently I’ve started to order a lot of things in a mass amount to see if they bring me more of what I want. For example, 50 Yakitori instead of 20, and if I’m lucky, I get 15.
The service here isn’t the best either, sometimes instead giving you less food, they forget a lot of items on your order. Especially when the restaurant is busy, they can easily forget up to half of your order! Then they say that you can simply re-order more, but then you have to sit and wait for it, while slowly getting more and more full, or they once again forget it a second time, and if they do remember it, it’s going to be less than what you ordered. The servers here are all Chinese and speak minimal English, so there can easily be a rather large communication barrier which can be frustrating at times (This isn’t racist, I’m Chinese, I’m simply pointing it out for everyone who isn’t Chinese). Sushi Garden also offers your choice of green lid, or red lid soy sauce. Green lid in most places means “Low Sodium”, but here at Sushi Garden, it’s all the same soy sauce, but they have the different lids anyway, probably just for fun, or for the placebo effect. They also have signs saying they charge you for leftovers if you don’t finish them, but I’ve never actually seen them do this, not even to one guy who ordered 30 Nigiri and only ate the fish, and left the rice. Even if you did have leftovers, you can simply say that they gave you too much because they’re horrible at keep track of how much they give you anyway. Occasionally there’s a Grandma there who takes care of one of the employees sons, which is what I would expect to see if I’m paying $8 for a Chinese meal in a run down hole-in-the-wall Chinese Restaurant, but not for $30! They are however, pretty good on staying on top of your drinks though… so they got that going for them, which is nice…
The food itself though isn’t so bad. Their sashimi slices, though aren’t big, aren’t super small and thin either, and is usually pretty good. Their nigiri pieces are actually small compared to most Sushi restaurants in town, but that actually makes them a much more edible one-bite size, and their small size is actually more similar to how they make them in Japan. It’s just that over in North America, everything gets bigger for some reason. I absolutely love their Chicken Yakitori and it’s one of the main reasons I go there. Yakitori in a regular Japanese restaurant easily runs from $2 to $4 per two skewers, so I make sure to get my money’s worth when I’m here. They also have these “Rock Shrimp” that I love, it’s essentially Chinese Peaches and Shrimp, without the peaches, and with baby sized shrimp. Their tempura is usually pretty good and fried quite nicely, but something about them gets bland super fast, and I noticed recently that their tempura pieces are getting smaller. Their rolls are fairly decent too. They’re not super big and overloaded with rice, which is good, because rice makes you fuller, faster. But they also aren’t very loaded with fish or other ingredients either like avocado, it’s filled mostly with “filling” like panko crumbs and cucumber, cause they’re the cheapest. Also on the topic of rice, they don’t use sushi rice either. Instead they use regular Chinese rice with minimal rice vinegar, which is plain wrong, but… eh, whatever. Some other items they have are just straight up Chinese, like Wonton soup, or Chinese style spring rolls, and even sweet and sour chicken, and my favourite, the “Rock Shrimp”. Even their Gyoza weirdly enough feels Chinese. It’s almost like a part of Lee Garden’s never even left.
At the end of your meal, you get a small scoop of ice cream, and I’m fine with that, because I’m usually quite full by then anyway. Flavour choices are typically Vanilla, Strawberry, or Chocolate, but occassionally they offer Mango, which seems to run out very quickly. Also, fun fact, the ice cream is the one item in the AYCE Meal that isn’t all you can eat.
I have a serious love-hate relationship with Sushi Garden. I hate how old the place looks, I hate how they forget your food, I hate how they don’t bring you what you’ve ordered, I hate their dirty washrooms, I hate how they’ve raised their prices but their service is more mediocre than before, I hate how little menu variety we get for so much money. I hate their shady parking. I love the idea of all you can eat, I love the Yakitori, I actually weirdly enough, love their dangerously slippery floors, I love their 30 piece sashimi limit that they don’t count, I love that at least a few of my favourites are on their menu, and in general, I love food. And I can go to Sushi Garden and get full off food that I love. I just happen to have a lot of complaints to go with it as well…
If anyone out there wants to completely dominate the AYCE sushi scene in Edmonton, it’s actually super easy. A) Offer at least decent variety of food and good service. B) Don’t charge your customers up the a** for it. C) Then everyone will go to your restaurant, I guarantee it or… or… or you can call me a liar, cause… whatever.
Sushi Garden Photo Gallery